Leading the Leader
Illustration by Darren Thompson
How do you work with an inexperienced and uncommitted SPL? Scouters speak out.
Scoutmaster D.M.'s troop elected a senior patrol leader with little experience or apparent sense of responsibility. He's looking for ways to respect the boys' choice without endangering the troop's future.
SET SOME GOALS
Meet with the Scout and his parents. Explain the compliment the other Scouts have paid him by electing him, the importance of the senior patrol leader position, and the fun and benefits he will gain. Make sure he understands that your role is to train, coach, and counsel him during his term. Ask him what goals he would like to accomplish as SPL and help him create a written plan to accomplish his first goal.
The characteristics he begins this new role with are not as important as the ones he will have when his term is completed. Your positive, helpful leadership will help shape that result.
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY
What an opportunity to build a leader! Use past, successful SPLs as mentors; a good Scout is always willing to help another Scout and his troop. Also, remember that “boy run” never means letting things fall apart, so you need to monitor more closely than usual.
Evaluate the consequences of failures. If minor, sit back and watch the results; minor failures are greater teaching tools than successes. If major, talk to the boy. Explain what is wrong and why it is wrong, and ask him what he thinks can be done to correct it.
HAVE A HEART-TO-HEART
Have a real heart-to-heart talk with the newly elected Scout. Outline your expectations and ask him to examine his heart. If he wants to fulfill this leadership role, make him accountable. You may have to stay on him, but maybe this will help him learn to be a better leader. Also, a year with a not-so-hot leader will make the whole troop think about making better choices in the future.
IS HE REALLY?
Perhaps your assessment of the Scout is off. His fellow Scouts elected him for some reason. See if you can help him discover that reason. You may be amazed at his response if you find even the smallest reason to express genuine faith and confidence in the Scout.
Kennett Square, Pa.
USE YOUR EDGE
Use the EDGE method. Explain how he needs to conduct himself to carry out his role. Demonstrate how to be a leader: conduct a portion of the PLC meeting so he sees how it’s done, then guide him as he covers the other items on the agenda. Eventually, hopefully, you’ll enable him to handle things with you just watching.
This young man may not be the best SPL you’ll ever have, but you can help him become the best SPL he’s ever been. But always remember that a boy-led troop shouldn’t be allowed to become a boy-misled troop.
TRAIN HIM AND TRUST HIM
It is your job to do all you can to help this senior patrol leader become a successful one. Make sure he understands that he is in charge. Tell him that you are there to support him throughout his tenure in the leadership position. Let him know what your expectations are of him and what he can expect from you. Give him the tools he needs to be a good leader, and he may surprise you. “Train them, trust them, and let them lead” is still good advice today.
Assistant Scoutmaster E.M.
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March - April 2010 Table of Contents