Requirements for Earning Your Leadership Merit Badge

Posted 12.08.2010

Meritbadges Last week, while teaching at Georgetown’s leadership coaching program,  I was reminded of something that shaped me as a kid and a leader that I haven’t thought of in a long time.  In a segment where the students share their favorite coaching tools, Graham Segroves from the Leadership Education and Development department of the CIA, acknowledged a resource that was helping him with his newly adopted physical activity of cycling (one of the requirements of the Georgetown program is that the students take on some sort of physical activity that’s new to them). Graham’s tool for learning about cycling? The Boy Scout requirements booklet for the Cycling merit badge.

Graham explained that as a kid he had been a Scout  and that all of the merit badge booklets have the same format.  (Graham was an Eagle Scout as it turns out.  Me too.  You need to earn 21 merit badges for Eagle so you learn the drill over the years.)  They start out with teaching you the basics of the subject and require you to demonstrate proficiency around those basics.  In the case of cycling for instance, you have to show that you can identify the basic parts of the bike, can do basic maintenance and that you know the safety rules and hand traffic signals.  As the requirements build, you have to plan and go on increasingly long bike rides culminating in a 50 miler.  All of this is accomplished with the guidance of a qualified merit badge counselor.  (If you want to see the requirements for other merit badges, they’re all listed on this web site.) 

It was fun to be reminded of the methodical and sequential approach that the Scouts have for the merit badge process.  If you think about it, the whole process of starting with learning the basics of any discipline and methodically working your way up to some level of mastery makes sense for undertakings far beyond Scout merit badges.  It led me to consider, “If there were a merit badge for organizational leadership, what would the requirements be?”

Here’s a really rough cut at the first draft of the requirements for the Organizational Leadership merit badge.  No pride of authorship here.  Would really appreciate your suggestions.  Let’s have some fun with this.

1.   Spend 3 to 5 years working for different leaders. Categorize them into best bosses you’ve worked for and worst bosses you’ve worked for.  Make a list of the characteristics of each group.  Identify what you want to model from the best leaders and what you want to avoid from the worst leaders.

2.   Demonstrate personal leadership by:

a.       Taking on and sticking with tough jobs.

b.      Organizing yourself to be a reliable and productive contributor to the team and larger organization.

c.       Sharing credit with others.

d.      Viewing setbacks as part of the process and learning from them.

e.      Responding thoughtfully to events instead of just reacting to them.

3.  Lead a single team in achieving results in a specific area.  Demonstrate competence in:

a.       Establishing goals.

b.      Evaluating the current situation.

c.       Engaging the team in coming up with solutions.

d.      Establishing and using measures to monitor progress and performance.

e.      Directing and coaching the team members.

f.        Sharing the results of the team in a context that matters to senior management.

4.  Ask for feedback on your leadership effectiveness.  Identify strengths that you can build on and leverage in new ways.  From the following list, identify one or two opportunities for improvement that could make you a more effective leader:

a.       Shaping your communication to the desired outcome and specific audience.

b.      Building relationships within the team and across the organization.

c.       Effective delegation and follow-up

d.      Listening skills

e.      Coaching skills

5.  Spend a day shadowing a senior leader of your organization. Pay attention to how they prepare for different meetings, how they participate in those meetings and how they engage others.  Note any differences you see throughout the day. Ask the senior leader what their goals were for each meeting and how they adjusted to meet those goals. Write a one page memo to yourself on what you learned and how you could apply it.

OK, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Help me out.  What would you add to the list of requirements for the Organizational Leadership merit badge? Please share your ideas in a comment.