Philosophers love to debate questions that have no answers except the simple common sense ones just to see if it is so.  Here is the common sense answer to how promotions occur.
You don't establish a system of public recognition, and expect to catch everyone.  To advance in any system of public recognition, you have to have in the end public display of your work in front of those who would promote you or their advisors, and they at worst have to have no compelling reason NOT to look at you.  Period.
A salty, boorish, lazy but somehow within established social limits idiot works in a factory which is known for the high quality of it's products.  He does an adequate but not stellar job (enough to get by) in each job he holds, starting in the mailroon.  He drones excessivly about how much effort he is putting into his job (the old Rice Crispy Treats commercial - throw some flour on your forehead and try to make them think you slaved for hours to make them this wonderful thing, when in fact it is an average thing and you worked for 7 minutes).  He sucks up to the important people, his CEO is his best friend, his floor boss is his dad, and he always talks about how he wants to get promoted and advanced out of the mailroom and off the floor and into management.  He gets there, skyrocketing past most other folks in the company.
A man who works on an assembly line which makes perfect little precision dubuses develops the skill to make a perfect 3-lobed solder joint where it is needed, and can reproduce it flawlessly every time.  He is awarded an promotion by his company for that skill, even though nobody could ever recall him talking to them, showing off his work, or in any way promoting himself, he is just happy making precision little dubuses.  He is a pleasant person for the most part, likable as far as folks know  Because his work promoted him by example, through the floor QA officer and up.  But he promotes by starts and jerks, often taking longer between steps than perhaps it should take.  And he doesn't ever reach management or executive levels, the spark is just not there for people to consider him at that level.
In that same company, the regular floor janitor develops the skill to make everything clean to the level required to properly make precision dubuses (dubi?).  He does this daily, and the plant functions flawlessly.  He does his work after hours, when the janitor usually works, and few people notice him.  He never talks about his work, never says a word.  He is as important to the success of the project as the solder guy, but he doesn't get recognized unless the company executives make a point to start looking around for someone to recognize, and they start to research his work on their own.  This man develops the skills necessary for each promotion step, and makes it known and displays his work in the proper way.  And he gets promoted regularly but slowly, and only to a certain level, because you don't go looking for top executives that don't stand out, you choose from among those who do.
The guy in packaging who has learned that if you mount the precision dubus in the box in just such a way based on the lighting and shelf placement in each different retail outlet, you can get dramatic results in sales.  He tells this to his floor supervisor, the retail managers report the sales numbers to the executives, he teaches the other packaging people how to make this work and so an entire department is aware. He gets promoted through the company structure of sales and marketing, learning how to use this skill to enhance every product line the company has, and leaving each product team with trained and skilled packagers.  Pretty soon he is VP of marketing, got there in a timely but not accelerated fashion, and there you are.
There is this guy in development, seems to have his finger on the pulse of what the world wants.  Does a spectacular job of developing products that are simply spectacular in appearance and function, for every need, and with almost no budget and way ahead of schedule each time.  His designs integrate with the machinery and worker skills already in place in the plant.  He saves time, money, gets the jump every time on the competition.  He teaches everyone in Engineering his tricks, and they get promoted regularly around him.  He has a shortcoming.  He is a flaming ass, who doesn't make a good first impression because he doesn't keep himself clean or publicly presentable (not just the oversight of a dedicated but socially inept man, but an intent to be slovenly), he is condescending to everyone, he doesn't know how to interact without looking like Gordon Ramsey's primary mentor.  In short, nobody wants anything to do with him, just his skill.  His skill is so important to the company that he does get promoted a few times (each time he threatens to leave if he doesn't), but one day he ends up leaving, because the next promotion is into a place with significant public exposure, and the execs know that the damage done by his personality will be greater than the benefits of moving his skillset up into this new position, and when he delivers his ultimatum this time, he is forced to either shut up and accept his lot in life, or change his ways and become more likable. And he blames everyone but himself, does so loudly and for years to come, and leaves to go take his particular brand of genius somewhere else.  
There is a guy in maintenance, who always seems to know just when a thing is breaking and fixes it before it does, who always seems to know just when a new piece of infrastructure is needed and builds and installs it right before it is needed, who maintains and grows the plant with skill and knowledge, who keeps everything up when every competitor is down, who is innovative and willing to work whenever there is a need to keep the system running.  He is at first glance a lot like the guy in development, but his shabby personal appearance isn't intentional, it is simply that he is so wrapped up in his work that he doesn't take time to do the other stuff.  He unthinkingly often insults without intent because his mind is focusing on something other than a conversation or interaction with the executives, but when his interactions actually revolve around what he does, people genuinely start to like him, they learn from him, and when situations call for a different exptenal presentation, they take the time to help give him a temporary 'makeover' which he willingly accepts because that is how the system keeps working.  He is valuable, and can be coached at the right times to be 'not an embarrassment' socially.  He has been let go from some other places rather than promoted, but this company's top executives have a priority set that values the smooth operation of their systems more than the personality demands of the executives, and they see a gem, no matter how rough in this man.  And he is generally likable, he fights what seem to be most of the time the right fights, he is a strong idealist when it comes to keeping the system running so everyone else can be productive.  But he stumbles often, and so while his advancement in this company is almost guaranteed, it is going to take some time.  That is often seen as his fault, when in reality it is just a symptom of what he is - if he took the time and concern to improve the other qualities that cause him to stumble socially, he would end up not being the genius he is at what he does - being that level of genius takes up almost all the individual resources.  He wants faster promotion, but accepts what he gets without too much angst.  Only issues occur when people are put into positions that make the system run poorly, because he can't see the system run poorly, he once again goes public and shoots himself publically in the foot.  But this guy stands out, publically self-promotes in spite of his flaws.  I would venture to guess he is the most common type of guy in this exceptional organization.
The SCA is an exceptional organization, it filters out most non-exceptional people without a hiring or firing process because it demands exceptional effort out of it's participants (at least here in Calontir).  Above are your SCA players.  You can't readily and routinely recognize someone who at their core can't self-promote properly, and you shouldn't be expected to.  You can recognize someone without the needed skill, as long as they stand out by their self promotion.  You can't ask everyone to spend their time searching out folks who can't self-promote enough to get the attention of those who decide on these kinds of things.  The GoA and Peerages are the mid and upper level executives of the SCA, their jobs have a real public side, a PR side, that is why the comportment requirement.  But if you can't stick yourself out there enough to be seen, you can't do these jobs properly.  It's not all about skill because the requirements of the orders are not only skill-based.
I hope this is an answer that satisfies, but I know that it probably is not, because the common sense answer is seldom satisfying to the philosopher who knows in their heart that there is no question that doesn't have at least one workable answer that is not common-sense.  And they are right, there isn't.  The other solution always requires changing human nature, however, something that even nature hasn't done a really great job at over the existence of humans.

>> But you have taught classes.  I have been in some of them. Some
>> sort
> of teaching is
>> a requirement for advancement.  Competitions is but one means of
> making folks aware
>> of the level and quality of your work.
> Well, yeah. I guess that was part of my point. Not everyone
> teaches. Not everyone
> enters competition. Not everyone gets published. I worry about the
> "one from column
> A and one from column B" syndrome - teach five classes or enter
> three local competitions
> or one kingdom competition or take on four students, or any other
> formal but unspoken
> checklist for Advancement In the Award Structure of Calontir.
> ....but I would hazard a guess that most of the not-older-than-dirt
> people (like, oh, I dunno,
> you and me) would think that to get a mallet or a swan you've got
> to enter some
> competitions, because they're well publicized and "hey,  Lord Who-
> dat-guy entered three, and immediately got a Mallet!"
> They're a fast way to get attention, but not everyone's made out
> for competing; I wasn't,
> and I still twitch at the thought of entering one. I much prefer
> showing my stuff to
> people whose opinion I trust - you for metalworking, Magda for
> costuming, Rhianwen
> for tent-making, and so forth - rather than put out a couple of
> items and get a vast
> range of comments. Ditto for teaching: there's nothing more
> enjoyable for me than
> to talk fealty with one or two people at a post-revel or at a
> feast; classes are formal.
> I guess my point is, competitions and teaching are good ways at
> catching the Worthy
> Folk who happen to like competing and teaching. How, then, do we go
> about catching
> those whose art or science is well-made, well-researched, and
> totally period, but
> does it quietly, one piece at a time, talking to individuals,
> getting advice from friends,
> and, (sorry for the bad grammar) we only get to see them work very
> quietly in the
> background but suddenly we notice how great they are?
> It's akin to the service thang: how many heralds have slaved over
> books to get submissions
> done, and they get a Torse only after someone figures out half the
> kingdom got their devices passed because of that guy in Outer
> Fenwick?
> It's a question that's been asked for <mumble> years, and I have
> yet to hear a good
> answer. I suspect there isn't one, but it sure does make for some
> long-winded
> philosophical conversations badly in need of a couple of beers.
> Alban, non-drinker, dammit.