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Mass Transit Op Ed: Empowering Your Next Gen Leaders through Stewardship


Stewardship establishes a mentality for the present and sets a plan for the future.

Eric Kaled
President, Genfare

What is the proper mindset of a leader? It’s a loaded question, to be sure. In many ways, your mindset defines how you operate. Is it going to be about awards and accolades, or empowering others and ensuring the company continuously improves? As the leader of Genfare, it’s important to highlight how a mindset towards stewardship is growing our company and setting us up for sustained success.  

First, let’s be clear: Stewardship is not just the act of supervising; it’s ensuring you leave a situation better than how you inherited it. It’s an essential part of long-term strategy, succession planning and morale building. It sets a mentality for the present and shows you’re planning for the future. It respects past actions yet sees how they can be made stronger and more sustainable. As a leader, your goal is for the company’s accomplishments to be repeatable when you’re gone. This is why stewardship is a necessary component for continued success.

Let’s imagine a legacy company as an example. Think of the original owner passing it on to the next generation. What does the new leader do? Does he or she criticize the past and start a new crusade? Or do they value the positives of the past and strengthen them? Employees are going to value the latter. They’re going to know that the new leader respects the past, and because of that, values the group that has gotten the company to where it is. They’re going to know that the new leader is there, ready to work side-by-side to get things done.

This example highlights an essential component of stewardship, which is empowering those around you. At Genfare, it’s not hierarchical or about titles. We’re all in it together as team leaders and that’s the mentality we drive home. The best way to do this is by giving a platform for others to step up. Diminish the spotlight on yourself, be there to support others and allow them to shine. Advocate for new champions. Highlight examples of individuals who are showing their leadership and empower them to make those decisions. What’s more, give them an audience to show their growth. By doing this, future leaders will be empowered to make an impact.

Another way to empower others is to lead by example. The adage is true: Actions speak louder than words. Showing what you’re doing as a leader builds trust and authenticity within your company, which is crucial. If you don’t have authenticity and transparency, you can’t empower others to drive what you’re leading.

Once that’s established, it’s important to give back through coaching. Be a mentor. Boost and grow members of the team and encourage them to take initiative. Share your experiences. If you believe in stewardship and this type of leadership style, the ultimate reward is being able to promote from within – and the ultimate compliment is how many people continue to seek out your advice, even after you’ve moved on.

A crucial element of mentorship is giving your time — our most precious resource. A smart mentor, however, will make sure it’s time well spent. Your mentality should be to ask, “How am I helping you?” A lot of people say they have mentors, after all, but how many truly add value? Saying “Yes, I’ll be your mentor” is an easy answer. There’s no debt in that. You need to go a step above to truly deliver on your promise and add value.

On the other hand, if you’re an employee looking for mentorship, my simplest piece of advice is to find the courage to take initiative and ask. Approaching a leader and saying, “You inspire me in these ways. Would you be willing to set time aside so that I can learn from you?” is a simple thing and, quite frankly, something a lot of leaders are open to. Another imperative is finding the right cadence. Like any relationship, you need to keep fueling the fire. It’s easy to start something, but if you don’t put in the effort, things naturally fall to the side. That’s why there needs to be an extra effort, a kind of 60/40 if you will, to keep it alive. That extra 10 is someone deciding to make the phone call, to do the follow-up or making sure the next meeting is scheduled. Once you develop that initiative and cadence, you’re becoming a leader yourself and you’re feeding into the growth and continued improvement of the company.

At Genfare, our vision is to simplify the rider’s experience in partnership with transit agencies. That vision can only be fulfilled if others are empowered to drive it beyond the president’s tenure. Through stewardship, we are growing that. When you have associates energized and focused on meeting the client’s needs, people deliver. It makes for a group and culture that continually strives to grow, improve and work together.

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