5 Levels of Leadership

EverWear Whirling Climb

The neighborhood playground where I grew up contained an old but popular multilevel merry-go-round – the EverWear Whirling Climb, it was called – “40 and more children at one time!” Mounted above its rotating platform were three higher levels of successively smaller diameter.

The wildest ride was always found on the crowded, lowest level where centrifugal force could fling you out on the grass, where your head could continue to spin. Climbing to the second level where it was less crowded, but where you could grasp the rail, offered an easier go-around. On the third level, where there were even fewer riders, it took only one hand to anchor your soul to the earth while turning in a smaller orbit. But the pinnacle of derring-do was in achieving the post-top of the merry-go-round, where there was room for only one to stand, unassisted by any device, save your own guts, and pivot eight feet in air.

(By today’s safety standards, it was a veritable spinning factory of kid-tested hard knocks—it’s truly a wonder that so many of us survived such childhoods!)

In his excellent book, 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell describes the advantages and challenges of each level of leadership, as well as the beliefs and behaviors that enable the ascendant professional to continue the climb to the pinnacle position. But as that old whirler illustrates, those who strive to rise through the various levels of organizational leadership must contend with the particular challenges of each successive level to attain the top spot.

(Maxwell’s book formed the basis for many leadership lessons with the participants in the first PRPS Leadership Academy, which hosted its in-person workshop in September. The participants are still working on a Class Project—to be revealed soon for the engagement of all PRPS Members!)

Can you identify the levels at which you are currently operating? (You won’t be at the same level with every person you lead!) What level do you aspire to?

Level 1. Rights. People follow because they have to. At its lowest level, leadership is a matter of title only, where potential is recognized and some authority is awarded. However, those who rely on their position to force others to follow often wind up devaluing them. Emphasizing rights over responsibilities can strand both the leader and the organization at this lowest level. Because the organization cannot function on a level higher than its leader, the best people bolt for better business elsewhere.

Like the crowded merry-go-round, leadership is difficult at this lowest level, where forces tend to keep both people and priorities unsettled. The astute positional leader, therefore, realizes that rights are not enough, and people, not position, is his or her greatest asset. She must aspire higher!

Level 2. Relationships. People follow because they want to. The leader builds a foundation of relationships that focuses on the value of other people, creating an enjoyable and energetically-charged atmosphere nurturing trust, two-way communication, and possibilities.

Relational leadership eases the wayward pull on the followers, yet the upwardly-mobile leader understands that relationships alone are not enough. He or she must also deliver the goods!

Level 3. Results. People follow because of what you have done for the organization. Productivity brings reality to the vision, momentum to the mission, and credibility to the leader as others clamber aboard for the ride to results. The results-oriented leader helps people define, commit to, and experience the success of the vision.

Although exertion declines as the leader ascends, he or she realizes that productivity is not enough to reach the next level; developing people is where that’s at.

Level 4. Reproduction. People follow because of what you have done for them. Developing people is a distinctly higher level than most leaders reach, but it ensures that organizational growth can be sustained. Because only leaders can develop other leaders, level 4 leaders focus on recruiting, modeling, equipping and empowering their people to succeed as leaders themselves.

Level 5. Respect. People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Pinnacle leaders create a legacy within the organization and extend their vision and influence beyond what they could see on the lowest level. Honing all their skills, they and their followers develop a collective strength equal to the expanded mission.

While it takes considerable time, commitment and growth to rise through each level of leadership, going the other direction can happen very quickly! (As a couple of my old playground pals can attest!) But the time to mount the ascent is now. Assemble your followers, treat them right, teach them well, and together climb!


It’s time to get smashed!!!


Not you and me…it’s time for spotted lantern-flies (SLF) to get smashed! Last fall, East Goshen Township did a SLF “Smash a Thon” and it was a ton of fun! We kicked off the campaign at our Pumpkin Festival with a proverbial “first pitch” as I dressed up in a SLF costume and let the kids wack me with pool noodles!

This fall, I figured it was time to challenge some of my friends across the great state of Pennsylvania! After all, many of us are increasingly being affected by this devious, little invasive species! The 2019 fall campaign dates will be Monday, October 7th through Thursday, October 31st and our goal is 1,000,000 smashed SLFs!

Here’s how it will work!

  1. Register your community by emailing me at jlang@eastgoshen.org
  2. Download the official smash score sheet at: https://eastgoshen.org/spotted-lanternfly-smash-a-thon/
  3. Market to your community however you see fit – feel free to give weekly prizes etc.
  4. Weekly scoring will be totals from Sunday to Saturday for a given week.
    1. 1 point – Smashing one SLF
    2. 50 points – scraping one egg mass
    3. 100 points – having a tree treated or removing a Tree of Heaven
  5. Email me your community totals each Monday by 12pm to be posted to the leader board on the PRPS Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PARECANDPARK/?epa=SEARCH_BOX
  6. The winning community will have the most SLF smashes per resident (to make the playing field even) as of the end of October 31st.
  7. I encourage everyone to have fun with it! Have residents post pictures to #SLFsmashcampaign and your social media pages!
  8. The community that ultimately comes out on top will win bragging rights, and the much coveted “Golden Fly Swatter”, to be presented at the PRPS Fall Membership Meeting.

Let’s get smashing!

Future Professionals Take the Stage

Future Professionals can now compete for the opportunity to present posters during the PRPS Annual Conference & Expo. This shows our association’s continued commitment to supporting students. As a student myself, I think this is a great addition to the conference! Not only do selected students receive a potential discounted rate on presentation day, they also gain valuable skills and experience.

I first attended the conference in 2017. LHU’s Student Recreation Society held an interest meeting to tell students more about the benefits, and while I was interested, it was my first semester as a recreation management major. I thought, “Maybe save it for next year.” However, my professor, Dr. Dombroski, pulled me aside and said, “Would you be interested in assisting with my presentation at the PRPS conference?” Three weeks into my first semester and an offer like this is given to me? I had to take it!

Of course, I was nervous. I stuttered and couldn’t keep my hands steady while we rehearsed, but when the time came, I felt my words coming out clear and steady. The nerves didn’t completely melt away, but I did it. Before college, if you told me I would speak at a conference, in front of professionals, some of whom had been working in the field as long as I had been alive, I would have laughed. Now, I see that presentation as ripping off a scary bandage. Public speaking is an attainable skill.  

You may be asking how this relates to the poster presentations. Well, when Dr. Batty first discussed the idea with me, I felt a lightbulb click on above my head. Here is the chance for other students to have the same experience I did, but in a way that would be (hopefully) a little less nerve-wracking. This opportunity shows that PRPS continues to be committed to its student members.

Last spring, a handful of students presented research at the conference. It was great to see so many professionals stopping to connect with students and ask about their work! If you have a student or intern who has ideas you think should be shared, don’t hesitate: Encourage them to send in their poster topic for the chance to present.

Look for more details to come out in the conference and expo registration guide!

Youth Partnerships and Trails

We hear it all the time, the youth are our future. But did you ever wonder, how do they feel about where they currently stand in their home areas?

A late 2018 study done by Search Institute shows that 48% of youth feel they do not see themselves having a future in their communities, and only 23% feel confident that they have strong relationships with adult peers. Ouch!

A load of pressure then falls on our shoulders. How can we be proactive in supporting youth into the transition of adulthood and make them feel valued and grounded in the communities so precious to us?


Positive relationships between youth and adults give youth the validation they need to feel valued in their communities. Youth-Adult Partnerships (YAPs) are relationships in with professional adults work collaboratively with youth in the workforce. With these partnerships, youth learn important decision making skills, have the opportunity to network with other professionals in their field of choice, develop a sense of identity, and have the opportunity to become more grounded in their community.

Speaking from experience

CCCRA staff members stand by one of 20 unique Ghost Town Trail paintings completed by students of Central Cambria Middle School. Photo by Momentum Photography.

The Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority (CCCRA) has brought youth into consideration for many trail projects, and you can too! These partnerships can be both easy and complex, depending on your needs. For example: Youth at a local vocational school have built the benches and picnic tables that are placed on the trails of Cambria County, and middle schoolers have painted murals to be hung along the Ghost Town Trail. When students at these schools complete projects to be displayed on the rail trails, they have a sense of connection to the community. Connection, feeling grounded in the community, advocacy and pride for our local community, do you see where we’re going here?

Eagle Scout Luke Lockard stands atop his bridge, a project he managed and worked alongside CCCRA Executive Director Cliff Kitner to complete.

Other partnerships CCCRA has established with youth include the hiring of graphic design students rather than professionals for design work, working with interns on special projects over the summer, and guiding Eagle Scouts through the completion of bigger projects along the trail. The two most recent projects completed by Eagle Scouts along the Ghost Town Trail were the replacement of two old bridges along the C&I Extension of the Ghost Town Trail.

Keep in mind that these partnerships are only successful when the youth have just as much say in the decisions for the project, making them feel recognized and valued. We as adults have the opportunity to foster the youth of tomorrow, all the while learning the needs of our younger generations.

Invest in our youth, invest in our future. And have a little fun along the way!

Elements of Well-Being

by Brian Malcarne, Assistant Professor, York College of PA, and Jeff Witman, Professor Emeritus, York College of PA

One common daily interaction that regularly produces a fair amount of lying rather than truth telling is . . .


How ya doing?

Fine thanks, and you?

Doing well.

The probable reality is that neither of these dialogue responses is close to the truth.

For many people, the honest response to “How’s it going?” would be “Don’t even ask!” or perhaps “Not so hot”.

“Hanging in there” is another frequent response that indicates a less than positive mindset. In discussing his response to ALS, Steve Gleason rejects this mindset stating:

“I have no intention to hang in there or survive. I intend to keep living a purposeful, productive life, and do what I love.”

This brings us to the preferred state of being – GREAT! Thriving instead of just surviving.  Lynn Anderson and Linda Heyne described this mindset as FLOURISHING, a sense of well-being across the domains of our existence characterized by successful, satisfying engagement with life.

Well-being suggests a healthy outlook and engagement in life balanced across multiple domains of functioning (e.g., psychological/emotional, cognitive, social, physical, spiritual). Social scientists have identified a variety of key factors related to people’s sense of well-being. A collection of these key factors may serve as a useful framework for understanding and fostering well-being and flourishing within our realm of influence.

Such influence starts with our own personal life and extends to the professional environments and interactions we share with others (e.g., clients, coworkers). For example, are we as professionals helping participants in our activities and programs experience the valuable outcomes related to well-being?

From the work of Martin Seligman (PERMA Model) and Carol Ryff (Model of Psychological Well-Being), consider the following key factors associated with well-being and flourishing:

Positive Emotions – In addition to the expected positive emotions of happiness and joy, there is a potpourri of several forms of positivity to boost well-being including gratitude, pride, serenity, inspiration, confidence, and self-assurance (to name a few). It is important to be mindful of what we are trying to use programs to accomplish. How can we infuse our programs with opportunities for participants to better experience positive emotions? Check Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity Scale for a notion of your current level of positivity.

Engagement – Engaging in life and pursuing our interests is a powerful way to experience enjoyment and enhance well-being. When we are absorbed in the moment, we are most likely to achieve a state of flow also described as optimal enjoyment by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Achieving flow within our programs begins with the fundamental principle of finding a good balance between participant skill levels and activity challenge.

Relationships – Strong positive emotions come to each of us through good friendships and meaningful social connections. These connections provide an important form of support to well-being including access to information, empathy, honest feedback, and help when you need it. When expertly facilitated, programs can be a powerful way to foster participant connections and expand social networks.

Meaning – It is important for all of us as individuals to feel a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Positive emotions and well-being improve when we are having a positive impact on something beyond ourselves — and to know that what we are doing matters! How can we provide programs that are worthwhile to participants and connect them to something with deeper meaning? Knowing what participants have a heart for begins this process.

Accomplishment – The process of successful accomplishment offers our well-being a boost through positive emotions along the way. There is something healthy about setting and working toward goals – negotiating challenges along the way. Certainly, reaching a meaningful goal provides a positive culminating experience of success. Similar to other areas of life, setting and accomplishing goals in our free time pursuits and activities can provide opportunities for accomplishment.

Self-Acceptance – How we think about ourselves is important to our well-being. Honest awareness of who we are (both good and bad), being comfortable with who we are, and having an overall positive attitude toward ourselves (present and past) represents a high sense of self-acceptance. Programs that allow for self-introspection and support free from judgment can help provide a context for healthy and productive self-reflection, awareness, acceptance, and development.

Autonomy – Critical for well-being and motivation to flourish in life is having a sense of control and independence with opportunities to express our preferences and exercise choice. Of course, people can choose whether to get involved in our program offerings. Once in our programs, do we continue to offer opportunities for choice within the structure and processes of our activities?

All of these identified elements of well-being seemed evident the day 2 friends (pictured below) rocked York County’s Special Olympics Spring Games.


How is our level of well-being and how well do our programs promote well-being for participants? Consider using the following scale to assess participant well-being and/or evaluate impact of activities and programs on participant well-being.

 Well-being Scale

Rate your level of agreement with each outcome:  0 = strongly disagree

1= moderately disagree    2= slightly disagree   3= slightly agree

4= moderately agree   5= strongly agree

  1. ______ experience positive emotions
  2. ______ make choices and act upon them
  3. ______ feel good about who they are
  4. ______ are turned off to working with others
  5. ______ experience success
  6. ______ are frustrated by the difference between what they are and what they          would like to be
  1. ______ connect and identify with the group
  2. ______ experience meaning and purpose
  3. ______ experience a level of challenge that’s a good match for their skills
  4. ______ have pleasant, enjoyable experiences
  5. ______ accept their strengths and weaknesses
  6. ______ have their preferences respected
  7. ______ fail to meet their goals
  8. ______ develop positive relationships with others
  9. ______ are bored by tasks that are too easy or frustrated by tasks that are too              hard
  1. ______ accomplish things
  2. ______ are completely absorbed in the tasks in which they participate
  3. ______ have little control of what will be done and how it will be conducted
  4. ______ sense that what they are doing is not important
  5. ______ experience being part of something that is bigger than “self”
  6. ______ experience negative emotions


Positive Emotions: 1___ + 10___ = ___ – 21___ =_____

Engagement: 9___ + 17___ = ___ – 15___ =_____

Relationships: 7___ + 14___ = ___ – 4___ =_____

Meaning: 8___ + 20___ = ___ -19___ =_____

Accomplishment: 5___ + 16___ = ___ -13___ =_____

Self –Acceptance: 3___ + 11___ = ___ -6___ =_____

Autonomy: 2___ + 12___ = ___ -18___ =_____

As professionals, we are often required to track measures of quantity such as how many people attend an activity, event, or program. That may offer some notion of what is working within our programs. The next step, however, is to look at the quality of our programs and document what meaningful outcomes participants are receiving that contribute to their overall well-being and help them flourish in life.

A degree in parks and recreation is just a click away

On line learningIn the field of recreation, parks and tourism, we have to adapt to our ever-changing markets and our evolving demographics.   However, when the idea of offering the Recreation, Park and Tourism Management (RPTM) degree at Penn State on-line came up in a department meeting, I was one of the early naysayers.  Aren’t those on-line degrees hokey?  How can we match the in-class interaction, the engaged learning and the hands-on application of theory that is a hallmark of the college experience, particularly in parks and recreation?  How can we help students meet learning objectives in key areas like leadership and programming without the four walls of a classroom?  What about cheating and academic integrity on tests and assignments?

The times, as they say, are a-changin’.

While the overall number of college enrollments across the country is decreasing, the number of students enrolled in on-line education is increasing.  We are seeing that trend at Penn State. According to Penn State’s annual Fact Book, university wide enrollment dropped from 85,168 students in 2014 to 82,678 in 2018.  However, during that same time period, enrollment at Penn State’s World Campus increased from 10,805 in 2014 to 14,458 in 2018.  In addition, data released by the National Student Clearinghouse indicates that close to one third of college students who are actually on campuses take at least one class on-line to meet the requirements of their degree.

Penn State currently offers 150 degree and certificate programs through the World Campus –courses designed and taught by Penn State faculty as part of curricula that meet the same academic standards as those programs offered on our campuses.

Effective Fall 2019, Penn State will be offering Recreation, Park and Tourism Management as a major through the World Campus.

I’ve spent the past two semesters developing the introductory course in RPTM that I teach on campus (also called face-to-face or F2F learning) into an on-line version.  Reviewing learning objectives.  Transferring course content from my lecture notes into on-line lessons.  Picking out reading assignments.  Identifying videos and support materials.  Developing assessments – including group activities – that allow students to interact with their peers and well as with the instructor.  In a course that relies heavily on guest lecturers from our field, the course development team has included instructional designers as well as technological and media support to bring that same sense of interaction to the on-line setting. In this lengthy process, I have learned from the experts that there are ways to address accountability and cheating such as low stakes quizzes as self-checks rather than mid-terms and finals and video assignments to complement written work.  Even the milestone curriculum assignments like our “spend a day in a wheelchair” can have an on-line version.

Ironically, the work I have done to prepare the on-line course for a Spring 2020 launch has improved what I am bringing to students in the traditional classroom setting.

The on-line degree offers options for people to access post-secondary education.  The full-time professional who can’t quit his/her job to return to school.  Parents who can work on their education around their children’s school or activity schedules.  Budget conscious students who can earn a degree without the expense of moving to campus.  Students with disabilities.  Military personnel.

We anticipate that the major will be of interest to professionals who are currently working in the RPTM field who are looking to grow in their position.  We anticipate active duty service men and women who are seeking careers in their communities or within the parks systems post-discharge from the service.  Our front line parks and recreation employees who may not be able to afford to attend college full-time may take advantage of the cheaper tuition that on-line education offers as well as the flexibility in scheduling.  It’s a win-win for all.  We are already seeing applications and new students coming into the major.

As our culture changes, we need to change too.  On-line education is one more way to continue to support and encourage the development and growth of the field of parks and recreation.  If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about on-line education at Penn State, visit worldcampus.psu.edu.

The Importance of Internal Customer Service

You’re committed to Customer Service with your team and yet things are still not going smoothly…

You’re doing things like investing funds in training, modeling for staff, and encouraging staff to always take care of the customer. And yet… the staff is getting burned out and frustrated, customers still call to complain, and the cycle goes on.

What is happening?

Let’s take a look at Internal Customer Service, which is the facet of providing exceptional customer service that is often missed.

How staff interacts with each other, support each other, and do their jobs in ways that make others jobs go smoothly, is vital to the whole customer service cycle.

Here is a definition I really liked, from Micah Solomon in his Forbes.com article:

Internal customer service is when we provide customer service to the people we work with, helping them to do their best to serve external customers and promote the interests of our company.

woman working girl sitting

Let me walk you through some things to consider:

A staff person working at the front desk of a recreation office works hard to provide excellent customer service to a repeat customer who can be difficult, asks for extras, and has had complaints in the past. They carefully take down the rental request details – let’s say it’s for a picnic pavilion – noting for co-workers on the crew at that park all the important details this customer has outlined.

When the parks crew leader gets the information via electronic form, they are instantly irritated by the list of special requests and extra details that were promised to this customer, partly because the front desk staff doesn’t want to “be the bad guy” and say no. The policy states no extra customized set up – you take the pavilion as you find it – so the parks crew is very aware that their co-workers are making extra work for them and setting the customer up for complaints if they refuse to do it.

The customer, happily walking away after making the reservation, will either be:

    1. a) very unhappy when she arrives at the pavilion and finds it not set up to her specifications and yell at the first parks crew member she can find – and/or call the front desk the next day, or
    2. b) be extremely pleased to see her requests were fulfilled and return with even more special requests next time.

The parks crew leader is going to have a few choice words to say to the person in the front office, and there is now a cycle of conflict where co-workers cannot rely on each other, trust each other to do what’s best for all, or generally work together. The front office cannot call and say “hey, I need a really special favor this time” because there is no cohesive feeling or emotional capital in the bank.

Some other examples:

        • Someone uses the last pool pass form and doesn’t copy more
        • Someone leaves a mess in the staff lounge and doesn’t clean it up
        • Someone doesn’t put the kayaks away properly, making extra work for the next day’s crew

Another way of looking at Internal Customer Service: Working with a team of IT staff, we asked them to define their jobs. Since they knew they were sitting in customer service training, their answers very carefully included “the customer.”

        • Keep the website up-to-date and running so the customer can get information
        • Maintain the database and registration system so the customer can register for programs and passes
        • Monitor and maintain the wireless internet system so customers can have Wi-Fi during meetings and activities

Great! Yes… and, what if we ask these folks to re-word their job definitions based on their work with their co-workers?

      • Keep the website up-to-date and running so fellow staff members can access information and assist customers
      • Maintain the database and registration system so staff can efficiently do their jobs and provide excellent service to customers
      • Monitor and maintain the wireless internet system so staff do not have to troubleshoot and try to fix at the last minute when it goes down during a customer’s activity

Other examples might include:

      • Set up the projector and laptop system in the conference room so the Director can smoothly and professionally make the budget presentation to elected officials
      • Have an efficient system to onboard new staff members with email addresses and system access so new hire employees can be trained and welcomed smoothly

The bottom line is this: we need to treat our co-workers with the same respect, courtesy, kindness, promptness, and thoughtfulness that we provide to customers outside our organization.

When you call a boating outfitter, you expect to have a pleasant phone greeting, a variety of options, and a helpful person to guide you through getting the equipment you need. When you call your own boathouse at the park you work for, do you get the same thing?

This is a much more challenging training situation and requires open conversation, time for team bonding within the staff, training and communication about civility expectations, and consequences if new internal customer service protocols are not respected.

It is well worth the time invested to work through this with your team!