Chapter 7— Leadership Development By Design

This section describes the process that an individual goes through as he becomes a member of a group.1 First we describe the "generic" process, one that happens in every group. This first process is usually informal and the results, depending on group dynamics, are unpredictable. Then we describe the process a member of the White Stag Leadership Development Program might take part in.

The second process originates in the White Stag leadership development program and curriculum. It is deliberately created to help the individual progress in his leadership knowledge and ability.

This chapter describes how the leadership competencies affect social and group dynamics and provides a rationale for the order the competencies are presented during the leadership development experience.

This process described here is cyclical. An individual may as a candidate, youth staff, and adult staff member take part in the same part of the program, but at different levels of competence. This approach, allowing participants to continually expand their horizons of knowledge, is called the Infinity Principle. (See Follow the White Stag, Chapter 2 — "Program Principles" for a description of these concepts.)

Group Dynamics and the Leadership Curriculum

In developing the White Stag program, a particular sequence of leadership development experiences has evolved. It is important that the staff member recognize the significance of this sequence so he can better evaluate the groups with which he is working. He will be able to then determine whether or not certain growth is in fact taking place.

Establishing the Group

When a group of people who will work together meets for the first time, what's the first thing that happens? People cast about for clues to one another's identities: values, social standing, friends in common, hobbies, and later in life, jobs or professions.

People often attempt to establish dominance; they may assert their knowledge, skills or social standing, their occupation, the school they attended, the community they live in, and so forth.

Getting to Know the Learners

When a patrol is formed at the beginning of the White Stag leadership development experience, the individual members are usually coming together for the first time. They too strive to find out about one another: where they live, what school they attend, what grade they're in, do they have a job, if a Scout, what rank they are, and so forth.

These people are obviously trying to find what they have in common. Perhaps a couple of members know one another already. These people will usually get together first. Nonetheless, all members are new to this particular group. If the group is to be successful and complete its task, it must begin to establish itself. Someone becomes apparent as a potential leader if one has not been designated. How does this happen?

In the world at large, if a leader is not picked by an outside authority figure, then the loudest, most assertive person may become leader; or the group may intelligently choose a member with the greatest apparent expertise in the subject at hand; or it may fall by default to someone who, after a long interval, finally says, "Oh, I'll be chairman!"

Identifying Group Purpose

However it happens, the group gradually establishes its purpose. Roles become explicit by definition or inference. In White Stag, we do not leave this important process to chance. We usually initiate a "leaderless experience." The group of learners, once gathered, are almost immediately given a task by a counselor, who then steps back— way back.

The Leaderless Experience

For example, the patrol counselor may challenge the group to complete a hike over unfamiliar terrain and to rendezvous "at 12:15" with other patrols at a distant location. He then probably steps back to the cool shade of a tree to see what develop.

The patrol counselor watches and evaluates. How is the leader selected? Why? Who? When? Perhaps the counselor suddenly interrupts the group on its hike, testing them on their ability to respond to a simulated first aid emergency. How do they pull together?

Later the counselor sits down with the group and guides them in a discussion of what they have experienced thus far. He helps them identify how and why they selected the leader they did— or why they didn't select one— and what happened as a result. He points out the process of getting to know one another they initiated, and continues it with a session on "Knowing Group Needs and Characteristics." He helps them define what they will do; how each feels when they are not successful, or when they are; why it is important to work together.

They continue the hike. At lunch time, he tells them he is about to give three members of the group, separately, a set of instructions for setting up camp. One person gets it verbally, once; the second is asked to repeat it back; and the third is instructed to take notes. Each in turn is then asked to relate what he can remember to the entire group. The importance of communication within the group is established.

Later in the day, they have to cook their first meal together. The Patrol Leader learns from the Senior Patrol Leader the time of the food pick-up. Somehow the group has to figure out who will cook, who will build the fire, and so forth.

One fellow burns the stew. He yells at the fire tender, "I told you not to build the fire up so high!" "It wasn't my fault you started it so soon," the fire tender yells back "Why didn't you ask me— I've made stew before!" a third chimes in. "Well, why didn't you tell me!" replies the cook. The Patrol Counselor takes a few notes from beneath his tree on the edge of the campsite, and after dinner there's a session on "Knowing and Using Group Resources."

This process is a microcosm of the entire leadership development experience. A practical experience is usually used to first establish the learners' "need to know" is first established. Group members are asked leading questions drawing from them first what they already know about the subject. Then the patrol counselor adds what they have not been able to discover for themselves.

Thus, because they have a common purpose— to eat, to survive as a team for a week, to meet the challenges set before them— it becomes important to these people that they work well together. To do this they need an understanding of one another, a common identity, so that members feel some loyalty and commitment to one another. They must become a working, cohesive unit. In the course of the planned outdoor program, the patrol counselors insert at scheduled intervals new information about the knowledge, skills, and abilities that comprise this thing called leadership.

Presenting the Leadership Competencies

The structure of competency exposure used in White Stag has been developed over 35 years. A leader may need any one or number of these competencies to meet any given situation. But they can't all be studied at once, and just as in college when you take English 101 before English Literature, we cover certain fundamentals— Getting and Giving Information, for example— before tackling more complex subjects— like Manager of Learning. Specific events are scheduled that facilitate the learner's readiness to learn each competency in turn.

The eleven competencies described in the remaining pages of this guide are not covered exhaustively in this book. To adequately treat the subject matter, each competency would require a book of its own.The content rendered here is what we generally present to our youthful learners.

About the Eleven Competencies

We believe that these eleven competencies cover the entire range of leadership skills. If our curriculum does not explicitly include a specific bit of leadership knowledge, there is room for it to be added to the existing body of knowledge. This preserves a hierarchy or knowledge schema that users can plug into from one year to the next, making it easy for new and returning participants and leaders to make sense of the learning they add to what they already know each and every year.

While the structure is important, the exact schedule and experiences presented is not rigid. Each Phase Advisor devises the experiences to meet the needs for a sequential exposure to the leadership competencies. The Phase Advisor has responsibility for the overall quality of the phase program. The learning objectives for each competency do not vary greatly from one year to the next, but each Phase Advisor each year chooses those he emphasizes or plays down.

Developing a Competency Plan

Each competency lesson plan should contain a description of the intent— what the learners are supposed to know about the competency. This is followed by the objectives— which are what the learners are expected to demonstrate at the conclusion of a learning experience. Finally each competency plan describes in some detail the content or information the manager of learning "transmits" to the learner.

The competency plan does not necessarily tell how to manage the learning, but what is taught. The how can vary from time to time and location to location. It is up the Manager of Learning to select an hurdle or learning activity appropriate to the group and the situation.

This content is part of the manager of learning methodology, the Teach/Learn portion. The method used to communicate the content can vary widely. See Appendix A — "Teach/Learn Methods" for information on these methods.

The leadership competencies are presented in a specific order as part of the White Stag method. As we will show, the order parallels the process individuals typically undergo when creating a new group.

Bringing the Group Together

The first three competencies a learner is exposed to, or that a staff member begins his developmental sequence with, are designed to bring the group together:

When these three competencies have been presented to the patrol, the group members will know something of one another: their interpersonal styles, how they communicate, their talents, and so forth. This formal process takes perhaps two meetings during staff development, or one or two days during summer camp, although maintaining individual commitment to the group will continue as long as the group exists.

The results of the exposure to the three primary competencies will not be one hundred percent, that is, not all members will suddenly have the feeling that they are part of a group and feel strong identification with it, but at least the process will have begun. This process must be at least partially repeated if new members join the group at any time, because that new member will alter interpersonal dynamics and relationships.

Also part of establishing the group is helping the members gain a knowledge of organizational concepts, norms, and so forth This would include an orientation to the group's structure, its procedures, the nittygritty of "how we do things here."

Once the group is established, the next step is to develop the capability of the group to get a job done.

Developing Group Capability

After the first three competencies have assisted in establishing the group, the patrol is put through a series of learning experiences designed to enhance their ability to get a job done. A specific set of experiences, purposefully designed, is implemented to create a need within group members to know more about leadership.

The competencies that follow, in approximate order of appearance, are:

This order is not ironclad, but the approximate groups need to be respected if the leadership development experience is to be successful. This formal process of building group members' skills to do a job will take about three staff development meetings. This process is obviously compressed during the brief summer camp experience for candidates.

Once the learners have had a chance to gain new knowledge and practice the competencies above, then it is time to move on to how to the twin tasks of any leader anywhere: to do the job and keep the group together.

To Do the Job and Keep the Group Together

Our definition of leadership says that it is the property of the group, dependent on task, group, and situation, rather than a quality possessed by one individual. Nonetheless, one person is almost always the designated leader. People need this consistency; efficiency falls off sharply in groups that change leaders often. The leader has overall responsibility for the group and everything it does, either formally or informally, by authority or by implication.

Since keeping the group together is such an important skill, special attention is given the competencies required. These "people" skills are more complex, require more practice and maturity, more deliberate will control, and greater willingness to take risks. The need for these competencies is probably present throughout the group's experience.

Managing Groups Successfully

When sufficient trust, unity and commitment has been built within the group, then they are ready to learn more about the last three competencies.

These are usually not presented to younger participants who are of insufficient maturity and who do not yet hold positions of responsibility within their organization.

These three competencies are presented to and practiced by learners many times, but because of the high degree of sensitivity to nuances of behavior all three require, few adolescents will quickly demonstrate a high degree of skill in them. Furthermore, all of these must be practiced in groups. This is not true of the previously presented competencies, which can be applied by oneself.

Sharing Leadership is about five "styles" of leadership, from telling to consensus, reflecting a shift in orientation and values from task to group.

Counseling is one of the most complex competencies, requiring probably the greatest degree of personal integration, practice, and experience. It is entirely people-oriented, except to the degree an individual might need counseling to resolve a task-oriented problem.

Manager of Learning is also a competency that requires a large degree of experience and integration; for instance, learners need to be able to make a distinction between MOL as a concept and method for leadership and MOL as a leadership competency, including the specific techniques that may be applied.

The leader's ability to utilize these last three competencies can make a critical degree of difference in those situations when human relations are the paramount element in the task/people/environment trichotomy. Key to the group and the leader's success is the ability to be other-oriented, empathic and altruistic, to look at situations and people from a perspective other than his own.

The last three competencies may make the difference between being the leader who's only successful in getting the job done against the leader who both helps the group both feel good about themselves and gets the job done right.

It is conceivable that not all of the competencies above will be part of a staff development program, depending on the individual experience and the phase objectives for staff development. It is not essential, unless it contributes to total staff development, that all staff members repeat the complete experience of candidate learners, only that they are aware of what it is.

Copyright © 1981— , Brian Phelps. All rights reserved. Short portions may be excerpted for review and quotes. For copyright purposes, only introductory portions of this book are available online. Order the newest edition today.