Scouting and Outdoor Leadership

outdoorleadershipIs there really a difference between outdoor leadership and leadership in other situations?

To my mind just about everything we do in Scouting hinges on how you answer that question.

We are familiar with business or management-style leadership in our professional and business lives.

Outdoor (or Scouting) leadership is different and understanding this difference is key to being an effective Scouter.

Why do corporations invest time and resources in things like ropes courses and leadership retreats? Because the immediacy required by outdoor leadership is an excellent way to study and learn leadership skills.

Immediate Results – Outdoor leadership affords direct, immediate feedback.  Rresults of decisions and actions are almost instantly apparent on a ropes course or a camping trip. Results of actions and decisions in the workplace may take days, weeks, months, or even years to resolve themselves.

Immediate Goals – Most business or management goals are long-term and require long analysis and implementation. Most outdoor leadership goals are short-term and pressing. When it’s time to set up camp, prepare a meal, or take measures against an impending storm, there’s little time for careful analysis of the situation – immediate action is required.

Fewer Distractions and Outside Influences – Outdoor leadership situations are less prone to distractions and outside influences than business management situations.

Immediate Response – Outdoor leadership must be immediate and definitive to respond to  changing conditions. Change in the business world is slower. There are fewer options outdoors, and less time to study or implement them.

There’s a lot of value in taking management people into a situation that eliminates outside influences, requires fast analysis and goal setting, and telescopes the amount of time it takes to get results. Belaying a fellow employee on a ropes course is a direct allegory of the actual day-to-day leadership happens in a business environment, but it is much more immediate.

If we impose business management on Scouting we miss unique opportunities outdoor leadership offers our Scouts. Met with unfamiliar situations we apply what we know, but Scouting outdoors differs significantly from running a business. The challenge is studying the difference and, instead of adopting business management to Scouting, devote time to learning and developing the skills of outdoor leadership.

‘Business-ified’ Scouting is all too common. Business-like agendas, minutes, parliamentary procedure, schedules, and written plans are a means to an end rather than the end in themselves, they can sap the energy and immediacy out of Scouting if we aren’t careful. Advancement loses connection to the outdoors if we businessify its simple aims. Even camping  can become a dry, business-like enterprize if we stray too far from the moment at hand.

Immediate results, immediate goals, fewer distractions, fewer outside influences, and immediate responsiveness to ever-changing situations make outdoor leadership exciting, active and fun. Scouts who learn outdoor leadership develop a lifelong skill. Business management and outdoor leadership share many parallels and common skills, but the differences are more important than the similarities.

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