Teaching Scouts to lead

Leadership has been define and redefined over the ages but the basic tenants remain the same and the practical exercise of those that lead can be studied and learned just as they have since the days of Alexander.
Learning how to lead has also been an age long process that has morphed through the ages as our understanding of those that are led is better developed, technology is incorporated, and our cultures become better educated.
This is a science that when perfected is still as simple as it started. Defining leadership seems to be a cause that keeps military leaders awake, corporate giants tossing and turning, and political hopefuls looking to experts to define how they will lead.
So what does all this mean in the context of Scouting? To put it simply, it’s all the same. I had my first taste of real leadership when I became a Patrol leader in Troop 100 in the Transatlantic Council. I was a young Second Class Scout and earned the confidence of my Patrol to be the leader, that, or I was just the only one that had not yet had a turn at Patrol leader. We’ll go with the confidence answer. Our Senior Patrol leader was a big guy named Chris Brown. He was on his way to West Point, an all star football player and a Scout we all looked up to, literally, he was big. I don’t remember too much about Chris other than his expectation that Patrol leaders needed to be in charge of their patrols. When faced with “Crisis” his favorite saying was “Work it out, come to me when you can’t resolve it”. And nine times out of ten we would resolve the issue and because we were all twelve and thirteen year old boys, short term memory would kick in and we would be on our way.
What I learned from my first experience as a leader was that I had responsibility and needed to take it serious. If my Patrol messed something up, it was me that was accountable, if my Patrol did great, it was me that got the pat on the back.
The second part of that responsibility I developed was that it was not about me, but it was about the Patrol. Selfless service.
I went in the Army after graduation from high school and soon found myself in leadership roles. Because of Scouting, I could read a map and compass, I could do First Aid, and I had a good understanding of Bush craft, and most importantly I could stand in front of a group of people and communicate. Those that I followed found me a valuable asset to help teach skills and help others in my Platoon develop in basic field skills. At the age of 19 I attended the Army’s premier Combat leadership course, the U.S. Army Ranger School. I emerged from that test a confident leader that understood that there was nothing in life that could stand in my way. Before I was old enough to have a sip of beer I was a Sergeant and leading an Infantry Fire team in 2nd Squad, C Company 4th of the 9th Infantry. I had four men, some older than I that was responsible for. And not just for planning menus and earning badges, but real responsibility, life and death kind of stuff. I would catch myself flashing back to my days as the Patrol leader for the Flaming Arrow Patrol in Troop 100. I would see myself the Senior Patrol leader of Troop 246 in Louisiana and I remember thinking to myself, I got this. 12 year olds are harder to lead. As long as I remember what I was taught about team work, about service, and about working toward a goal, my leadership in the Army would be easy.
Then, the Army decided that I needed more training. I went to the Primary leadership development course where I learned what Alexander the Great and Patton knew, that if you provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation as a leader than you can and will do anything you set your team to. And that’s what it is all about.
When I became a Scoutmaster the Troop was very young. The troop had six young boys in it, the highest rank was Scout. And one of them had to lead. It was then that I decided I needed to come up with a program to teach these young men to lead.
The National Youth Leadership Training course is fine, but sending a Tenderfoot to the course is not too practical. Most of our Scouts could not dedicate a week to going to NYLT anyway. They had to learn it where it counts and they needed to learn it in a simple effective way.
We started teaching an “OJT” style class to our Scouts. Preaching our leadership methods and skills at meetings, camp outs, and every time we had an opportunity to sharpen a skill or when those ‘teaching opportunities’ came around. The results have been good. Scouts leading, learning, and executing the Scout led plan.
In 2011.. I am going to focus many of the Blog posts to explaining how we teach and what those tenants are that I feel are important to leading people effectively.   They are principles that are timeless and they work, but yet, they work with Scouts and are easy for them to understand, embrace, and put into action using the Patrol method.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Follow Me Boys is a registered Trademark of Disney

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