The Dynamic Leadership Rule of Discipline fits very well within a progressive discipline model. Discerning where the offender is on the downward Path of Destruction described in the Dynamic of Restoration is the key factor in determining their character. There are five steps in the Path of Destruction: Independent Spirit, Wounded Spirit, Bitter Spirit, Rebellious Spirit, and Unrestorable Spirit. Interestingly, these five steps fit very nicely into a progressive discipline model that includes Counselling, Reprimand, Suspension, Demotion, and Termination.
There are specific steps in the downward Path of Destruction that a person will typically experience once he steps out from under authority. To gain a full understanding of the Rule of Discipline and the reasons behind ethical failures, it is essential to understand this process.
We start with the Faithful Spirit – protected from harmful and evil influences and acting in harmony with the principles of his authority. He takes the first steps out from under this protection by displaying an Independent Spirit. His life now becomes characterized by personal conflicts, particularly as his authorities attempt to reel him back into compliance. The conflicts often result from one or more of the three root character flaws at work in his life – anger, lust, and greed.
How this officer responds to these personal conflicts will, to a large degree, determine if he is restored into a proper relationship or if he continues further down the Path of Destruction. Left unchecked, he is headed to an ethical failure.
The next step in the process is the Wounded Spirit. This person blames other people or circumstances beyond his control rather than taking personal responsibility for the conflicts in his life. He fails to recognize that it is his own lack of character that is producing the conflicts and ethical crises in his life.
If you go around blaming other people for all your problems, it won’t be long before a Wounded Spirit will turn into a Bitter Spirit. A Bitter Spirit is just mad. He’s mad at all of the people that he blames for his problems.
The Dangers of Bitterness
Let me pause here to speak more about bitterness. Bitterness will destroy you. Bitterness is like a cancer that eats away at your heart and destroys relationships. The only difference between bitterness and a real cancer is that bitterness is contagious – it infects other people.
That’s why it is said, “Do not let a root of bitterness grow up among you to defile many.”
If left unresolved, bitterness often turns to rebellion. A Rebellious Spirit is no longer content to get mad, he wants to get even. And he will deliberately seek to undermine the authority of those that are over him, especially if he perceives them to be the source of his problems.
The final stage on the Path of Destruction is the Unrestorable Spirit. This is the person who refuses to be restored. He enjoys being a renegade and has no interest in being under authority. His life is characterized by the destruction and death of relationships.
Interestingly, when you superimpose a progressive discipline model to this diagram, you find that the five most common disciplinary options fit rather nicely. If someone is an Independent Spirit, perhaps all they need is counselling to be restored into a proper relationship with their authorities. If they are a Wounded Spirit, more serious discipline is called for. Perhaps a written reprimand is more appropriate. A Bitter Spirit may need suspension. A Rebellious Spirit may need to be demoted in a last ditch effort to salvage them. And an Unrestorable Spirit should be terminated if that option is available to you.
The good news is that, despite what you might think, there aren’t that many Unrestorable Spririts out there. But if you genuinely have one, AND your policy allows termination as a viable disciplinary option, I suggest you fire them. Otherwise they will continue to be a destructive influence within the organization.
Let me be clear about this, however. If you are unable to determine where a person falls on the chart, I STRONGLY encourage you to give them the benefit of the doubt. The tie should always go to the runner.