Last week we examined a couple of leadership models to introduce a central leadership concept:
While we can become capable of doing great things early in life, we should never stop working on our leadership skills by building trust, developing relationships, seeking out responsibilities and acting with courage rather than sitting back and waiting for someone else to step up.
Within Scouting, we use Positions of Responsibility (POR) to help scouts practice their leadership skills. Often reserved for scouts who are already First Class or above, PORs give scouts the chance to practice skills they’ve already mastered. Specifically, scouts can demonstrate competence by fulfilling their job descriptions, and they can begin to build relationships to get help from others. Developing these relationships builds team confidence and enables individuals to steadily graduate into larger responsibilities.
We also discussed that there are two types of PORs – appointments and elected.
- Appointments are no less important elected positions, but are more supportive roles – they help the patrol and/or troop function. If the work isn’t done or isn’t done well, it impacts everyone else. This could be a quartermaster who forgets to pack tents or lanterns. This is an example of what John Maxwell might call a leader with “Position” responsibility – can’t command or direct others, but they offer support out of respect for your appointment (* your authority is delegated from the person making the appointment – typically the SPL, ASPL or PL)
- Elected PORs have added responsibilities – they have to deal with any problems introduced by appointees while also doing their own “day job”. On the Maxwell scale, they would be at levels 2-4 in most cases (and may be on more than one level at the same time as they ebb and flow in their leadership experiences). Elected positions already have the support of the scouts (or they wouldn’t have gotten the votes needed to be in their position); however, success in position comes from building momentum and developing successors.
Tonight, let’s discuss the most challenging youth leadership positions in the troop – our Patrol Leaders, the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Senior Patrol Leader.
The Patrol Leader
The patrol is a group of scouts who may be of similar age, have joined the troop at about the same time, or share specific interests in common. This group of roughly eight scouts camp together, cook together and compete together. They have their own elections for Patrol Leader and put their trust in him to act on their behalf during troop leadership meetings. While the troop can set guidance for ideal rank, tenure and age of a Patrol Leader, it comes down to the election by the patrol. Once elected, the Patrol Leader selects an assistant, and appoints positions of responsibility within the patrol. These positions exist to help the patrol plan and execute outings or prepare for competitions. Within the patrol, only the Patrol Leader’s position counts towards advancement requirements; however, this doesn’t undermine the importance of the roles and responsibilities of these patrol-centric appointments.
What are the responsibilities of the Patrol Leader?
- Conduct patrol meetings (set agenda, direct the conversations toward conclusions)
- Keep patrol members informed of PLC meeting decisions, represent their concerns to the PLC
- Orchestrate pre-camp preparations
- Assure that intra-patrol team members complete their tasks (i.e. patrol scribe, patrol quartermaster)
- Plan, get approval for and implement patrol activities
- Build patrol spirit through cheers, yells, activities, flag, etc.
- Set the example for conduct, advancement, uniform, oath/law, etc.
The Assistant Senior Patrol Leader
The ASPL bears a great responsibility – he trains and supervises the troop scribe, quartermaster, instructor, librarian, historian, chaplain’s aide, and other PORs. He also coordinates their efforts at keeping the troop prepared for outings, service projects and such. The ASPL is appointed by the SPL since they need to be able to work together well, cover for each other’s responsibilities when the other is absent and convey a consistent message to the troop at all times.
The Senior Patrol Leader
The Scoutmaster Handbook states; “The junior leader with the most responsibility in a troop is the Senior Patrol Leader. He is elected by all of the members of the troop. Each troop sets its’ own requirements and schedule of elections, though senior patrol leaders are usually chosen at six to twelve-month intervals and can be reelected.” The SPL reports to the Scoutmaster and is the senior youth leader of the troop. He carries the greatest responsibility, requires the most support from both youth and adults, but also has the opportunity to set direction, goals and vision for the troop.
Like the Patrol Leader, he is elected, runs meetings and sets an example. Traditionally, the SPL is elected from a small pool of candidates who have:
- the most experience,
- the greatest tenure,
- prior experience in serving multiple PORs
- often been a Patrol Leader – representing the needs of other scouts at PLC
- worked closely with the adult leadership team
- demonstrated an ability to quickly earn trust and build relationships with ease
- Put the needs of the troop (other scouts) above their own
- He should be cultivating possible successors for his position and for the ASPL role, too.
The list could go on further, but the point is that the ideal SPL wants the position to better serve others, not serve his own interests, pride or advancement.
The Be-Know-Do model of leadership is also a progressive journey built off of character, expanding responsibility, relationships and results (as feedback loop for adjustments).
As we progress up the levels of leadership, we should be shifting our focus from our own success to that of the organization and especially others who are following along behind us (building successors). With this type of outlook (Duty to God, then Others, then Self) we can enable the leadership to be effective without authority being self-focused or prideful. We share results and failures together with an emphasis on learning from mistakes, avoiding the trap of making the same mistake repeatedly, and empowering novices to step up and get experience in a culture of caring brotherhood (primus inter pares).
We will be scheduling troop elections soon. Since our troop is fairly young, we’ve previously been very relaxed about Positions of Responsibility and minimum requirements for SPL elections; however, now that we’re progressing as a unit, we may seek to tighten those requirements to be more in line with what’s normal/typical in other troops.
Keep working on your advancements and keep studying the POR descriptions which have been previously distributed and should be in your notebooks.
Ten Tips for Being a Good Patrol Leader
- Keep Your Word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Be Fair to All. A good leader shows no favorites. Don’t allow friendships to keep you from being fair to all members of your patrol. Know who likes to do what, and assign duties to patrol members by what they like to do.
- Be a Good Communicator. You don’t need a commanding voice to be a good leader, but you must be willing to step out front with an effective “Let’s go.” A good leader knows how to get and give information so that everyone understands what’s going on.
- Be Flexible. Everything doesn’t always go as planned. Be prepared to shift to “plan B” when “plan A” doesn’t work.
- Be Organized. The time you spend planning will be repaid many times over. At patrol meetings, record who agrees to do each task, and fill out the duty roster before going camping.
- Delegate. Some leaders assume that the job will not get done unless they do it themselves. Most people like to be challenged with a task. Empower your patrol members to do things they have never tried.
- Set an Example. The most important thing you can do is lead by example. Whatever you do, your patrol members are likely to do the same. A cheerful attitude can keep everyone’s spirits up.
- Be Consistent. Nothing is more confusing than a leader who is one way one moment and another way a short time later. If your patrol knows what to expect from you, they will more likely respond positively to your leadership.
- Give Praise. The best way to get credit is to give it away. Often a “Nice job” is all the praise necessary to make a Scout feel he is contributing to the efforts of the patrol.
- Ask for Help. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. You have many resources at your disposal. When confronted with a situation you don’t know how to handle, ask someone with more experience for some advice and direction.