During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
LEADERSHIP is the keynote to success– but leadership is difficult to define, and leaders are difficult to find. I have frequently stated that “any ass can be a commander, and a trained man may often make an instructor; but a leader is more like the poet– born, not manufactured.”
I could tell you of leaders whom I have found and how I found them– but that is another story.
One can say, however, that there are four essential points to look for in a leader:
- He must have whole-hearted faith and belief in the rightness of his cause so that his followers catch the contagion, and share his fanaticism.
- He must have a cheery, energetic personality, with sympathy and friendly understanding of his followers, and so to secure their enthusiastic co-operation.
- He must have confidence in himself through knowing his job. He thus gains the confidence of his men.
- What he preaches he must himself-practise, thereby giving personal example to his team.
The essentials of leadership might, in telegraphic brevity, be summed up as
“Comradeship and Competence.” These principles apply whether the leader is a County Commissioner or a Sixer, but with none is it of greater importance than in the District Commissioner– not even excepting the Scoutmaster, great fellow though he is !
The District Commissioner has the most important as well as the most interesting job in our organisation. He is the liaison officer, the link between the administrative chiefs and the executive Scouters. Leadership through personal touch is the keynote to our success in the Movement. The County Commissioner is appointed by and deputises for the Chief Scout, representing him in the County and representing to him the County’s needs. The County Commissioner selects and appoints his District Commissioners to continue the chain of touch from the Chief Scout to the Scoutmaster. So, too, the Scoutmaster (Cubber or Rover Leader) passes on the touch to his Patrol Leaders, and these in their turn, through competence and comradeship, give the right line to their Scouts.
But it is the District Commissioner who is the powerful link in the chain and who must possess those four essential qualities to the full if he is to be a successful leader. It is through the personal touch that he “an inspire his followers to devoted service.
The Scouting standard of a District exactly reflects the standard of leadership of its
District Commissioner. “By their results shall ye know them.”
A curate’s-egg District would imply a “curate’s egg” of a District Commissioner!
The District Commissioner, if he is truly a leader, has his finger on the pulse of his whole District. He can see where a Scouter needs help or a timely word of encouragement or warning. He knows directly he has got his team on a competent footing to take up fresh enterprises. Just as a Scoutmaster continually seeks new adventures for his Troop, or the Patrol Leader for his Patrol, so the District Commissioner is constantly on the look out to see where a new step in development, training, or policy is desirable, and he wheels his pack of Scouters on to the line, and gives them a definite point to aim for. If he has really inspired them with his enthusiasm they will go to it like a pack of hounds and make a success of the run.
I have dilated rather largely on the District Commissioner because his is the important executive position of liaison between the County Commissioner and the Scoutmaster. But it must obviously rest with the County Commissioner to select only the right man for this job, and to put himself into close personal relationship with him.
And again, it rests with the District Commissioner to be very careful in the selection of each Scoutmaster and to take him fully into his confidence.
It is then the duty of the Scouters to play up to the District Commissioner loyally and whole-heartedly even though it involves extra work and give-and-take on their part for a time.
This way success lies.