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Do you need to know, before you can lead?

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Having just read about some of the changes about who can attend Wood Badge.

I'm left wondering if maybe we might have gone a little overboard with all this Leadership Training?

I'm really OK with having people trained in Leadership.

I think that the Eagle Scout Service Leadership Project is a wonderful way of having young people experience true leadership.


Leadership and Supervision are not the same thing.

For me leadership is about getting what needs to be done done.

While I think I'm still able to go into a class room and teach a class on English History, I know if asked to teach a class on music, the best I could do would be to supervise the class and try to avoid anyone from ending up in trouble.


I can and do see how a unskilled adult can tag along with a Patrol who knows what they are doing on a hike.

The adult can supervise the group and if need be prevent them from doing something stupid. (Axes in trees and that sort of thing.) But if the adult doesn't know how to read a map or use a compass. He or she isn't really leading all he or she is doing is supervising.

It's wonderful that we have people who can recognize all the good stuff about how teams come together. But we seem to have forgot that Performing is the final stage.

Performing to mean talks about getting the job done. If no one knows how to do it? All the leadership skills in the world just isn't going to help.


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Without knowledge and skills, the "leader" is just babysitting, whether we're talking about a Patrol Leader or an Assistant Scoutmaster.


The Eagle project concept gets it right - the Scout knows everything there is to know about the work to be done. He teaches, coordinates, supervises and manages, jumping in himself to do hands-on work wherever needed.


Putting a PL or ASM with no experience in charge of a group and telling them "Lead!" without sufficient oversight and skills mentoring would be like a district or council dealing out pre-determined Eagle "leadership projects" like a deck of cards.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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When I was a youth there was a level of respect for the guys with the beads. It implied somebody who had been there, done that, had the hat. All the leadership training in the world can't make up for experience and experience comes with bumps, bruises and scrapes. It feels like we're falling victim to the instant gratification lifestyle. Want WB Beads, no problem, step right up. Hey, you aren't actually working so you can spend all summer getting trained! Then what.

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Eamonn, a slight twist for you: Leadership is getting what needs to be done by someone that doesn't necessarily want to do it, Management is just getting what needs to be done, done...


With that said, there are many ways to accomplish the task, one is to work along side the individual, and that method, hopefully demonstrates that you have the skills, but not always required. Rolling up your sleeves and learning together can be an effective method as well.

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I use a different measurement of leadership that prerequistes any training in skills and/or knowledge with caring.


If a boy or adult doesn't care to begin with no amount of training is going to make any difference. Just having the beads is one thing, caring enough to put in the time and effort to improve oneself for the boys is something far different. Don't need beads for that.


One can go through college with a 4.0 GPA, but unless they care and have a passion for their subject they aren't going to be as successful as the student who has a 2.1 GPA, but eats, sleeps and hungers for the subject.


Give me an unskilled newbie that wants and cares enough to learn and he/she will be a great leader someday. Give me the best trained person in the world who doesn't care, and it goes nowhere.


A caring person who doesn't know something, will quickly learn it, a non-caring person will sit for hours in training and walk away with nothing.



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Ditto gwd. There has been much lamenting on these forums in the past about Scouters coming to the program without solid high adventure skills. We tend to base the view of the old days when SM's were our dad's who had served in the armed forces during WWII and Korea. They came by their skills out of necessity and survival more than a love of the outdoors. Many Boomers and beyond didn't have the experience our fathers did. Many people come to the program having never been a scout or an avid outdoorsman. But they can sure learn if they care and develop a passion and become very skilled practitioners and teachers.

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And there's the trick - learning, and having a vision of the anticipated outcome.

I believe that someone who is committed to learning as they go CAN lead without being the duty expert in all Scouting skills.


But the Leadership style does come into play it's almost impossible to do the "authoritarian" style w/o being the master of all skills you are going to come across. The "servant-leader" has plenty of opportunity to grow along with his charges in skill and it also gives opportunity for them to learn form his personal challenges and how he deals with them also.


So, IMHO, no you do not necessarily need to know before you can lead but you must be willing to grow.

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gwd-scouter: I'm not on the forum to seek agreement, everyone at one time or another disagrees and agrees with everyone else's postings. The only common thread that runs throughout every post posted is that there are a whole ton of people out there that care about their boys and basically that's the only score I keep. :)




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When I started this thread, I'd just read about the changes to WB.

Allowing Venturers to attend the course.

While maybe because he is now over 21 OJ (My son) is not the greatest example?


He has thanks, to having been a Boy Scout done a lot of things. Jamborees, OA Leadership courses, Staffed Summer Camp. He is an Eagle Scout.

But he can't read a map, can't tie even the most basic of knots. Really doesn't like to hike. (Will drive around a parking lot six times to get the spot near the door!) Has no interest in wildlife.

Somehow he has managed to get by hiding behind people who can do and will do what needs done.

Given the choice of having a newbie who was never a Scout and an Eagle Scout who knows next to nothing? I'd go with the newbie every time.

I agree that people who want to learn can most times learn.

But these guys who have got to where they are, not knowing and hiding seem to be embarrassed to admit that they just can't do what is needed.

In time we will all see Wood Badge beads as a sign that someone has been taught Leadership.

It is going to take a very long time for me to look at a 19 year old wearing his beads and think of him as a leader.

Of course with my advancing years, I know I'm fast becoming an old stick in the mud.


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  • 2 weeks later...



That's the purpose of training, to teach the "how" to people who want to know. IMHO, true leadership cannot be taught. Being able to provide "leadership" requires, as a prerequisite, having a vision and a belief in what you are doing as well as a desire to pass along your knowledge. But being able to "do" doesn't always equate to being able to "lead".


Does Wood Badge teach Leadership? I don't know, the course I've signed up for isn't until this coming spring. I'm hoping it will give me the knowledge I need to lead, because there are some in our Troop who would see me as SM but I don't feel prepared to do it. I know enough to know I don't have enough information to lead. Yet.


As for your statement "...getting the job done. If no one knows how to do it? All the leadership skills in the world just isn't going to help." That's what ASM's are for :-)

Delegate! A necessary leadership skill.



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I worked with an ol-timer on Wood Badge once who has been involved with WB since the 60s. He said back then WB was designed to train District and Council leaders to work with Scoutmasters. There were a few SMs in those courses, but that wasn't the intent. The idea back was that the Council and District would take responsibility for making sure the Scoutmasters had the skills to teach scouting skills and leadership.


That was fine with me, the problem came when Wood Badge started teaching everyone. The course that was indirectly designed for Scoutmasters had turned into course for everyone. And it really had switched from a skills development course into an example of how a troop should look. That didn't work very well and here we are now with a course to teach everyone (Cubs and Venture included) team development.


Personally I like the new WB course for the management of units, I think it has saved a lot of units in this day and age of big committees. But it is not a good course for teaching adults how to lead scouts. I find it ironic that we again need a course just for Scoutmasters.


The pit we seem to have fallen in is that leadership development is the Scoutmaster's job. But we don't really teach them how to do it and now rely on District or Council to do the job for us. Or did, now even the Council course is more focused on team development than individual leadership. Even if you have a good natural leader in the group, he still isn't getting the skills.


It doesn't surprise me at all that Eagles today don't really have a full grasp of basic leadership skills that a patrol could survive in the woods by themselves. Still, I wonder if we could even turn it around. We found here that the best new Scoutmasters are the adults who were scouts as a youth. They know the skills and have a general expectation of the program. But, we are getting fewer of those adults leading anymore and taking in adults who have to start from scratch.


So I don't really know where to go with training. I think the scouts need a good scoutmaster to teach leadership but that is not really in the future. I approached council once to utilize the Commissioner Corp better by getting good experienced leaders to work side by side with new unit leaders. I was told that the corp. is not as much in focus with the big picture anymore, so they didn't really want to bother. This may be as good as it gets.




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