Jump to content
SteveMM

Differences in Scoutmaster leadership styles

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

Yes, but that is common in most all troops. It's not a flaw specific to electing the ASPL. 

You would surprised to learn that most (vast majority) of troops do not have a plan for developing leaders into higher positions like SPL. In fact, some adults call that adding to the requirements. Even the Handbooks don't really talk about it. But, the better performing troops have a suggested leadership development tree. It's only suggested, the scouts can try their own plan. Our minimum development tree is PL, Troop QM, ASPL and SPL. But I had one scout who during his third year showed me his plan to be the SPL in 18 months. I was impressed, but I wondered if he could pull it off skipping one of the responsibilities on the tree. I assumed if he had the initiative, he had the will. He did and was a really good SPL. The reason his plan was 18 months was because he was also on the swim team and couldn't put the time into the job during swim season. Did I say he earn top score on his ACT?

Barry

I agree with the concept of a development tree, although we don't currently have a specific track. As SM, I generally encourage scouts to explore troop leadership roles that interest them, rather than requiring a specific progression. We do however, strongly promote SEALS, NYLT,  camp staff, and OA LEB roles, as we've seen that participation in these programs consistently leads to more successful SPLs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Rock Doc said:

I agree with the concept of a development tree, although we don't currently have a specific track. As SM, I generally encourage scouts to explore troop leadership roles that interest them, rather than requiring a specific progression. We do however, strongly promote SEALS, NYLT,  camp staff, and OA LEB roles, as we've seen that participation in these programs consistently leads to more successful SPLs.

Yes, of course picking the positions that seem interesting are a good entry into responsibilities. But, as the positions get more to the troop level, they are more demanding, which seems to filter out the scouts with low ambition. So, it's never really been a problem. If a scout has the aptitude and ambition, they will keep progressing.

For me, I used the tree for higher levels development of specific skills that added to rounded mature leadership of an older scout.

 I believe that a Patrol Leader would learn all the skills in our tree if they were willing to run for the position several times. That was not unusual when I was a scout, but it's not encouraged today because it is considered and entry level position. I would love to have lifer Patrol Leaders because they develop all the same skills as the tree in the troop level positions. I personally believe part of the reason troops struggle today is because they push their young scout through patrol leading to get them in troop level positions. Patrols don't really mature to their potential because the leaders aren't mature.  Patrol leading is the most challenging leadership position in the troop and really requires the maturity of a 14 year old and older to grow from the experience. But, times have changed. One and done, then move on.

Barry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

... I was impressed, but I wondered if he could pull it off skipping one of the responsibilities on the tree. I assumed if he had the initiative, he had the will. He did and was a really good SPL. The reason his plan was 18 months was because he was also on the swim team and couldn't put the time into the job during swim season. Did I say he earn top score on his ACT? ...

@Eagledad brings up my opposite point. SM's don't always know what to do with high-functioning scouts. Son #1 and his two buddies were such boys. And it was really stressful on both SM and boys to fit them into troop PoR's. The troop was growing at the time and the swarm of cross-overs overwhelmed these guys. That SM and I are still wondering if I did him a favor starting a crew so that they could direct their steam more appropriately. Or, did I deprive the troop of leadership because Son #1 and his best friends had spread themselves too thin?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, MattR said:

Yeah, I had my butt kicked in private ;) (and, to repeat, I needed it)

In principal I really agree, but a challenge for one scout might look like an impossible wall to climb for another. One of the scouts on my recent trek said he wished he'd done a lot more high adventure trips, he now appreciates the challenge. He grew up. But previously he spent a lot of time finding excuses not to try. I'm not sure I was so different. Part of this is doing a better job of teaching scouts how to fail with grace. Some scouts have no problem with it. "Well huh, I just screwed up, time to try plan B." Most scouts, from peer pressure or whatever, are really afraid of screwing up.

And maybe this gets back to aims and methods. Failing with grace, learning to dust yourself off after falling, or whatever you want to call it, is a really good skill that promotes scouts to do rather than sit back and do nothing. But the BSA is afraid it will drive scouts away. That comes close to the aims of scouting. And maybe things like advancement can be used to teach that. For Scout just hand feed them and get them a rank as fast as possible. For Tenderfoot, use it to teach them the process of advancement and let them pick the dates. For Second class, a couple of failures at sign off is not a bad thing. For First Class, they should know it. Tell them ahead of time what the expectations are and follow through.

I bring this up because the lower ranks are done all at the same time and there's really not much difference between any of them. They should get harder and harder. I mean, I still don't understand why knife and axe skills are now in Tenderfoot. What tenderfoot scout can actually sharpen a dull knife? Or an axe for that matter. Most 11 year olds don't have the strength and fine motor skill to file an axe blade or take the nicks out of a beat up knife. And using an axe to split wood? They just aren't strong enough. Anyway, knife and axe skills seem rather difficult and yet they're in the Tenderfoot rank. So how is there growth and increasing challenge?

My sense is that many scouts would enjoy, and their familes welcome, challenge from the program.  I had an opportunity to talk with a Scouter recently who is also a youth sports coach.  His comment was that in his sports teams, he'd rather see his team play like a team and lose than not play as a team and win.  In short, it's how the team plays that's important - not the win or loss.

I think the same is true of Scouting.  How the Scoutmaster leverages the program to help the Scouts grow is what's important.  I'd welcome a Scoutmaster who has developed a culture where some scouts have to learn to fail gracefully and pick themselves back up and try again.  I'd rather see a Scout try, run into a wall, fail, and try again then to take the safe route.  

I think the same of leadership roles.  If a Scout signs up to be a patrol leader and then misses campouts, I think it's fine for the Scoutmaster to challenge a bit.  Hey Bob, you ran for PL, were elected, but miss half the camping trips - why?  Same of the ASPL who is failing in his role because he's afriad to lead.  Shouldn't the  Scoutmaster challenge the Scout to make his own decisions?  Sometimes conversations like these are uncomfortable.  Sometimes the Scouts even get mad. But, if done correctly they can challenge the Scout.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, qwazse said:

@Eagledad brings up my opposite point. SM's don't always know what to do with high-functioning scouts. Son #1 and his two buddies were such boys. And it was really stressful on both SM and boys to fit them into troop PoR's. The troop was growing at the time and the swarm of cross-overs overwhelmed these guys. That SM and I are still wondering if I did him a favor starting a crew so that they could direct their steam more appropriately. Or, did I deprive the troop of leadership because Son #1 and his best friends had spread themselves too thin?

This brings me back to something I wonder a lot.  Does the average troop program provide enough for older youth?  In this case, you can extend that to include high-functioning youth.  I'd think it could, but it takes some creative thinking and a willingness to trust the youth.  Find a role, invent a role, make something new up.

We had a SPL years ago who decided to redraw the troop org chart.  He invented all kinds of crazy new jobs and got scouts to do them.  At one point, I think he over half the troop in some sort of invented job.  If a Scout showed up and said, I'd like to help, he'd say "I'd like you to lead the New Scout outreach team."  If that job was filled, he'd make them "the Asst. Scribe of Troop Culture."  The point is that it gave this older, high-functioning, Scout something to do beyond the traditional SPL tasks.  

We had another high-functioning scout go on to become the District Camporee Youth Chief.  

Heck, even when I was a Scout the our District Commissioner let me be a 16 year old Unit Commissioner (and I'm not high-functioning).

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

One of my issues with scouts is that there really is no clearly defined leadership mentoring pathway. Our mantra is that it is a scout led troop, but unless scouts have had some kind of exposure to leadership training or experience with it, it can be unnecessarily difficult for some of them who do not have those natural skills yet. We seem to expect them to learn by doing, and we accept the idea that a natural state of affairs for many troops is organized chaos when they flounder. There's something to be said for trial by fire, but I also think there is a whole curriculum missing for the younger kids on how to step into leadership roles and learn how to manage projects and peers. Older scouts could use training on how to manage younger scouts as well. IMHO.

Edited by yknot
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, ParkMan said:

...  Does the average troop program provide enough for older youth?  In this case, you can extend that to include high-functioning youth.  I'd think it could, but it takes some creative thinking and a willingness to trust the youth.  Find a role, invent a role, make something new up. ...

@ParkMan, I think the not-so-shot short answer is "no, and yes". The average troop is not designed to provide enough program for older youth. As you recount, youth are designed to provide program for their troop.

Take, for example, the merit badge program. It was designed to exist outside the troop. Councilors were selected on a handshake from the district commissioners. The list was  was typed and pinned to the bulletin board. Scouts read the list and told the SM, I'd like to take y MB from Mr/Mrs x.

The MB program is a program for older youth to get outside the troop, meet folks in your community, and learn stuff. In doing that, boys would come back and enhance the troop program. Simple example, one day a year our troop would have a meeting dedicated to hobbies. Scouts would bring in or demonstrate their hobbies. In many cases these were related to the MB they had earned that year or were working on. I was nuts about model design and building -- ships mainly. Another scout made farm equipment models. I learned a lot about grading roads from him. I'd like to think scouts learned about nautical stuff from me. The next year, I took Photography at a MB pow-wow and after quality time in the darkroom with the counselor, learned enough about developing film to keep taking pin-hole camera pictures. My parents got me the equipment to temporarily turn the bathroom into my own darkroom. I then, for our council camporee, talked the SM into getting our whole troop to convert a long cardboard box into a mobile darkroom and learn to develop pinhole camera portraits (passport photo size). For one Satuday, it was probably the only 1-hour photo studio in the state!

So, what about Son #1 and his scholar-athlete buddies? They rolled some duct tape and string and who-knows-what into a ball, pulled a decent stick from the fire pile, and defined imaginary bases around where the camp gathered for flags. The jaw of one parent of a particularly non-athletic, non-participating son hit the ground when he asked after his son and I told him, "Oh, he's playing baseball with the boys in their field of dreams."

Over the years, advancement requirements have become more organization-serving (e.g., camping nights only count under the auspices of BSA, the recruitment requirements, activity attendance over skill mastery, insta-Palms for scouts who spend so much time in O/A, HA, or Jambo that they postpone Eagle Projects of fulfilling PoR's, etc ...). And that's a shame.

When we try to make the troop the be-all-end-all of youth development, we miss the point. And we wear ourselves out in the process.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, ParkMan said:

This brings me back to something I wonder a lot.  Does the average troop program provide enough for older youth?  In this case, you can extend that to include high-functioning youth.  I'd think it could, but it takes some creative thinking and a willingness to trust the youth.  Find a role, invent a role, make something new up.

We had a SPL years ago who decided to redraw the troop org chart.  He invented all kinds of crazy new jobs and got scouts to do them.  At one point, I think he over half the troop in some sort of invented job.  If a Scout showed up and said, I'd like to help, he'd say "I'd like you to lead the New Scout outreach team."  If that job was filled, he'd make them "the Asst. Scribe of Troop Culture."  The point is that it gave this older, high-functioning, Scout something to do beyond the traditional SPL tasks.  

We had another high-functioning scout go on to become the District Camporee Youth Chief.  

Heck, even when I was a Scout the our District Commissioner let me be a 16 year old Unit Commissioner (and I'm not high-functioning).

This is all quite right. But, we once had a series of PLCs create positions that one SPL dissolved. He said they are boring positions that scouts dread. OK, so goes the circle of life. I think what is also important is that the troop doesn't get in the way creativity and ideas. Maybe the SPL was reducing the PLC to a size manageable for him. Or maybe he just likes to be efficient.

We had one high functioning scout who in 6 months time was a Venturing Crew leader, SPL, planned a trek to Montana all by himself, and aced the ACT. All in six months. The kid was incredible. He also got a full scholarship to MIT that year as well. I regret that my life was busy enough that I didn't appreciate his full potential at that time. I wish I had stayed in touch, b we had fun together, and I will always have those memories.

When I look at why our troop was attractive to older scouts, I think we were flexible enough for scouts to make it theirs. I believe three out of five Adventure Crews fail in their first five years is because they don't have the flexibility to be shaped by the scouts. I found that only 30% of our scouts 14 and older scouts liked high adventure. Why did the other 2/3s hang around? According to the BSA (and many adults), high adventure is the key to keeping older scouts. My observations don't support that idea. Young adults like challenges and hanging out with like minded friends. Just camping with friends might be enough challenge for some scouts. If a scout wants more mature challenges of leadership or planning than the troop provides, where do they go? Well, there is OA and Venturing. Many youth are just looking for outlets for their dreams.

I wish I could say there were easy answers.

Barry

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, yknot said:

One of my issues with scouts is that there really is no clearly defined leadership mentoring pathway. Our mantra is that it is a scout led troop, but unless scouts have had some kind of exposure to leadership training or experience with it, it can be unnecessarily difficult for some of them who do not have those natural skills yet. We seem to expect them to learn by doing, and we accept the idea that a natural state of affairs for many troops is organized chaos when they flounder. There's something to be said for trial by fire, but I also think there is a whole curriculum missing for the younger kids on how to step into leadership roles and learn how to manage projects and peers. Older scouts could use training on how to manage younger scouts as well. IMHO.

Well said.

Part of the problem with older scouts is that they are past the learning phase of scouting. Oh, they can learn a few tricks here and there, but basically what they are is what they became before age 14. I tell troop leaders that if they want to change the program, they need to build two programs. One for the older scouts to just hang on until they age out (if they stay that long), and the other is the new program with the young scouts. 

AND, training is really the wrong way to look at leadership development. The experts tell me that youth before puberty learn 90 percent of their habits by watching their role models. So, the best way to teach young scouts to be good leaders is expose them to good older scout leaders in action. Get them outdoors and let them take care of themselves. That is when the scouts start learning.

I say all this so that adults start thinking about using adventure activities as the method of teaching instead of structure teaching sessions. 

As to the complexity of scouts not having enough experience, I agree. I think adults need to expose some of their experiences to scouts. Maybe even push them a little when the scout have some hesitancy. Scouts learn who they are by the decisions they make during their adventures. But if they aren't experiencing any adventure, they aren't making any decisions. Yes, push some adult ideas and experiences on them. Get them to think out of the box by role modeling thinking out of the box. They may grown at first, but young adults like being pushed out of their comfort zone. Just remember, once the stone starts rolling, get out of the way. More harm is done by saying "no" than by saying "show me". 

Barry

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

If a scout wants more mature challenges of leadership or planning than the troop provides, where do they go? Well, there is OA and Venturing. Many youth are just looking for outlets for their dreams.

I wish I could say there were easy answers.

Barry

I've noticed that with my NYLT staff. I can think of a few staff members that love staffing NYLT because it's the leadership challenge they don't get in their adult run units back home. This hurts me. They're great Scouts, strong leaders that could greatly impact a troop, but they aren't allowed to spread their wings in their troops. I'd kill (hyperbolically) to have these guys/gals in my troop. 

I wish I could say Wood Badge is the answer, but I know plenty of Wood Badge graduates and even staff that don't "get it." 

I also wish there were easy answers. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Well said.

Part of the problem with older scouts is that they are past the learning phase of scouting. Oh, they can learn a few tricks here and there, but basically what they are is what they became before age 14. I tell troop leaders that if they want to change the program, they need to build two programs. One for the older scouts to just hang on until they age out (if they stay that long), and the other is the new program with the young scouts. 

AND, training is really the wrong way to look at leadership development. The experts tell me that youth before puberty learn 90 percent of their habits by watching their role models. So, the best way to teach young scouts to be good leaders is expose them to good older scout leaders in action. Get them outdoors and let them take care of themselves. That is when the scouts start learning.

 I say all this so that adults start thinking about using adventure activities as the method of teaching instead of structure teaching sessions. 

As to the complexity of scouts not having enough experience, I agree. I think adults need to expose some of their experiences to scouts. Maybe even push them a little when the scout have some hesitancy. Scouts learn who they are by the decisions they make during their adventures. But if they aren't experiencing any adventure, they aren't making any decisions. Yes, push some adult ideas and experiences on them. Get them to think out of the box by role modeling thinking out of the box. They may grown at first, but young adults like being pushed out of their comfort zone. Just remember, once the stone starts rolling, get out of the way. More harm is done by saying "no" than by saying "show me". 

Barry

Well said ... here is what I heard ...

  • Older scouts ... have already learned how scouting works, right or wrong.  
  • Dual path ... If you want to change how the troop works, create a dual path for new and older scouts.  New scout learn the better practices.  Older scouts are not pushed out, frustrated and can benefit from the adventures and participation.
  • Adventure ... Younger scouts learn by example.  Create situations where they can observe and let them observe and mimic.  

IMHO, leadership sessions rarely teach good leadership.  I remember some high performance team training from years back.  It was very much focused on activities and doing things with a follow up short discussion.  

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

IMHO, leadership sessions rarely teach good leadership.  I remember some high performance team training from years back.  It was very much focused on activities and doing things with a follow up short discussion.  

In most cases, leadership sessions are best used where role modeling doesn't exist for a needed skill. When our troop was young, we observed the patrols struggling to be organized on campouts. So, we scheduled a special session to work on organization. I remember the adults simulated a typical Patrol Corners meeting where the PL  ran a meeting to plan menus and review camp schedule. About 2/3s way through the simulation, one of the Patrol Leaders said loudly "OH! I SEE!". And we saw a big performance change on the next camp out. The adults assumed the young PLs knew how use patrol corners for planning, but they were never taught and didn't know what they didn't know. As in most cases, it's a matter of understanding expectations.

But once the skill is brought into the program, it shouldn't need to be taught again. For me, a required teaching session is a red flag that the patrol method is failing somewhere. Of course no troop program is perfect, and troop performance changes with scouts coming and going. So, there is always the need for some kind of training. But the key is identifying a need so the students have an eager desire to fix an annoyance. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
On 7/1/2019 at 11:15 PM, ParkMan said:

I think the same of leadership roles.  If a Scout signs up to be a patrol leader and then misses campouts, I think it's fine for the Scoutmaster to challenge a bit.  Hey Bob, you ran for PL, were elected, but miss half the camping trips - why?  Same of the ASPL who is failing in his role because he's afriad to lead.  Shouldn't the  Scoutmaster challenge the Scout to make his own decisions?  Sometimes conversations like these are uncomfortable.  Sometimes the Scouts even get mad. But, if done correctly they can challenge the Scout.

This is why, for good or bad, my son never ran for SPL or ASPL until recently, despite being in the troop for four years, being a Life Scout for two years, and being fairly respected by his peers.  Because of his soccer schedule, he would vanish for several months in the fall and several more in the spring and it just wouldn't have worked.  He did hold leadership positions back before the troop really followed the patrol method.  He did those jobs as well as he could, although some of them were really just titles, unfortunately.  

My son's schedule opened up a bit when he joined a new soccer club a year ago, and he has now decided to "self-relegate" from competitive travel soccer, and just play rec level and school ball instead.  Neither of those conflict with Scouts all that much.  He's been a strong patrol leader for the last year, and since he  knows that he'll be around more, he ran for ASPL last month.  In our troop, as I mentioned, that means he'll be ASPL for the second six months of this year, and SPL in the first six months of next year.  

I mentioned all of this to say that my son has been wise with the leadership roles he chose, not biting off more than he can chew given his schedule.  Despite this, our SM once raised his voice at my son when he learned he couldn't come on a hike because of a soccer tournament, saying that he had to skip soccer.  Thankfully I was there, shot the SM a look, and explained that it was an important tournament that my son couldn't miss.

Edited by SteveMM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, SteveMM said:

... He did those jobs as well as he could, although some of them were really just titles, unfortunately.  

That raises an interesting point.  

Some of the positions of "responsibility" really don't involve any responsibility on a practical level and are typically treated by scouts in most troops as mere formalities to get a check-off on their advancement record.

In my son's troop, that perfectly describes the roles of Historian, Order of the Arrow Representative, and Outdoor Ethics Guide.

Granted, some scouts in some troops someplace in America might have actually done something to fulfill those roles, but in our troop, I have never in the past 5 years seen anyone who held any of those 3 jobs actually take on any meaningful responsibility. 

Kind of unfair when you think about it.  The SPL works hard, attends the vast bulk of troop events, is constantly "on point", and he ends up getting the same amount of credit towards his next rank as the scout who was "Historian", never attended a single campout, and has rarely been seen in uniform at a meeting.

Guess that kind of mimics real life though. You have kids, buy them tons of Christmas presents, spend hours wrapping them all, and then some fat guy in a suit gets all the credit.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, mrkstvns said:

Kind of unfair when you think about it.  The SPL works hard, attends the vast bulk of troop events, is constantly "on point", and he ends up getting the same amount of credit towards his next rank as the scout who was "Historian", never attended a single campout, and has rarely been seen in uniform at a meeting.

We were having a discussion on the sidelines of a troop meeting recently about who *should* be an SPL or even ASPL, and who shouldn't.  I think those positions should be exclusively (if not by rule) Scouts who have attained Life rank and are at least 14 years old.  Our most recent outgoing SPL in our troop was a minor disaster.  He just now turned 14 at the end of his time as SPL, and is very immature for his age.  He got the position because no one was available to run against him.  None of the adults were happy about the situation, but couldn't do anything about it.  The SM basically had to hold his hand for six months.  The new SPL, who my son will be backing up as ASPL, might or might not be better.  We don't know yet.  Right now, and even worse so a year ago, we just didn't have enough "older" Scouts to lead the troop.  This is what we have right now:

  • We have two rising high school seniors.  One was SPL a year or two ago, and it didn't work out well.  He's just too goofy to be taken seriously.  The only one has his Eagle and is a good kid, but is only interested in going on campouts and not leading.
  • We only have one rising high school junior in the troop.  He's an exceptional scout and earned his Eagle very early, but has held the SPL position multiple times already and wants to act instead as sort of an elder adviser ... sort of a JASM without the rank.  
  • We have a handful of rising high school sophomores, but only two of them are active.  One has been SPL and is a very good Scout, but he doesn't really have a commanding presence.  The other one is my son, who until recently was tied up by soccer for portions of the year.
  • We have a good number of rising freshmen, but maybe one of them in my view is mature enough for SPL right now.  He was actually SPL last year and did a good job.  A different Scout from this age group is the one who is about to take over as SPL, and I'm a bit nervous about it.

The people in the discussion I mentioned earlier, which included our one high school junior, were thrilled to hear my son is finally able to step up to run for a higher position, because we were in desperate need of another older Scout who could take over.  He can also help out the new SPL, who may or may not be able to handle the job.  By the time my son rises to and finishes his time as SPL, the problem should be fixing itself because the age group behind him will be another year older and more mature. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×