Our character starts to form during childhood. Ideally, we learn to obey our parents without question or delay, and we learn to work and play well with other children. Later, we increase our associations with adults and steadily accept responsibility for the care and guidance of others. This could be babysitting, summer jobs, leading co-op classes, or accepting volunteer positions within church, school or scouts. Each time we accept responsibility for a project or team we are building experience whether the results are marked as a success or even a failure. Either way, we learn what works and what mistakes to avoid in the future.
While young people can do great things (remember our discussion of Daniel and Joseph), the scope of their responsibility will grow as they get older based largely on consistent character, positions of responsibility (competence) and relationships (connections). In our modern culture, getting a job with a company, joining the military or starting a family are common triggers for expanded responsibility. While both Daniel and Joseph started with little or limited responsibilities, they steadily grew into very influential and substantial positions of responsibility in their respective situations. Their success was dependent on their obedience to God and demonstrating whole-hearted loyalty to Him.
So how do we define or quantify the degree of responsibility that a person controls? In the simplest terms, we can look at their job description or count how many people “report to them”; however, there are other models to describe the progression of leadership levels based on responsibility. In most of these models there are several factors that help determine what level of leadership a person exhibits. As they progress, they will have:
- greater numbers of peers and/or subordinate managers directly involved with their assigned projects,
- greater consequences affecting more people if they fail to deliver expected results (greater risk/reward), and
- demonstrated consistent, positive results in the past (and failures were characterized as growth learning lessons)
- demonstrated their ability to relate to others – to motivate them, focus them and develop the skills/leadership within them (investing themselves in others success and growth – not just using them to accomplish project results)
There are many examples of progressive leaderhship that we could examine, including ones mentioned in the Bible. The most immediate example that comes to my mind is the parable of the talents:
The master of the house is leaving on a trip and provides a varied amount of money with each of three servants based on their abilities. Their instructions are to use the money wisely while the master is gone. Two of them double their money through wise buying and selling. The third fails because he’s afraid of losing what he’s been entrusted with….by buring the money in the ground he managed to not lose it, but he could have just put it in the bank to make interest on the deposit.
When responsibility is given, we have to assume risk of failure and use our skills to make the best of what we have been given. The reward was to increase the responsibilities of the first two servants and to terminate the services of the third. Can you think of other situations where we see progressive leadership models in use in the Bible?
Let’s take a look at two modern models. First up are John C. Maxwell’s five levels of leadership, taken from his book “Developing the Leader Within You”. These five levels paint an easy picture of how leadership grows over the course of time.
1) Position – your first leadership job is by appointment. You are given a position of responsibility and a limited amount of authority to get it done. You may not actually have any other person reporting to you despite being listed on the organizational chart. Your ability to influence is critically tested since your position gives you very limited authority.
Lessons to learn at this level:
- The need to complete the task drove your appointment, not your experience in leading others.
- This appointment is both a job and a test/interview to see how you handle the responsibility.
- This appointment may result in three outcomes: never getting another appointment, getting another similar appointment, or being promoted. Any of these outcomes are possible whether you succeed or fail depending on your character.
- Other people will only follow you up to your current limit of authority, and since your positional authority may not be recognized by outsiders, you may have an added challenge of getting cooperation from them since they don’t recognize your title as having direct authority over them (think about a military officer trying to work with civilian contractors – he can’t command them, but he can influence them based on character, competence, and connection (relationship).
- Your peer’s security is based on their title not talent (experience); therefore, they may not be at ease as much as senior leaders.
- Patience and planning are virtues at this level – they show you are calm and thoughtful (being organized shows you’re not wasting other people’s time).
2) Permission – While you still have positional authority for specific tasks, you’re more interested in getting people to work for you when they’re not actually obligated to do so. You are crafting your ability to influence others by sharing insights, building connections and demonstrating that you genuinely care about them. You are focused on collaboration and cooperation, not demanding or commanding.
Lessons at this level:
- “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Leadership begins with the heart not the head. It flourishes with relationship not more regulation. People who are unable or unwilling to build solid, lasting relationships will not sustain long, effective leadership.
- New leaders are often in a rush to get to the top and underestimate the importance of spending time at this level or confuse it with simple networking.
3) Production – this is the level where results energize further activity. It is more fun than drudgery and you’re building momentum within the organization as you complete tasks, lead teams and begin to contribute to the vision and goal setting processes.
Lessons at this level:
- Peers and direct reports admire you for the results you obtain on a consistent basis.
- Failures are learning lessons for you and your team – you’re not embarrassed to share with the team how you might have done better had you made different choices – this encourages them rather than scaring them since you’ve delivered the message with confidence and you’ve made “AARs” (After Action Reports) a part of your culture.
- You can’t jump to this level without a solid permissions experience, and if you try, you’ll be on shaky ground each time you fail.
4) People Development – you put more time and emphasis on building successors. Your commitment to help the organization is expressed not only through consistent results, but in helping others move up the levels of progressive leadership.
Lessons at this level:
- Genuine concern for others will be translated into genuine loyalty to you by your peers and subordinates. False or half-hearted concern for others will be apparent, too.
- You should be careful to avoid the trap of playing favorites in developing a core team that you always rely on – without fresh folks being mixed in, your team could become a clique.
- Remember what it felt like to get your first appointment – the enthusiasm and the concerns. How much would it have helped if you had a caring mentor guiding you? Now it is your turn to guide the rookie.
5) Personhood – your mission has morphed from completing the task to almost wholly focused on helping others complete their tasks. You’re not here to build your results directly, but rather indirectly by empowering others.
Lessons at this level:
- The higher you go, the longer it takes – you don’t get to this level “overnight” and it shouldn’t be rushed because the point was the process, not the destination.
- With each new company, group, team, volunteer opportunity, you start the process over again. It may speed up slightly from practice, but you have to build and invest in your network of connections, demonstrate competence through results, and “be” of solid character.
- We need to sacrifice to bear fruit. John 12:23-33 (NIV) Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
To review these levels –
- Position – Obey the leader (positional authority by appointment)
- Permission – Commit to the leader (relationship influence by connecting with team)
- Production – Admire the leader (team is energized by track record and momentum)
- People Development – Loyal to the leader (team recognizes and trusts the caring investment of time and resources in replicating the leader)
- Personhood – Leader as enabler (the leader is primarily focused on enabling team members to succeed for the benefit of the organization)
Level 5 leadership as defined by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” follows a similar model even if it is described in a somewhat self-focused manner:
- Level 1: Highly Capable Individual — At this level, you make productive contributions 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.
Within scouts, we follow a similar progression. As a new scout in the lower ranks, you are focused on:
- Learning about scouting ideals and working to incorporate them into your daily life
- Learning scout skills needed to be safe in the outdoors (knots, swimming, cooking, first aid, nature study, etc.)
- Demonstrating competence and mastery in preparing your own meals, then preparing meals for others.
To develop leadership, Positions of Responsibility (POR) are introduced and are required for continued advancement beyond First Class. Informally, there are two types of PORs – elected and appointed.
- Appointments are no less important elected positions, but are more supportive roles – they help the patrol and/or troop function. If the work isn’t done or isn’t done well, it impacts everyone else. This could be a quartermaster who forgets to pack tents or lanterns. This is an example of what John Maxwell might call a leader with “Position” responsibility – can’t command or direct others, but they offer support out of respect for your appointment (* your authority is delegated from the person making the appointment – typically the SPL, ASPL or PL)
- Elected PORs have added responsibilities – they have to deal with any problems introduced by appointees while also doing their own “day job”. On the Maxwell scale, they would be at levels 2-4 in most cases (and may be on more than one level at the same time as they ebb and flow in their leadership experiences). Elected positions already have the support of the scouts (or they wouldn’t have gotten the votes needed to be in their position); however, success in position comes from building momentum and developing successors.
We all start at the beginning and grow through experiences. The Be-Know-Do model of leadership is also a progressive journey built off of character, expanding responsibility, relationships and results (as feedback loop for adjustments).
As we progress up the levels of leadership, we should be shifting our focus from our own success to that of the organization and especially others who are following along behind us (building successors). With this type of outlook (Duty to God, then Others, then Self) we can enable the leadership to be effective without authority being self-focused or prideful. We share results and failures together with an emphasis on learning from mistakes, avoiding the trap of making the same mistake repeatedly, and empowering novices to step up and get experience in a culture of caring brotherhood (primus inter pares).
Next time, we’ll dig into the KNOW and DO portions of the model. Homework assignment – look at the “Making progress at my level checklist” and think about where you could “step up” your leadership within your patrol and/or the troop. If you currently hold a POR, analyze your own performance – are you getting results or cruising without doing anything to justify your position? Do you need help? Have you asked for help? Where do you want to go from here? Do you want to become elected as PL, or SPL?
Checklist — Making Progress at my Leadership Level(s)
Level One – Entry Position
- Without POR:
- Am I earnestly working on mastering each requirement for Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class?
- Do I understand that I should have mastery over these skills to be entrusted with greater responsibilities (I need to “KNOW” how to take care of myself and others in the outdoors)
- Am I working on building friendships both at scouts and outside of scouts? Do I need help with this? Who can I get help from? (Parents, siblings, scouts, etc.)
- With POR:
- Do you know and really understand your job description?
- What have you been doing to excel in your POR?
- Have you thought about how you could go above and beyond the suggested minimums for your POR?
- Have you talked with other scouts about your POR to get their input/suggestions?
- Have you shared your excitement about the POR with your buddies?
- Are you aware of the organizational history surrounding your POR (why does our troop do things the way that it does? Is there tradition being built or in need of tactful respect?)
- Am I a team player – helping others and seeking their help, too?
Level Two – Permission/Relationship
- Do I have a genuine love for people?
- Am I interested in helping teammates becoming more successful as we work together on projects?
- Do I see through other people’s eyes to better appreciate their position?
- Do I show a love of people more than I love position, procedures, or process?
- Do I argue more than I discuss? Do I build consensus or shout “Be Reasonable! Do it MY way!”
- Am I inclusive of all, or only my closest friends?
- Do I deal wisely with difficult people?
Level Three – Production/Results
- Do I initiate and accept responsibility for growth? OR do I sit back and wait for opportunities generated by others, and complain when they don’t come fast or often enough?
- Do I have a personal vision, goal, or even statement of purpose? Are my job description and energy integral to those vision/goal statements?
- Have I developed accountability for results starting with my own contributions, competence and connections (relationships)?
- Am I a change agent within the organization by providing timely and helpful feedback to other leaders, by soliciting feedback from peers and any direct reports?
- Do I make difficult decisions that benefit the organization more than they benefit me, especially during difficult circumstances (i.e. making a sacrifice for the benefit of the team?)
- Do I get excited and generate excitement among my peers when things go well? Do avoid trash talking or grumbling when things get messy or complicated?
- Do I both follow and encourage others (actively) to follow scouting ideals?
Level Four – People Development/Successor Building
- Have I realized that people around me are my most valuable asset as a leader? Do I demonstrate my care for them because of this realization?
- Is my main priority to develop other people in their current positions?
- Am I an enabler of their success or do I get in the way by putting my own ambitions ahead of the organization or my peers?
- Am I a model for others who are following my example? Can I do better? Do I realize that they’re watching me all the time and even when I’m in a bad mood?
- Am I pouring my efforts into the top 20% of my performers to get even stronger results? Am I encouraging this top performer group to, in turn, invest themselves in others who are not as strong or consistent?
- Am I seeking opportunities to make appointments, grant authority to newbies, or encourage those who follow on this same path, but are still learning and growing?
- Am I influencing other top leaders to focus on common goals for the organization?
- Am I more interested in the continued results of the organization than my own personal results?
Level Five – Personhood
- Are my followers and peers loyal and appropriately sacrificial?
- Have I spent years mentoring and molding other leaders for their betterment and for the success of the organization?
- Do others (within and outside of the organization) seek me out as a consultant, statesman, guide?
- Is my greatest joy seeing others grow?
- Have I transcended the immediate organization? (am I ready to start a new organization, not in competition, but as a way to reach more people than the current organization can do on it’s own)?
Do you want to read more? Consider these articles:
Three Leadership Traits That Never Go Out Of Style (Bloomberg/Harvard Business Review)
Five Things Failure Teaches You About Leadership (Forbes):
National Youth Leadership Training:
Positions of Responsibility:
Troop Leadership Training: