I am often asked about how we established the Scout led troop and many questions go start with, “What about the 10 and 11 year olds.. they are not ready to lead”.
I think that too many Scoutmasters view Scout led as a very fixed leadership model and forget to account for age, experience and skill levels. The Scouts of our Troop develop leadership as they grow and develop.
The Scoutmaster, parent, committee member, or innocent by standers that expects a 10 year old to have the same leadership skill set, communication skills, and abilities of a 16 year old Scout are doing the Scout and unit a disservice. You are taking away the opportunities for that Scout to learn the skills necessary. If you assume that they are just going to “Get it”, and then fail to take the opportunity to teach and mentor them, the Scout will not be as successful. Now he may pick up some tips and tricks from watching older guys, but there is a prime opportunity to work with a Scout as he struggles with his patrol, makes decisions, and stumbles.
Is he supposed to be perfect? Certainly not. That is why we are there to teach them. Teach them.. not do for them.
“But what about leadership and getting the patrol to follow them?” Simple.. they are boys and they are friends. This is Scouting and we are not solving world issues and planning the next nobel peace prize event. Struggling through menu planning, making sure they have the right gear, dividing up the weight and gear, and having input in the annual plan is something that every Scout can do on the first day. Don’t forget that is why we are here. To provide Guided Discovery and coach them through the rough times. Never doing it for them, but guiding them and allowing them to test the waters.
Never under estimate what a boy can do. All boys have something inside them that pushes them to do well. No one likes failure and so the boy will try and try and try until he gets it right. HAVING SAID THAT… Society today is doing all it can to remove that spirit from our boys. Failure leads to giving up rather than learning from a mistake and moms and dads are all to quick to ensure success.. even at the expense of teaching the life long skill of learning from a mistake. I actually had a Dad tell me that they would not be coming to our Troop because he saw Scouts that were wet and had some issues cooking. He did not appreciate the fact that they were wet because they decided not to put on rain gear.. and they were struggling with the meal because some one forgot something. What the Dad did not see, was they all eaten, it took a while but they all were fed, and they got into dry clothes before they settled in for the night. You see, he looked at failure as an opportunity for Dad to step in and save the day.. not an opportunity for a boy to learn to lead, follow, grow, and make a mistake that he won’t make again.
The expectation of a Scoutmaster is to take the Scout where he is. Some older Scouts will be as developed in leadership as a 10 year old. Some 10 year olds come out of the gate strong. They all go through stages of leadership development and find success in their own time.
The expectation of a Scoutmaster should be to allow that process to happen and not push it. Not to do it for them.. but to let it happen through coaching, teaching, and mentoring.
One of the best ways for a Scoutmaster to demonstrate the expectation is to show what leadership looks like. Be a good example of what the Scoutmaster expects. Then take the Scout individually down the path to being and effective leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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