One of the eight methods of scouting is Leadership Development. Interestingly in our 100+ years of scouting in the USA, Leadership Development has only been explicitly included in our methods since 1972 – for about the last 40 years. Why did it take 60 years to incorporate it into the list?
Most scouters would argue that it was already there since most every aspect of the scouting program builds leadership. Whether running meetings, making a menu, buying food, cooking meals in order to feed their fellow scouts, these boys are dealing with real responsibilities.
Specific curriculum for leadership training has been offered through scouting for a long time. Current programs include: Troop Leadership Training; National Youth Leadership Training; National Advanced Youth Leadership Training; and the Wood Badge program for adult leaders.
Traditionally, Troop Leadership Training is offered within a troop following each year’s election. While many troops handle this as a day-long exercise, we’ve actually been incorporating it into our troop meetings over the past year. The cornerstone of this training is the use of Positions of Responsibility to get things done – that means that from the Senior Patrol Leader to the Scribe to the Librarian to the Quartermaster each has a specific role to play – and each is learning to exercise “leadership” when they fulfill their responsibilities.
You see there are a lot of opinions on how to define leadership, but most experts include the following phrases: influencing others to get stuff done; setting and implementing plans to achieve a shared group goal; exercising authority; delegating. I’ve seen our scouts doing these things. For instance, when a grubmaster is responsible for a weekend’s meal plan, it is his ability to work with others and lead them which enables him to get help with cooking and cleaning. After all, he’s walking a fine line between patrol food ecstasy and patrol mutiny – his leadership skills (or lack thereof) can provide the key tipping point.
Most leadership training in the BSA is based on the “BE-KNOW-DO” model that is also used by the US Army for their leadership training. In the simplest terms, an ideal leader will “BE” of a certain character – be internally motivated by principles. The ideal leader will “KNOW” key skills and be an avid learner. Finally, the ideal leader is a person of action – ready to act on their principles and engage their skills without hesitation (go and DO the things which must be done). They charge forward while others may be hesitant to act.
It’s a model that works pretty well, but it’s not the best model ever developed. Jesus was the ultimate trainer of leadership when He worked with His disciples. They watched His interactions, listened to His teaching, modeled His behaviors, and literally followed in His footsteps. Jesus prepared them to go out on their own and create more disciples – all focused on a common faith – as fishers of men.
For a long time, boys would apprentice with their father or another experienced man in their community for a number of years as they learned a skill or trade. Our current society has largely abandoned this model in favor of modern educational models of grouping by age and receiving an academic curriculum. This model teaches our sons a lot of good facts and details, but many opinions abound about whether it is effective in helping them become effective leaders within their future homes, jobs or community volunteer positions.
While I’m not interested in engaging in that debate tonight, I just want to encourage fathers to redouble their interest in connecting with their sons on a regular basis to impart wisdom, leadership and practical modeling of ideal behaviors.
Dad, if you’re able to become more engaged in our troop outings, you are always welcome. If it’s not practical, we certainly understand, but please keep encouraging your sons to take their roles and responsibilities seriously since other scouts are depending on them. At the same time, if your son asks to participate in one of the advanced youth leadership training programs, work with him to see if you can make that happen – his involvement will likely pay dividends throughout his adult life.
Thank you for your support of our program during the past year and here’s to a highly successful 2012!