In our past two discussions about leadership, we asked the question “what does a leader look like and how would you describe him or her?”
We got a long list of people we identify as leaders and we got a similar list of characteristics or attributes explaining why we label these folks as leaders.
The overriding conclusion was that character is a huge part of how we describe (and therefore define) people as leaders.
Under the US Army model of leadership training (and the BSA model, too) there’s a strong emphasis on character development, in fact its one of the primary missions of the BSA:
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is:
In our troop, we spent a year examining each part of the Scout Law and the Scout Oath – to understand what each part means and to think about how we can put these ideals into practice in our daily lives. While BSA doesn’t define itself as a Christian organization, the families who participate in our unit share a common Christian faith and we also spent time examining each element of the Oath and Law to see how they complement or could be in conflict with Christian ideals found in scriptures. We found that they’re a great complement to what Christians are instructed to do in the scriptures even if they’re a subset of our whole duty to God. This is OK since the first element of the Scout Oath is to learn and fulfill our (whole) duty to God.
Comparing Godly Leadership and BE-KNOW-DO
If we examine scriptures for evidence of God’s design for leadership, we see that it’s built around relationships with responsibilities fulfilled through service. For instance, God created man and gave Adam tasks to complete in the Garden of Eden. Later, God gave Adam a helper, Eve: each communed with God and with each other. Later still we see that the primary leadership roles are Patriarchal: husbands/fathers leading families and establishing multigenerational legacy.
As population grew, additional leadership layers fostered efficient organization: priests; business people with apprentices; and eventually a military and a King. These leadership layers were largely set up by man to expedite civilization that had grown beyond a single family lineage – where individuals were more strangers to each other than family.
Regardless, the keys of leadership in close bonds of relationship such as husband and wife, parent and child, individual and God are authority balanced by responsibility. For example, husbands are to lead their wife, but to love her and cherish her, too. Children are to obey their parents, but parents are not to enrage their children with foolish behavior – they’re to lead in love and respect.
Colossians chapter three is only one example of scriptures that outline the foundation of our character. This chapter outlines the way we should live and reasons for these directions. In verse twelve, it summarizes a key point that we should demonstrate our life through traits such as: mercy (compassion); kindness, humbleness, meekness (gentleness), longsuffering (patience). These traits should not be confused for weakness – they deal with the application of our strength, authority and assertiveness in an appropriate and productive manner.
I think it’s fair to suggest that both leadership model(s) focus on character, competence and connection (engagement through relationship). To defend my position, I’d offer these scriptures which remind us of who we need to be, who we should draw our strength from, and how we need to be consistent in character: 1 Samuel 7:1-7 Micah 6:8, Proverbs 16:12; Psalm 1:1-3; Matthew 20:25-28; John 13:3-5; Philippians 2:3-8; 1 Peter 5:5-7; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 3:4-5; Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). Obviously, the goals of leadership in these examples may differ – I’m merely pointing out that to study a model, there may be supportive similarities.
Character as the Foundation for Success
The BE-KNOW-DO model should look a lot like a pyramid – broad at its foundation (character – as defined by the organization, but generally similar among organizations); substantial at it’s middle (developing skills, confidence, competence, and experience) and relatively narrow at its top (influencing, taking charge of operations, improving the team, defining goals/vision and building legacy). This would make sense if our goal is a leader who is someone well respected, experienced and building wisdom.
Does this mean that you need to be an old man before you can lead other people? Not at all!
Look at the story of Daniel in Chapters one and two: as a young man, Daniel stuck to his upbringing and worked a deal to stay true to his God in terms of appropriate nutrition (character); he was rewarded by God by gaining knowledge and understanding while he was trained in the court of the King (be) and eventually was, by exhibiting character, appointed ruler over all the wise men of Babylon (do). We could also look at the life story of Joseph and how he progressed to become second in command under the Pharaoh.
There are many steps along the leadership path and it all begins with being a good follower, then a good leader of yourself, then progressing through stages of leadership with increasing responsibility (larger missions with greater resources and greater consequences for success or failure) and scope of influence (leading progressively larger groups of people – the net result of success or failure affects more people).
To expand on these concepts, we want to talk about two related topics:
- The progression the types of leadership outlined by John C. Maxwell (position, permission, production, people development, and personhood) in his book “Developing the Leader Within You” and why character becomes so critical to making each type work effectively depending on which stage you’re presently developing. AND
- Level 5 leadership as defined by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great”:
- Level 1: Highly Capable Individual — At this level, you make productive through talent, skills and work habits needed to do a good job.
- Level 2: Contributing Team Member — At Level 2, you use your knowledge and skills to help your team succeed. You work effectively, productively and successfully with other people in your group.
- Level 3: Competent Manager — You’re able to organize a group effectively to achieve specific goals and objectives that were pre-determined by the organization.
- Level 4: Effective Leader — Level 4 is the category that most top leaders fall into. Here, you’re able to galvanize a department or organization to meet performance objectives and achieve a vision.
- Level 5: Executive — At Level 5, you have all of the abilities needed for the other four levels, plus you have a unique blend of humility and will that enables you to leverage your driven ambition for the benefit of the organization instead of yourself.
However, we’ll need more time than we have tonight so stay tuned for the next chapter on developing leadership.