The Stewardship of Your Intellect

By Mark L.Vincent

If a steward leader is a steward of all the assets entrusted to them, then they are a steward of their intellect.



Does that go without saying? Perhaps. And yet, acknowledging this is true is not the same as doing the work of expanding one’s base of knowledge, deliberately reducing thinking errors, distinguishing between personal preferences and timeless wisdom, cultivating one’s comfort level with ambiguity and paradox, and coming to terms with one’s intellectual limits. One’s intellectual stewardship comes into play repeatedly–daily–in organizational leadership.

A key part of stewarding one’s intellect is making one’s view of the world conscious and able to be articulated, rather than remaining unexamined. When a world view is conscious, a  leader is better able to sift and sort through the knowledge they are acquiring and convert it to wisdom, to reduce their thinking errors, and to be able to be comfortable with not knowing, an increasingly desirable skill for leaders, as not knowing is where the new frontiers are.

While completing my graduate studies, I was required to put together an operating paradigm, what might be called my Researcher’s World View. In essence, I had to identify the framework from which I work and think and try to develop useful insight–the perch from which I develop practical tools for organizational leaders and the organizations they serve. I offer a brief working summary of it below, and then a more detailed explanation at the end of this blog post, not as a world view that others must appropriate, but as a catalyst for other leaders to become conscious of and articulate about their own. How would you articulate yours?

  1. There is an interested and engaged Mover behind all things (metaphysics).
  2. Every layer of knowledge revealed exposes more layers for discovery and wise use (epistemology).
  3. This life is precious and brief and rewarded in a life to come (ethics).
  4. Human life is best lived in community that appreciates what it has been given and intends to contribute welfare to the generations to come. However, selfishness and greed often interfere (anthropology/civilization/marketplace orientation).

Do you find yourself resisting the mental slow down required to read and digest information like this? Wouldn’t you rather knowledge and self-awareness just forced its way into your head and made itself available without effort on your part? Don’t you wish you just knew and accumulated wisdom without any synapse strain? You know it doesn’t work that way!

Being a steward of one’s intellect requires a slower pace of working with information so that it can be absorbed, retained and adapted for new uses. Through this more deliberative effort at thinking we keep the process of discovery–>reflection–>action–>evaluation–>discovery alive. By it we reveal and then appropriately choose our biases that affect so many surrounding the organizations we serve. With it we help to develop the intellectual capacities of others for whom we are responsible.

Read on, if you want a little more (academic) explanation of my world view. . . . . .

I think reality – whether objectively defined or subjectively created – is a system of cause and effects in which humans are both influenced and bring influence. I believe these systems are best understood at the macro level rather than via a more micro and deterministic paradigm. Pragmatically, however, research is conducted by humans, not by domesticated dogs or granite outcroppings. Research is also often conducted in teams. Even when an individual works alone, they still build from what was previously discovered and will have their work interpreted by still other persons.

Thus, the subjectivity of humans must be considered when pronouncing one’s convictions or summarizing what one believes they know. I tend to start with human constructions and then seek to quantify the realities they create. That is, while humans create language and meaning that gives rise to varied and subjective interpretations of reality, this reality can be described, experimented upon, measured, adapted, shaped and changed through a variety of often inter-related scientific and social disciplines.

So, a succinct description of my paradigm is that objective and subjective reality are equally valid, interrelated and mutually influential and that we are ultimately personally and corporately accountable for our life choices in the middle of the ugly morass.

This is a good reason to be thankful for the grace of God!  One should seek to understand subjective and objective realities as equally significant when seeking to develop knowledge — especially in the realm of organizations where product/service development and human resources exist inseparably side by side. One who is interested in fostering lasting change can accomplish more in organizational leadership where research, description, cataloguing and experimentation starts with the human equation and then moves to objective measures than the other way around.

Mark L. Vincent is the CEO of Design Group International. He serves on the CLA Board of Directors and is actively involved as a subject matter expert and faculty for the CLA Online Academy.
BlogAds.OnlineAcademyRegistrations for the June CLA Online Academy close on June 10. Check out the module facilitated by Mark L. Vincent on The Steward Leader and the other executive sessions offered this quarter. Classes start on June 17.



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