Scout youth leader training is important, we do a lot of training. Some approaches work well and some don’t.
I often hear from Scoutmasters who say something like “you know we trained these guys, or sent them to training, and they still, just don’t get it.” At this point a lot of us grow disenchanted and conclude that ‘youth led’ is impossible or simply too much trouble.
Scout youth leaders who take part in event-based training do not automatically become leaders anymore than anyone who spends a weekend in their garage becomes a car. They get some good out of it but it’s only the beginning of an ongoing process.
Here’s what I think we are missing:
Development versus Training
While it may seem insignificant I have swapped the term’ development’ for ‘training’. ‘Youth Leader Development’ seems a more fitting term than ‘Youth Leader Training’. Training is something that has a beginning, middle and end, it’s an event. We even have a patch for it (or we did at least sometime in the past); everybody who participated in a an event got to wear the ‘trained’ patch. I’d rather call training orientation. It’s important but it’s only the beginning of an ongoing process.
Development is ongoing, it’s perpetually unfinished, it moves from stage to stage and there’s really no conclusion to the progression. Development is a journey, a process.
Scouts are not employees.
It’s natural for adult volunteers to take the familiar terms and practices of the business world into Scouting. Because the relationships of the business world and the relationships in Scouting are fundamentally different business practices don’t often improve the experience for us or for our Scouts.
Scoutmasters are not employers, Scouts are not employees, their leadership position is not a job. We are all voluntary participants in something much more interesting and complex. Applications, contracts, job descriptions, quarterly reviews and various other human resources trappings have, at best, limited usefulness in Scouting.
Leaders develop by leading, not by studying leadership.
The way we train gets in the way of how leaders develop. We tend to over-explain and over-instruct and that is just plain frustrating to boys.
The most effective way to learn to tie a square knot is by holding the rope and giving it a try. The most effective way to develop as a leader is by leading.
Leadership development, then, is not a preparation for leadership but something that happens as you lead.
Are my Scouts unusually talented, effective, or energized leaders? Some have been, but they are just boys pretty much like any other. Do they do their work as leaders any better than other Scouts? I don’t really think so. The difference between my Scouts and others may only be that they actually get to lead.
In the next installment in this series we’ll discuss how to apply the idea of leadership development effectively.
Michael Daniels says
I feel developing leadership skills is ideal for the building block method in which one skill is the foundation, and then other skills are added as the walls, etc. Our Troop does ILST training every October around the same time we do new elections. The adults leaders model the skills and behaviors and do more hand holding at the beginning of terms and then reduce the hand holding meeting by meeting, activity by activity.
I see a lot of Troops throw Scouts into the deep-end of the pool without any methods or ideas of transferring leadership skills.
I feel this is the reason some adult leaders say “Scouts are not getting it”. They only get it with graduated guidance and expectations.
Clarke Green says
I’m not a big fan of hand holding -just let them at. Give them a secure environment and lot’s of positive reflection. Respond to their initiative rather than having them respond to yours.
ASM Steven says
This is a great reminder. Wen I taught aikido several years ago, after my asking if someone had a question about a practice, one of my students would say, “I need to try it from the inside”. Meaning he wanted to get up and DO.
Scoutmaster Johansen says
Good post Clarke! This one resonates with me a lot. I feel like the reason the Scouts don’t “get it” is that they don’t see it being exemplified. I feel I go out of the way to explain situations to my Scout Leaders and help them understand the implications of the choices that are at hand. This is the kind of development they are not getting from anywhere else in their lives. To have the Scouts feel the pressure of the decisions and the accountability for them is great experience that will make them better leaders in the future.