Why is Scouting designed around youth leadership?
Most Scouters think a youth led troop is the brass ring of Scouting. What exactly do we mean when we talk about youth leadership?
There’s much confusion and misunderstanding of this than nearly any other aspect of Scouting. Our perspective is often narrowly focused on things that aren’t all that important.
If you’ve been following this series you won’t be surprised when I say engaging youth in leadership is a very simple, direct and uncomplicated thing to describe, and it’s actually very simple to do. Like most simple things it is also endless complex when you start to work with it. Somewhere I mentioned Scouting is like a game of golf or fly fishing. You can learn how to do either in a few hours, and spend the rest of your life perfecting your technique.
Our main goal as Scouters is not creating leaders. The main aim is developing character by applying the patrol method. If we focus on building leaders we miss the point. If we build character we can’t help but build leaders.
Youth leadership is not simply a cadre of Scouts sitting around a paper-filled table making plans. Young people lead themselves all the time, it comes quite naturally to them. You may not see this leadership if you don’t look for it, but it’s there.
We need to learn to recognize that leadership, and build on it, so Scouts have the satisfaction and character building experience of leading their own troop.
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steve berthiaume says
Thanks for another great podcast; very timely advice! Proud to be a backer.
fundmentally disagree. Leaders may have good character or bad character; not everyone with good character or bad character will ever really be a Leader. While an Aim of Scouting is growing Good Character in Boys. Leadership is a separate Aim and primary Goal since the establishment of the program and Eagle rank….Eagles Lead….the Boy Scout Program teaches and develops (young) Leaders with many tenants that have little to do with character (although Character development is a separate Aim of the Prigram). For instance, a Life Scout’s Eagle package is a microcosm of Project Management and Communication and good ole’ follow through on paperwork from the Youth, the Scouters (and Yes the Parents… post especially the Moms). If you focus on Character development only, one will be very intermittent with getting any Leadership development. Leadership and Leadership development is a very seperate and Specific Objective for Boy Scouts. It is heralded as such for over 100 years. Please do not try to water it down. YiS, Kelly Williams. btw one of the best leadership development tactics for youth Leadership development is…Allow them to FAIL.
Clarke Green says
Leadership skills may be separate, specific, and valuable but their development is a not the main aim or emphasis of Scouting, and it never has been.
The main aim of our work as Scouters is developing character because is is the only source of good leadership. Equating character with leadership is not “watering it down” because leadership, good or bad, is defined by the character of the individual. Good leadership is more than being a skilled manager or director, leadership and character are inseparable.
We don’t have to look very far to find skillful leaders who lack character. By definition they may be called leaders, but devoid of character they mislead people to destructive or selfish ends. Maybe we should call the “misleaders”?
In the podcast I talk about the idea that every Scout is exercising some form of leadership. I have yet to meet a person of good character who is not a leader in one way or another. Good leadership is best defined by “helping other people at all times”, something not limited to those in roles of authority, it is being responsible for the welfare of others.
If we limit the definition of leadership to authority over others or managing other people, and we focus on developing those sorts of leadership skills, we miss 99% of our opportunities as Scouters.
Bill Chapman says
I have listened to every single podcast Clarke Green has ever done and they have changed not only my role as a Scouter but in a much larger way, who I am as a person, how I interact with my wife, children, and grandchildren, people at work, church, and the community. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but it is not. The amazing thing to me is that having Clarke as my mentor has not only made Scouting (in life) more meaningful, it has made life and Scouting incredibly more fun. Not always easy and there are definitely challenges and rough spots in the road, but Clarke always brings us back to the fundamentals in the big picture which seem to resolve so many of our petty problems that we get hung up on and “wrap ourselves around the axle.” Thank you, Clarke for all you have done for Scouting, me, and everyone who has ever listened to you or read your materials.