What’s the best way to hold Troop leadership elections? It’s pretty simple. Here’s all of the references I found in the Scoutmaster’s handbook:
Each troop sets its own requirements and schedule of elections, though senior patrol leaders are usually chosen at six- to 12-month intervals and can be reelected.
Scoutmaster’s Handbook p. 13The members of each patrol elect one of their own to serve as their patrol leader. The troop determines the requirements, if any, for patrol leaders, such as rank and age. Most troops select patrol leaders and other boy leaders twice a year, though a troop might want to hold elections more frequently in order to allow more boys the chance to lead, particularly in the new- Scout patrols. Remind Scouts that patrol elections are not popularity contests, but that they do present patrol members with the responsibility of selecting someone who will be a good leader.Scoutmaster’s Handbook p. 21
Troops can set their own requirements for elections if they like. We had requirements for elections years ago but they were more a way of coercing results by limiting the choices to who we considered the most capable. It’s perfectly sensible to set up age or rank requirements for candidates but it won’t necessarily result in better leaders.
How do boys hold elections? They get together and in their chaotic, imperfect way have a vote, just like they do when they decide who is going to be pitcher for sandlot baseball. (Do boys get to play sandlot baseball any more?)
Our troop’s most formal elections are annual senior patrol leader and order of the arrow elections. The only prerequisite for senior patrol leader is making a speech.
Just a day or two ago our Scouts rearranged patrols and elected patrol leaders. The the senior patrol leader told me he wanted to do this a few weeks ago as they were making plans for the fall. We adults had no role in this at all.
The Scouts made this happen and I only learned of who was elected at the patrol leader’s council after the meeting. I think the Scouts made excellent choices. We have three patrols and three new patrol leaders – I would not have predicted the choices the Scouts made but I am happy with them.
There are all kinds of ways I could have coerced the results of these elections. I could have established age or rank requirements, I could have spoken to the Scouts before hand and tried to influence them one way or another. I could have introduced applications, contracts, job descriptions or other human resources trappings that have, somehow, found their way into Scouting.
Truth be told I have done those sort of things in the past and I stopped doing them because it has little to no effect on the the Scouts ability to choose well, the competence of who they choose, or much of anything else.
I am reminded of Green Bar Bill’s exhortation; ‘Train ‘em, Trust ‘em, Let ‘em Lead!” .
So much of the work of a Scoutmaster is really just getting out of the way.