On agile teams, architects do more than design and implement the interesting tricky bits. They typically balance a wide range of concerns: short-term goals, overall system design integrity, risks versus efforts, design expediency.
The successful agile architects I know aren’t ivory tower experts.
They take a leadership role in defining how the system is structured, organized and implemented, as well as how it evolves. They make sure there isn’t a hairball of component dependencies. They are hands-on and engaged in day-to-day development work. They actively ensure that the system is designed in a way that will sustain ongoing, incremental development. They are comfortable writing and refactoring code and figuring out how to fix things and improve the architecture. When things are “broken”, they often step in to help.
The definition of a steward is “someone who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others”. I like this definition. To me, stewardship has deep implications about the role an architect ideally plays on a team. It means you pay attention, take care, and are responsible for the creation and upkeep of the software. You are responsible for safekeeping the architecture, yet you don’t own the architecture. Sure, you may work out key design details of the architecture, but you are a team player. The system’s success and sustainable development is more important than your own individual technical contributions. While being a technical leader, you also value teamwork. You don’t expect to be the only one coding or designing the challenging or interesting parts. You do what you can each and every day to sustain the system’s architecture.