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Who is the "Top Leader" in the troop?

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I remember reading someplace, I forget where, the idea that since everything in scouting happens (or should) at the patrol level

the Patrol Leader is the top position or leader in the troop

With the SPL being more of a supporting role to the Patrol Leaders, helping them to work together as a PLC...

 

I get the sense though, that the general consensus is that the SM is the top leader in a troop

until something is mentioned about Boy Led concept

then the "top leader" quickly becomes the SPL

So everything is thought of in the classic pyramid with the SPL at the top point, and the adults above that on the spire that extends above the SPL... like a TV antenna atop a skyscraper....

 

So I was thumbing through my son's 13th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook that came in the mail yesterday

& I happened to notice something I found interesting on the page about PORs

 

Under the heading, Senior Patrol Leader

the first sentence reads

"The senior patrol leader is the top leader in the troop."

 

I guess the book follows the generally accepted idea is the troop being the organization that stands superior to the patrol... but I kinda like the other idea that reinforces the concept of the scout being a member of the patrol first, and the troop second....

 

So what do you folks think? Is this idea of the PL being the most important leader in a troop merely an analogy to reinforce the idea that everything happens at the patrol level?  Just seems like lip service to me....

 

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Because you crafted the title question the way you did, the Handbook seems to have provided the authoritative answer already. You asked about the troop in the title but you seem to be more interested in troop vs patrol in the text.

If you're using the patrol method, then during actual activities (campouts, presumably) you will depend more on PLs leading their patrols. If you'll just let all this 'digest' a while in your mind, the hierarchy and the way its structure works will eventually emerge.

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As long as he's doing the work, the SPL should have final say on troop matters.

So, who has to fire the SPL when he's not doing his job?  (Looking for SM)

 

And then who has to fire that person if he's not doing his job?  (CC)

 

So the answer to your question depends on the definition of "top".

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You are asking adults with years of experience to answer a question that has changed for us as the adults, scouts and program matured. I guess the answer is really more of "depends". I've asked before, does a 12 year old SPL require the same guidance as the seasoned 16 year old SPL? Does a new troop of five 10 year olds use different leadership than the 10 year old troop of 100 scouts?

 

And I harp on this over and over, but what are the objectives of the program? Does that make a difference when the one year old troop of five 11 year olds receive 25 crossover Webelos? How does a program maintain some kind of control over 30 boys 12 years old and under?

 

I relate to the challenge of trying to get your mind around the basic details of the program structure because of the little experience to start from. And maybe this forum isn't the best place to draw that picture because the are so many different experiences expressed here that it gets mind boggling. There is nothing like experience to clear away some of the clutter. And sometimes you find yourself with obvious choices because your experience might be best described at that moment as herding cats.

 

One active forum member here once said SPLs are only used by self serving Scoutmasters to keep personal control of the patrol leaders. What do you think? The BSA has been using SPLs for almost 100 years.

 

A five scout troop is a different program than 30 new scouts. 100 scouts is quite a different program all together. I think you will find that leadership matures and changes over time and different circumstances. But What one thing can tie these different programs together? What keeps the program going forward in the same direction even when structure and situations continually change?

 

Barry

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I think a better question is what is the relationship between the various leaders in a troop.

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The top leader? The one who does the work of a leader at the time!

 

Example, at summer camp one year they boys were in a funk about something (can't remember exactly what) and a younger scout (provisional from another troop actually) got a round of song started around the campfire and got everyone going forward. At that moment, he was the top leader ... POR patch notwithstanding.

 

As the Good Book say: let him who is a servant among you be the greatest of all. So, the SPL who serves his PLC well, who in turn serves their patrols well, who in turn surve each other well ... That guy is the top leader.

 

An SPL who assigns tasks and that's about it? Pretty much the bottom of the pecking order as far as I'm concerned.

Edited by qwazse

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Who is the top  leader of an army?  The political leader, the top general or the Colonel in charge of field operations, the Lieutenant in charge of the platoon or the Sargent-Major.  There are many different types of leadership.

 

The SM and ASM lead as coaches to the SPL and PLs.  The SPL leads as mentor to the PLs and to coordinate the activites of the patrols at the troop level.  The ASPL acts as a mentor to the QM, Guide, etc.  The PLs lead their patrol.  The APLs assist the PLs.  Each has a different role and each requires different leadership skills.  

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I suspect you read the opinion that the PL is the top leader in a Troop right here in this forum - and it's a strong argument, especially if your unit isn't large enough for or chooses not to use a Senior Patrol Leader.  But if your unit does have a Senior Patrol Leader, he is the top leader in the Troop. 

 

The strongest argument for it being the PL seems to center around the idea that the PL has more direct interaction with the boys in his patrol and that Patrol Leaders are the more important leader in a Troop using the patrol method.  However, we're really not talking about the leader with the most interaction with the boys, or the most important leader - we're talking about the "Top" leader - and right from the start, that suggests a singular leader, not 4 or 5 leaders.

 

From an interaction perspective (or as a wise Scouter on this forum would say, on a "taking care of your boys" perspective), The Patrol Leader may be a little closer to the action but the SPL is also responsible for taking care of "his" boys as well - A Patrol Leader may be taking care of 6-8 boys, the SPL should be taking care of ALL the boys - and while much of the time, he's doing this by leading and mentoring the PL, there are going to be times when he's doing so directly as well. 

 

Fom an organizational perspective, the top leader may not be the most important leader.  No one would say that the CEO of a company is not the top leader of the company, but we could certainly argue that the most important leaders of the company are the ones on the ground directing the sales force.  The same is true here - the PL's may be the most important leaders, but they aren't the top leader.  They still report to someone - and that is the SPL.

 

I know there are a lot of Troops out there that like to say the SPL is the top "junior" leader of the Troop.  I disagree with them - the SPL is the top leader, period.  The Senior Patrol Leader is the top leadership position in the Troop.  But what about the Scoutmaster, I hear some of you screaming (if just in your head), or the Committee Chair?  It's popular to call the Scoutmaster the top leader in the Troop - I blame the 1966 Fred MacMurray movie "Follow Me Boys!" for that.  Maybe that was truer back then, but that's not what the BSA is trying to do now.  If that movie were re-made today, the title should be "Lead On, Boys!".  The Scoutmaster is the top Mentor, Guide, Coach, and Guardian of the unit (there is a rather famous Norman Rockwell painting titled "The Scoutmaster" showing a Scoutmaster standing at a campfire, keeping watch while the boys are sleeping around him - that, to me, is the epitome of a Scoutmaster - he's not "leading" in that painting - he's keeping watch, he's guarding his flock).  Any leading he's doing is limited to leading his ASM's and "leading" through mentorship the SPL.  On the trail, the SPL is out front leading - not the Scoutmaster.  The Committee Chair?  He's head of the support team - that's what the committee is - the support team for the Troop - his leadership is leading the committee - not the Troop.  Need any further convincing?  Take a look at the job titles - there is not one job title for adults in a Troop that has the word Leader in it.  There are four job titles for youth in a Troop that does - Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and Senior Patrol Leader.

 

Of course, as has been mentioned, this really only works out is you have one of those "ideal" Troops with multiple patrols and a good age range of active Troop members from 10 1/2 - 17.  A lot of us don't have Troops that are anywhere close to ideal so mileage may vary.

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I have often found it difficult to wrap my head about how the structure functions.

 

If the SM and ASMs are running the troop, what's the purpose or need of an SPL or PL?

 

If the SPL is running the troop what's the purpose or need of a PL?

 

That's where I find it difficult to work with the "top down" structure tradition of scouting.

 

However, that's not the only structure BSA promotes in it's programs.  Take for instance the Cub program. 

 

Den Leaders (adults) run the dens but couldn't a Patrol Leader (youth_ also run a patrol?  We're trying for boy led on the Boy Scout level?  Yes/No?

 

A CubMaster (adult) runs the pack (with very little interaction with the dens, but couldn't a Senior Patrol Leader (youth) do the same for the troop? 

 

So in reality what is being done structurally by adults in Cubbing could easily be translated into Boy Scout using youth leadership instead.

 

So no CubMaster dictates down to the DL's and expects them to be successful for very long.  Or if the CubMaster is doing all the dictating, what's the use of the DL's other than puppet followers dependent on understanding the orders from above.  That analogy of using the military is kinda bogus because except for those at the top, all the officers below are merely following orders, not leading.  They are nothing but echoes of leadership.  If the general wants this company to move over there on the battlefield, the Captain "leads" them there, by following orders.  The privates aren't really being lead, they are just following orders to keep from being punished for insubordination.  We call that leadership, but it's really just following in reality.

 

In the patrol method as well as individual dens in Cubbing, the true leader initiates the plan of action and follows through on the plan with the group of boys doing what THEY agreed was important to be doing.  Not many Cubs are going to hang around if the DL isn't doing something they think is fun, same for the PL and the patrol.  DL's look to their boys for direction, not the CM, the PL's should be looking to their boys for direction, not the SPL or SM.  If the Cub finds the dictations from the CM not fun, they vote with their feet, and if the SM/SPL is dictating from the top what the patrol members are to be doing, they too will vote with their feet.  See it happening all over the place all the time.   Those that can endure the dictates long enough we honor them with Eagle.  But in reality they haven't lead much if anything, but have learned to follow orders very, very well.

 

I tend to like the Cub Scout model, there are a lot more boys getting AOL than Boy Scouts getting Eagle.

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The SPL is the top leader in the troop.  

 

The PL is the top leader in the patrol.

 

The patrol is supposed to be the primary setting for the Scout to experience Scouting, not the troop.  That's why it's called "the Patrol Method" and not "the Troop method."

 

 

 

The patrol members camp together, cook together, play together, and learn together.

B.S.A., Orientation for New Boy Scout Parents (2016)

 

 

 

[The patrol members] interact in a small group outside the larger troop context, working together as a team and sharing the responsibility of making their patrol a success.

B.S.A., website (2016)

 

 

 

It’s the place where boys learn skills together, take on leadership responsibilities, perhaps for the first time.

 B.S.A., website 2014.

 

 

 

Patrols are where Scouts learn citizenship at the most basic level. . . .

B.S.A., website (2016)

 

 

 

 

Patrols need to meet regularly to get their work done.

B.S.A., podcast (2014)

 

 

 

Patrols will sometimes join with other patrols to learn skills and complete advancement requirements. [emphasis added].

 

At other times they will compete against those same patrols in Scout skills and athletic competitions.

B.S.A., website (2016)

 

 

 

A patrol takes pride in its identity, and the members strive to make their patrol the best it can be.

B.S.A., website  (2016)

 

 

 

nless the patrol method is in operation, you don’t really have a Boy Scout troop.

B.S.A., website (citing Baden-Powell)(September, 2015)

Edited by TAHAWK

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They way my troop was structured, the patrol leaders were responsible planning the program for their patrol (in coordination with the patrol members and advisor). The SPL worked with the patrol leaders to coordinate their activities. The SPL also had an ASPL whose job it was to plan campouts. The SPL also worked with another ASPL to help coordinate the troop staff (Scribe, Historian, Librarian, etc.) The SPL was like the CEO of the troop. He only led other leaders. The patrol leaders ran the program week to week. The troop leaders supported the programs of the patrols.

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Leading a program is different than running a program.

 

Adult led and boy led cannot coexist.  Dual leadership has it's major problems and one or the other will eventually overrule the other given time.

 

So if the adults lead, the boys either follow or run what the adult leaders direct.

 

If the boys lead, the adults don't need to run the program, the boys can do that by following or running what the youth leaders direct.

 

Adult led, boy run seems to be the most popular option today, with adult led, adult run coming in second.

 

Ever wonder who really leads a program, see who's the last/ultimate go-to person on the list.  A clue: if any adult has to say, "go ask your PL" or go ask your SPL", in fact the person making the query is in fact looking to the person they know is really running the show.  Ultimately BSA knows that the SM's really run the show and that a varying degree of delegation of limited leadership is ever passed on to any of the boys.  Way too risky to have the boys really running the show.

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good discussion

Pretty much as I expected....

the initial reactions from the paradigm of a corporate/military pyramidal structure

then further reflection on the most "important", etc...

 

I feel like this whole topic is one of the great grey area "trip-ups" that leads to misunderstandings of patrol method, boy led, etc...

and this statement in the handbook does nothing really to help clarify it all.

 

When the typical thought process asks things like

who is in charge?

Who is leading who?

 

but the questions that perhaps should be asked are stuff more along the lines of

Who is supporting who?

What's the end game or goal of the whole thing?

 

Don't get me wrong, I see definite value in the traditional pyramidal thinking.  Obviously it works for military and for business...  I'm not trying to be an off the wall free spirited non-conformist.  There surely must be value in learning that sort of hierarchy... but it seems like scouting doesn't "want" to be that way.

 

Maybe the individual scout should be thought of as being at the pinnacle of the pyramid, with the patrol supporting him, the troop supporting the patrols, and the adults supporting the troop

 

I've been observing and thinking about this patrol method idea for a while now.  

the way it's generally thought of and treated seems inconsistent, very conflicting.... broken even.

 

the way my twisted mind works anyway, i feel like the... well I want to use the word "best", but that's not quite right.... let's say the "most productive" way to look at it might be the idea that the patrol IS the central unit where scouting happens.

 

with bringing out the good in the individual scout being the target goal 

the patrol is the core focus group

so the patrol is THE group that decides what the patrol wants to do, in the best interest of it's scout patrol members.

they elect their own leader

and in this way the patrol members (aka "boys") "lead" their own destiny.

and in this way the troop really carries a much smaller importance.... perhaps no importance from the perception of leadership anyway

AND the troop's purpose becomes support for the patrols.... who are supporting their own scout members.

So from this perspective, isn't the troop following the leadership of the patrols?

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good discussion

Pretty much as I expected....

the initial reactions from the paradigm of a corporate/military pyramidal structure

then further reflection on the most "important", etc...

 

I feel like this whole topic is one of the great grey area "trip-ups" that leads to misunderstandings of patrol method, boy led, etc...

and this statement in the handbook does nothing really to help clarify it all.

 

When the typical thought process asks things like

who is in charge?

Who is leading who?

 

I think we get into a lot of problems when we aren't on the same page with understanding the words in the same context with one another.

 

For me Who's in charge? may not have anything with Who's leading whom?  A SM might be "in charge" but his style is to stand back and let the boy's lead on their own.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But then the next SM might be "in charge" and feels it is his responsibility to lead every little thing and have his fingers in every pot on the stove.  So combining those two questions really doesn't answer anything when it comes to assuming one has an idea of what is being discussed.  :)

 

but the questions that perhaps should be asked are stuff more along the lines of

Who is supporting who?

What's the end game or goal of the whole thing?

 

In a less traditional manner, these questions might be more helpful in the long run, but again what does one mean by supporting?  Support their work, or does one do all the supporting and propping up themselves?  The "end game" and "goal" setting mean more of a managerial issue than a leadership issue for me, so I might understand it differently than the next guy too.

 

Don't get me wrong, I see definite value in the traditional pyramidal thinking.  Obviously it works for military and for business...  That might not be a fair assessment.  If one were to read the latest military leadership manuals, one would be surprised how the wording for Servant Leadership and taking care of one's "boys" falls in line with much of what I am promoting as boy-led, patrol-method.  And as far business pyramids go, Peter F. Drucker's management has many excellent leadership qualities blended into it, the Toyota car company exploded onto the US markets with a structure so unique and so dynamic, US car companies and many other manufacturing companies are now adopting their structure, which is basically the pyramid turned upside down, the concept I have been promoting as the PL's as the top of the structure. I'm not trying to be an off the wall free spirited non-conformist.  There surely must be value in learning that sort of hierarchy... but it seems like scouting doesn't "want" to be that way.  Or maybe Toyota's, "off the wall, free-spirited, non-conformist" attitude changed the way American business does business in the growing companies of today.

 

Maybe the individual scout should be thought of as being at the pinnacle of the pyramid (Yes, the customer, the one who's paying for the program, the one with the expectations of a product delivered, etc.), with the patrol supporting him (the first level of leadership in contact with the customer, the one who is in a position to make it happen for the customer), the troop supporting the patrols, (secondary leadership, SPL and Leadership Corps, that provides the necessary resources to insure the PL is successful in serving his customers) and the adults supporting the troop (the support of last resort who may have to go outside the limits of the unit to find the less available resources to insure the SPL and Leadership Corps are sufficiently equiped to help the PL's)

 

I've been observing and thinking about this patrol method idea for a while now.  

the way it's generally thought of and treated seems inconsistent, very conflicting.... broken even.

 

Peter F. Drucker was the Father of American Business Managment, Toyota did something differently and totally disrupted the whole business model.  Now take a look at modern business today.  We used to be proud of Made in America and frowned on anything made in Japan.  Look at the labels today.  Made in the USA?  Made in Japan?  Made in Europe? or .... drum roll, please... Made in China or Taiwan.  What do those Orientals know and how were they able to tip the pyramid upside down and make it work so well?

 

I might be old fashioned when I promote the old Green Bar Bill leadership teachings, but I'm totally 21st Century when it comes to MANAGEMENT teaching of turning the pyramid upside down because GBB LEADERSHIP hit the scene at just about the same time as Toyota MANAGEMENT was making it's debut in American markets. 

 

the way my twisted mind works anyway, i feel like the... well I want to use the word "best", but that's not quite right.... let's say the "most productive" way to look at it might be the idea that the patrol IS the central unit where scouting happens.

 

Your mind isn't twisted, it's just contemporary.

 

with bringing out the good in the individual scout being the target goal 

 

Isn't the individual scout the customer?  Is it the customer we work for or is it the company?  Which is the higher priority?

 

the patrol is the core focus group

 

This is were the rubber truly meets the road.  It is the actual touch of the customer.

 

so the patrol is THE group that decides what the patrol wants to do, in the best interest of it's scout patrol members.

 

The customer is always right or they will go elsewhere to get what they need.

 

they elect their own leader

 

Who else besides the customer would know best what they want?

 

and in this way the patrol members (aka "boys") "lead" their own destiny.

 

And the customer gets what they paid for and will be happy with what they got.

 

and in this way the troop really carries a much smaller importance.... perhaps no importance from the perception of leadership anyway

 

The importance of the troop is to provide experienced support leadership to insure the success of the PL as he addresses the issues of the customer.  They are a VERY important leadership component in the process.  Without the support of the Leadership Corps, the PL would burn out very quickly.  He can't do it alone, he needs the support of the troop to make it happen for him.

 

AND the troop's purpose becomes support for the patrols.... who are supporting their own scout members.

So from this perspective, isn't the troop following the leadership of the patrols?

 

You drank the same Koolaid as I did.  Welcome to the club.  The upside down pyramid structure promotes the Servant Leadership concept the easiest.   Ingersoll Rand, (Club Car, Trane, Thermoking) is a global, multi-billion dollar industry today.  The CEO of that company, Mike Lamach, once said, "The person on the assembly line does not work for us, we work for them."  I do believe that was his way of letting the people of that company know that the management pyramid structure has now been turned upside down.  :) 

 

You're in good company with a lot of people who know what they're doing.

Edited by Stosh

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Remember,

 

A patrol is supposed to be a cross between a direct democracy, and a structured work team.  It decides things as a democracy, it executes as a work team.

 

A troop is a grouping of patrols with some leadership overhead:  The Patrol Leader's Council is the decisionmaking body, the SPL is responsible for running that.  In simple English, it's a miniature Republic.  The collective goes with the final best decision of the collective body.

 

The Scoutmaster is supposed to be the Chief cat herder and guide of all this mess.  As is seen in our own 2016 elections, that isn't easy.

 

As far as what BSA expects, the Scoutmaster is the Chief Program Officer, the Committee Chair is the Chief Support Officer, and the Chartered Partner COR/IH are the licensees of record of the use of the Scouting program

Many moving parts, each having a role...

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