Imagine you are 13 and have just been elected patrol leader.
Perhaps you’ve watched how all this works for a year or two and have at least some idea of what patrol leader does. It’s likely that this is the first time you’ve had this kind of responsibility so you can’t really fully appreciate what it means. Perhaps you’ve received some formal training; maybe it made sense at the time, maybe it didn’t.
You my be a self-starter and with bravery or naivete (most likely a little bit of both) you jump in with both feet and get going. It’s likely that you’ll make some mistakes, you’ll misunderstand something or just plain forget to do something you were expected to do.
If you are indecisive or afraid of looking bad in front of your peers you may be afraid of doing anything. You try to be inconspicuous, don’t say much and keep your head down.
If people are encouraging, non-judgmental and kind you’ll gain some confidence. If people react negatively you’ll quickly grow discouraged.
Put yourself in the new patrol leader’s shoes and you understand the importance of your attitude and reactions. How important it is to encourage their efforts. Your responses and attitudes will encourage or discourage Scouts from taking on leadership responsibility because they’ve seen how you’ve responded to others.
My college geography professor asked the class to explain what was meant by “vegetation”. A student responded, “Is it the kind of vegetables they grow?”. I thought to myself “what a stupid answer” and I expected the professor to respond with some kind of cutting remark. Instead the professor’s expression remained unchanged and she said, “That’s close, but it’s not precisely what I was looking for.”
Had the professor laughed or belittled an honest, though incorrect, answer that student may have never voluntarily responded again.
Just as rock climbers learn to turn the smallest ledge, the least little opening, into a handhold we ought to learn to recognize initiative, to seize the opportunity and build on it.
If we turn the smallest gesture of initiative from our youth leaders into a handhold, an opportunity for overwhelming, unalloyed encouragement, they’ll take successively bigger steps and soon become competent leaders.