Experience, maturity and skill are not prerequisites to leadership; they are the traits produced as we practice leadership.
We often get email or comments from Scoutmasters with a troop of young Scouts wondering how they can be anything like boy led. They look around a bunch of immature 11-year-old boys and don’t see anyone who measures up to their preconceived notion of a leader so the adults take over the leadership and may never let it go.
A lot of Scouting goes off the rails when adults think that they are the only ones with the maturity and experience to lead. To prevent this from happening I challenge you to get rid of all preconceived qualifications for youth leaders. Instead of a perfect troop envision an ideal troop; one that elects their own leaders from the Scouts who are there, not the ones you wish you had.
Other than they are freely elected by their patrol or troop there are no qualifications in Scouting literature for youth leadership positions. You may read guidelines or suggestions but there’s no required age or rank.
Could it be advantageous if a patrol leader was first class rank? Sure. Is it required? No.
Would it be a good thing if the senior patrol leader is mature, experienced and organized? Sure. Is it required? No.
Every troop has at least one patrol leader, and if they have more than one they have a senior patrol leader. Every patrol leader in a Scout troop is elected by the Scouts in his patrol. Every senior patrol leader in a Scout troop is elected by the Scouts in the troop. If you want to develop youth leadership first dismiss your preconceived notions about those two positions, resolve to never worry about, think about or manipulate a patrol or troop election and let the Scouts choose their leaders.
Does this whole idea sort of give you the willies? Good. It means that you are trying to learn something!
If I have a troop of 11-year-old boys, then I do Scouting with 11-year-old boys. If I have a troop of 17-year-old boys, then I do Scouting with 17-year-old boys. This is one of the cool things about Scouting!
Will these troops look alike or do things the same way? No way. Those older boys may be all over the place camping, climbing, backpacking, canoeing, while the younger troop may be having “four hour breakfasts” and almost getting lost on a short afternoon walk!
The important thing is that both troops are doing Scouting.
Experience, maturity and skill are not required.
Experience, maturity and skill are the goal.
When you hire an intern experience is not required, experience is the goal. A baseball player is a baseball player if he hits home runs or not; hitting home runs is the goal but they are not required.
Let’s not make the goals of Scouting into prerequisites for actually doing Scouting!