Last night at our Patrol Leaders Council meeting we discussed the most recent camp out, or I should say camp out attempt.  To recap, the weather got real bad, gear got wet, we assessed the risk and bailed out…in a nut shell.why
Part of each PLC meeting is a training portion.  I try to keep it to about 5 or 10 minutes, but last night was unique in that I sensed that the young leaders were not happy with the idea that we had to bail out of the camp out.  No one debated the fact that it was the right thing to do, but why did we get in the situation.
There is nothing we can do to change the weather.  But what is that we do to change or effect our desired outcome?  In talking with the leaders of the PLC I kept hearing that “We did not do this or that..” “We took short cuts” “We got lazy”.  And by and large they, although being very tough on themselves, were hitting the nail squarely on the head.
The problem I have was their use of the word “We”.  The way it was being used transferred the responsibility from “I or Me” to “We”.  You see, that makes it easier to assign blame or point fingers and the issues.
So we went around the table and each member of the PLC had an opportunity to reflect on a specific thing that could have been better.  And no.. no one was allowed to say the weather.  They also had to start their sentence with the words “I could have…”  The results were great.  We can not go back and change what happened this weekend.  We learned a lot about our Scouts and about the skills that we need to develop.  We.. I… learned that we have a fantastic group of young men that want to be successful and want to be leaders.  I was happy to hear them start answering the question… Why?
Why did I make that mistake?  Why didn’t I demonstrate good leadership by being a better example?  Why didn’t I check on my Patrol?  Why did I take short cuts?  Why was I lazy and not focused?
Now this may seem a tad bit harsh.. after all, these are just kids.  No.. These are kids that want to be leaders.  These are kids that understand that they are there to lead their friends.  These are young men that now understand that decisions that they make have an impact on not just them, but their patrol mates.  These are Scouts that desire to get it right and as a result will have more fun and adventure.
These are guys that are starting to get the concept that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  Each decision, each skill, each interaction within their patrols will result in success or failure.  They do not want to fail, but are willing to test themselves knowing that we are watching out for them and are there to teach them and coach them through the rough spots.  They feel safe knowing we care about them and are cheering them on to be better at leadership.
It was nice to listen in as they discussed the leadership principles that they did not practice.  This tells me two things.  First, they know what they are and second they know what they are supposed to look like.
We have a fun month coming up.  The Patrol Leaders Council along with the Troop Leadership Corps have a great plan… this month, they are sharing with the Troop the answer to WHY?
They are going to practice leadership by sharpening skills.  They listed the things that they see as their leadership challenges and are going to answer why these are challenges and how do we fix them.  It is going to be a fun month.  In light of this, they also asked to push our annual Junior Leader Training to February as it will serve as a great finale to this month of Leadership development.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of these young men.
I too am working on answering why?  Yep, there are things I should have done also this past camp out that I failed to do.  Why?  Well, I’m figuring that out.
Leadership starts with why?  Why do we lead?  Why do we care?  Why is it important?
Great start to a leadership discussion with your Troop.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. I love this post. it great example of one way to help develop leadership skills in our scouts. I am a Scoutmaster trying to implement the patrol method and we are having great fun and progress but are still growing and learning.

    We had our Troop Meeting last night and, like all of our recent meetings and campouts, was clearly Scout-led. However, our SPL likes to be in the limelight, just like I do if I don’t check myself, and most of the meeting was him instructing/demonstrating fire building. We had 20 scouts gathered around, somewhat noisily and at times rambunctiously, watching. I felt like our SPL spent too much time doing the demonstrations with the troop simply observing instead of engaging them in activities and “doing” what he was trying to teach them.

    He wanted to demonstrate fire by friction, but it has been awhile since we have learned that and he was – not unsurprisingly – unsuccessful. He turned to lighting steel wool and trying to get it to burn, then, at the suggestion of one of our ASMs, went into the parking lot away from the troop and lit a piece of steel wool looped around a rope and swung it in circles, which created a fireworks like display. The scouts seemed to enjoy it, but this activity took up most of our meeting. There were no patrol meetings or patrol activities but they then played a game, which all of the scouts enjoyed and didn’t want to stop when the meeting came to a close and parents were anxiously waiting.

    I know I need to do some mentoring to help my SPL improve on what he is already doing. My question is, what is the best way to mentor so that I encourage, teach and inspire, without sounding critical and negative to my SPL? And, do I mentor the entire PLC or just the SPL and let him mentor the rest of the PLC? How much advice do I give him so he is not overwhelmed and think I am the enemy? Should I be meeting weekly or at some other regular interval with my SPL or PLC to do this kind of training? (We have a weekly PLC after each troop meeting for about 30-45 minutes but I have discouraged the adults from speaking in this meeting so we don’t take over.) Should this be me training the SPL or me and my ASPLs training the PLC or what? How do we do this?

    I feel like we have a great thing going and don’t want to ruin it but I also want to help these Scouts grow and develop in their leadership skills.

    Any thoughts from anyone on this thread would be much appreciated.


  2. I am really worried about a discipline problem because we have transitioned to a scout led troop and are seeing great success. But in the PLC after our last troop meeting they talked about the problem of the younger scouts not listening to them and respecting them when they try to get order and they don’t know how to handle this. They have tried punishment (pushups, not getting rewards), rewards (candy), etc. all to no avail. My assistants and I have discussed this and can relate because if we were standing up there in front of 20 12-13 year olds, we would have the same discipline problems. I have been thinking a lot about this because we have such a great thing going and I don’t want to lose it.

    I stumbled across another podcast addressing the question from the “What would you do?” section of Scouting magazine. Some of the points were:

    -BP talked about the difference between a commander, an instructor and a leader (more like a poet)
    -Scoutmaster Handbook, p.12:
    “A leader is best when people barely know
    he exists; not so good when people obey and
    acclaim him; worst when they despise him.
    But a good leader who talks little when his
    work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say
    ‘we did it ourselves.’”—Chinese philosopher Sun-Tsu
    -if we solve discipline problems by adults stepping in, scouts don’t learn to lead
    -if we use candy and rewards, we always need those nearby to have discipline
    -if we use punishments, they won’t come back
    -servant leadership is the key to our PLC solving these problems; they need to have faith in these younger scouts, listen to them, understand their world, help them solve problems and overcome challenges; we have to earn respect as leaders, it cannot be won by commanding it.

    Interested in any who have thoughts on this topic. It is very important to me and our troop.


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