Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory

Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory 10 Best Difference

The Brief Overview of agency theory and stewardship theory

Agency Theory: Agency theory provides a theoretical system that studies relationships among principals (owners or shareholders of an enterprise) and agents (managers employees managers or representatives within an organization), specifically within an organization where there may be competing goals or inequities of information analysis between principals (the owners/shareholders or employers) and agents (managers employees managers or representatives).

Agency Theory recognizes an inherent conflict of interests between agents and principals due to differing goals or information analysis analyses.

principals must encourage agents to act in their best interests to lower agency costs while encouraging agents’ actions so principals can encourage agents to do what’s in their best interest thus decreasing agency costs while increasing results from agency interactions – important concepts include moral hazard information asymmetry.

Adverse selection monitoring control mechanisms and opportunistic behaviors among others.

Stewardship Theory: Stewardship Theory offers an alternative viewpoint of the principle-agent relation. According to this model, agents should serve as responsible stewards of an Organization rather than acting solely in their own self-interest.

People motivated by intrinsic motivations instinctively seek what’s in the best interest of business when using this theory as their guide; trust is fostered among teamwork members along with empowerment measures like team building exercises or collaborative decision-making processes that lead to long-term organization achievement and longevity.

The theory emphasizes trust as its cornerstone principle while trust is fostered among employees so collective decisions and long-term organization success can occur more successfully over time.

Agency theory seeks to address tensions within principal-agent relationships through control mechanisms; while, in contrast, Stewardship Theory emphasizes trust-building strategies centered around shared goals and intrinsic motivations with an aim towards building responsible and collaborative approaches to managing an organization.

Importance of understanding the differences between the two theories

Understanding the difference between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory is imperative for several reasons. For instance:

1. Design of Effective Organization Structures: Theories provide multiple viewpoints on how organizations should be structured and the relationships among agents and principals managed.

By understanding these various theories, leaders, and managers can make educated decisions as to which fits better with the company goals, values, culture, governance processes, and incentive programs – thus aiding in the design of appropriate structures, governance processes, and incentive programs.

2. Problems With Principal Agents: The two theories address principal-agent dynamics differently; agency theory places greater focus on monitoring and controlling mechanisms that align both principals’ goals with agent goals.

While stewardship theory emphasizes confidence-building through empowerment and motivation from within – understanding these concepts will allow organizations to choose effective strategies that facilitate strong relationships while decreasing conflicts.

3. Engaging and Motivating Employees: Recognizing the differences between Stewardship Theory and Agency Theory can assist managers in understanding what motivates and inspires employees.

Agency Theory emphasizes intrinsic motivators such as mechanisms for controlling while Stewardship Theory emphasizes intrinsic motivations such as trust. By exploring both of these theories companies can develop strategies that increase the motivation of their workforce as well as job satisfaction and commitment levels.

4. Enhancing Organization Performance: Theories can be employed to boost organization performance, with Agency Theory focused on maximizing individual interests while Stewardship Theory favoring collective processes such as decisions and teamwork that promote long-term connections and teamwork between members of an organization.

Understanding their differences helps leaders identify which theory would most effectively enhance efficiency given its context and objectives for any particular company.

5. Guidance for Leadership and Management Practices: Stewardship theory and agency theory provide insight into different methods of leadership and management practices, giving leaders insight into stewardship-agency tension. By aligning actions to the principles that resonate most strongly with their team leaders can increase effectiveness when leading and managing them.

Understanding the difference between stewardship and agency theory can assist companies with making more informed decisions when designing their organizations, dealing with principal-agent issues, motivating employees, improving performance, and shaping management and leadership practices.

With this understanding in place, companies are better able to design strategies and methods tailored specifically for them and meet all requirements and objectives set by management or leadership practices.

What Is Agency Theory?

Agency theory refers to relationships between corporate leaders and their agents. As an economic and management theory, principals represent stakeholders or owners in a company while agents act for them on behalf of these principals.

Agency Theory
Figure 01: Agency Theory

Agents are principals who delegate authority and decision-making powers to them as agents, relieving themselves of much workload while streamlining the operations of running a company. Should there be losses or risks encountered within, responsibility rests squarely with them as principals.

Under certain conditions, choices made by agents could create issues and conflicts due to differences between ideas, preferences, or requirements of principals and agents; hence it’s referred to as an agent-principal problem.

Furthermore, agency theory examines potential areas for dispute: disagreement in objectives or risk tolerance.

Corporate agents might prefer exploring new markets over expanding existing ones; this may reduce short-term profitability and lead to less than anticipated revenue growth; on the other hand, principals might focus more on short-term increases in revenue within existing markets and stability within them.

What Is Stewardship Theory?

Stewardship Theory suggests employees are naturally motivated to work for their employers or organizations so that they may fulfill the tasks assigned. According to this theory, employees work towards collective goals as an act of personal satisfaction for themselves and the company they are part of.

Based on Stewardship Theory, company executives protect shareholder or owner preferences when making decisions on behalf of these stakeholders and act on their behalf when taking care to safeguard company resources for its sustainability and long-term viability.

Stewardship Theory
Figure 02: Stewardship Theory

Companies adhering to Stewardship principles seek to build and sustain effective organizations to realize shareholders’ visions for themselves and achieve them effectively. Therefore, those adhering to such practices select an individual suitable for running the company, placing both Chairman and CEO responsibilities with one individual Executive.

Difference Between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory

Difference between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory:

1. Perspectives on Human Nature:

Agency Theory: The Agency Theory suggests that people are motivated by self-interest and other intrinsic incentives.

The Stewardship Model: This approach stipulates that individuals are driven by intrinsic motivations, possess an awareness of their responsibilities, and act in the best interests of the company.

2. Approach to the Principal-Agent Relationship:

Agency Theory: Views principal-agent relations as inherently adversarial due to competing interests and information asymmetry between them.

Stewardship Theory: Promotes Principal-Agent partnerships as being in harmony, with mutual confidence, shared goals, and respect being primary goals.

3. Principal Concepts and Assumptions

Theory of Agency: Focuses on information asymmetry and moral hazard as well as adverse choices, controls, and opportunistic behavior in organizations.

Stewardship Theory: Focuses on building trust while setting shared goals, and having one vision, as well as intrinsic motivation, empowerment, and collaboration as key ingredients of successful stewardship relationships.

4. Contrasting Control with Trust:

Agency Theory: this theory emphasizes control mechanisms, monitoring methods, and incentives designed to align the agent’s actions with those of the principal.

The Stewardship Model: emphasizes trust between agents and business managers to enable agents to make responsible decisions that benefit both.

5. Implications for organizational Behavior and Performance:

Agency Theory: Emphasizes cost reduction while upholding accountability of agents, optimizing performance by controlling mechanisms, and improving agent engagement with client organizations.

The Stewardship Model: this approach emphasizes creating an atmosphere of stewardship to foster intrinsic motivation, cooperation, and collective decision-making for improved organizational efficiency.

6. Criticisms and Limitations:

Agency Theory: Criticized for oversimplifying human behavior, excessive control focus, and neglecting long-term relationships.

Stewardship Theory: Stewardship Theory has come under criticism due to its potential false assumptions regarding motivations and goals shared among all its constituents.

7. Practical Implications

Theory of Agency: Used when monitoring and control mechanisms are crucial, like in highly regulated industries or those with significant risks.

The Stewardship Model: Appropriate in situations in which trust, collaboration, and intrinsic motivations are considered key, for instance in organizations with strong cultures.

8. Integration Potential:

Both theories offer valuable perspectives for businesses looking for ways to meet specific requirements or meet needs and fulfill demands more easily. By adopting elements from both theories into their strategies for meeting such requirements and needs.

Theory of Stewardship and Agency are complementary perspectives on the principal-agent relationship. While agency theory emphasizes controlling mechanisms and aligning interests through monitoring, Stewardship theory emphasizes building trust through confidence-building techniques, motivational intrinsic rewards, and cooperation.

Knowledge of these different theories will assist businesses in selecting an approach for managing employee relations and improving the performance of employees.

Practical Implications

Practical implications of the differences between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory include:

1. Establish Organizational Structures: These theories offer guidelines regarding how best to structure an organization according to its approach of principal-agent partnership. Agency theory encourages organizations with hierarchical structures, with clearly-delimited reporting lines and controls, while Stewardship theory advocates flatter structures with emphasis placed on empowerment and collaboration.

Companies should take these factors into consideration when developing organizational structures according to any particular theory they follow.

2. Performance Management as Well as Incentive Systems: Theories provide valuable insight into how performance management systems should be designed. Agency theory emphasizes setting clear targets with extrinsic rewards while Stewardship theory recommends prioritizing intrinsic motivations while encouraging responsibility while protecting freedom to act – organizations may adapt their performance management systems and rewards according to which theory they adhere to.

3. Effective Management and Leadership: Gaining an understanding of management theories will assist managers and leaders with creating an effective management and leadership style.

Agency Theory calls for directness with an emphasis on monitoring and control while Stewardship Theory encourages an engaging leadership style characterized by trust-based cooperation; leaders may adapt their methods accordingly to conform with such theories in creating harmonious working environments.

4. Organizational Culture and Trust Building: Establishing Trust Stewardship theory stresses collaboration and trust within companies. Companies following this model should prioritize creating an open culture centered around creating trust-based cultures through sharing decision-making power, transparency practices, and creating welcoming environments; agency theory may suggest prioritizing control mechanisms that reduce risks while building confidence among their staff members.

5. Employee Engagement and Motivation: Theories provide organizations with differing views of employee motivation. While agency theory promotes external incentives and rewards as ways of motivating staff members, Stewardship theory emphasizes intrinsic motivation as the key to motivating staff participation and engaging their workforce.

Understanding these distinctions helps organizations identify effective methods of engaging staff according to their theories of selection.

6. Contextual Considerations: the application of these theories depends heavily upon organizational context, industry, and cultural influences; companies should therefore carefully assess their unique circumstances when adapting these theories for implementation.

For example, agency theories could work better for high-risk industries with complex regulations while the stewardship theory might prove more suitable in innovative knowledge-intensive sectors.

Companies should keep in mind that companies may also consider employing elements from both theories to develop an approach tailored to the unique requirements of their business, which might involve combining controls with trust-building initiatives or adopting both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation strategies.

Knowledge of stewardship and agency theory enables organizations to make more informed choices when making strategic choices about organizational structure, management of performance, leadership techniques, and culture development as well as employee engagement; aligning practices to their chosen theory while ultimately improving organization results.

Comparative Chart of Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory


Here’s a chart of comparison that highlights the major distinctions between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory:

Aspect Agency Theory Stewardship Theoretical
Viewpoint on Human Nature Motivations derived from extrinsic and self-interest Motivation and a sense of accountability
Principal-Agent Relationship Information asymmetry conflicted inherently Trust-based, cooperative, shared goals
Key Concepts Moral hazard, adverse selection, control Trust, shared goals Empowerment, teamwork
Control Approach Focuses on control mechanisms and monitoring It emphasizes trust and empowerment.
Leadership Style A hierarchical style of leadership that is directive and direct. A leadership style that empowers and is participative
Motivation of Employees Incentives, extrinsic rewards Motivation, autonomy, and empowerment
Focus on Trust Trust is limited because of conflicts and Asymmetry A lot of emphases is placed upon trust and cooperation
Organizational Structure Clear, hierarchical reporting lines Flatter structure, decentralized decision-making
Performance Management Monitoring performance, clear goals The emphasis is on motivation intrinsic to the individual and autonomy
Criticisms and Limitations Insanity, oversimplification, and a lack of trust False assumptions, no control mechanisms

What Is the Relation Between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory?

Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory should be seen as complementary rather than mutually exclusive approaches to understanding organizational dynamics. While each theory offers differing insights into principal-agent relations, both provide useful knowledge for understanding and managing this dynamic within organizations.

1. Conceptual Relatency: Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory provide two perspectives of our behavior and motivation that shed light on principal-agent relations, from motivations of individuals (self-interest), conflicts between interests (conflict of interests), control mechanisms as a necessity, to intrinsic motivation trust collaboration; both theories offer unique tools to analyze an organization.

2. Integration Potential: Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory focus on different areas, yet can still work together seamlessly for businesses that employ both theories in concert with one another to form more nuanced solutions to meet specific contexts.

Companies could combine elements from each theory to craft more comprehensive approaches tailored specifically for themselves based on both theories, such as using agency control strategies while prioritizing trust-building initiatives drawn from Stewardship Theory to address potential conflicts of interest while at the same time building an atmosphere fostering mutual accountability within an organization.

3. Contextual Application: The applicability of any theory will differ based on both the organization’s context and specific industry situations.

Certain industries or circumstances might need more focus on control systems due to increased regulatory or risk requirements; as a result, Agency Theory might become more applicable; on the other hand industries dependent upon collaboration may find Stewardship Theory more pertinent.

4. Concepts that Intersect: Both theories share certain common themes despite being separate entities; for instance, both recognize the significance of goal coordination between agents and principals although their assumptions differ; both acknowledge there exists an information gap yet have different approaches for how best to address it.

5. Studies and Academic Dialogue: The intersections between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory have inspired much academic dialogue regarding studying and controlling principal-agent relations. Researchers often investigate strengths, shortcomings, and integration possibilities to gain greater insights into organizational dynamics while designing effective management strategies.

Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory should not be seen as at odds; rather they provide complementary views on principal-agent relations that allow companies to benefit by drawing elements from both theories into an approach tailored specifically for them and their context.

Organizations can effectively address conflicts of interest, build trust among agents and encourage accountable and motivated behavior.


Understanding the differences between Agency Theory and Stewardship Theory is of critical importance for businesses looking to optimize principal-agent relations, improve performance and create healthy workplace environments.

Agency Theory emphasizes controls, monitoring, and aligning interests with extrinsic rewards while Stewardship Theory promotes trust, intrinsic motivation as well as empowerment, and collaboration.

Organizations that recognize differences among themselves can make informed choices in numerous areas, including organizational structure and performance management, leadership techniques for developing culture, employee engagement strategies, and employee motivation strategies.

By understanding these complexities they are better equipped to tailor their methods according to whatever theory or goal is chosen – adapting methods according to environment or goals specifics as necessary.