The Young Men General Presidency recently announced three principles of becoming an impact teacher, one of which was the admonition to “Let Them Lead.”
“The object of the patrol method is not so much saving the Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy.”
– Baden Powell
Baden Powell, the founder of Scouting had much to say on the topic. “Scouting is a game for boys under the leadership of boys under the direction of a man,” said Powell. “When you want a thing done, ‘Don’t do it yourself’ is a good motto for Scoutmasters.”
It is important for Scout leaders to let boys lead. One volunteers said it perfectly, “Too often in Scouting we tell the SPL that he is in charge, and then we give the Scoutmaster the ability to take the reins away from him. Responsibility without trust is fake, and the boys can tell.”
We liked the emails so much, we decided to share one of them with you. Another volunteer had this wise council for the leaders with whom he served:
Brothers in Scouting,
It was great to see you both last night. I imagine in my mind’s eye that as I greeted you last night—we are in the trenches of improving the Scouting vision in our district—we are battling for something worthwhile and special. I just wanted to let you know about a realization that I came to. Many of our adult leaders don’t truly understand what their role is in Scouting—but, even with the lack of understanding they are totally in-it-to-win-it.
I had planned to cover 10 minutes to review tips on how to have an effective troop meeting and spend the majority of the remaining time on winter camping. I lead out the discussion by asking everyone to stand up. Then I proceeded: “If you have directly asked or mentioned to a Boy Scout (other than the Senior Patrol Leader) anything regarding their uniform—or lack thereof—during a troop meeting then sit down.” Everyone but one leader sat down. “Okay, if you have ever asked Boy Scout(s) to be quiet during a troop meeting, please sit down.” The remaining leader sat down.
While these simple questions don’t prove anything empirically—my gut told me that adult leaders (like I did when I was a Scoutmaster plenty of times until I learned my role) are taking control of troop meetings. As I reviewed the prepared patrol meeting tips, I attempted to paint the picture of what a Scout adult leader’s role really is. I hope that the Scout leaders in attendance last night went away from our discussion with the understanding that their role is simply to train, mentor, and prepare the SPL to run a successful troop meeting (campout, service project, fill in the blank….).
To say the least, I spent the majority of the time (much more than the planned 10 minutes) driving this concept home and winter camping was more of a quick after thought. I’ve thought about last nights experience many times since. One of the comments was, “So what are we supposed to do let the boys run wild?” Well, why not as long as they’re safe? Let them lead themselves. Let them organize themselves. Let them govern themselves. Let them work towards a goal themselves. Certainly do NOT do for them what they can do for themselves.
However, if the SPL arrives to the troop meeting without a written plan, without the confidence to lead it, without knowing what to do if something goes wrong, in other words if the SPL fails due to lack of direction or preparation, then his failure is your (Scoutmaster’s) failure. However, if he fails due to lack of execution of the plan then what a great opportunity for him to get better and improve.
What do you think about this counsel? What are ways that we as Scout leaders can step aside and allow the boys to lead?
Let us know about your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.