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Lack of leadership for PL

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I have a new PL who has shown practically no leadership at all over the last two months, and I'm trying to figure out some way to get him to assert himself and be the leader he needs to be...


Some background: This boy is 14, a Star Scout, with a mother who is determined to make her boy an Eagle. ( Please note the term 'boy' as opposed to 'young man'. His behavior is more in line with an 11 yr old rather than a kid going into high school next year.) We've had discipline problems with him in the past, and in fact, had to take away his Den Chief position when he got into a fight with another scout in front of his Webelo charges. His behavior has improved, but he constantly has to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. This last weekend, our campout was called short due to rain, and he was one of the scouts that was not prepared with the correct equipment, i.e.. no socks, tennis shoes instead of boots, wet clothes, etc. Its almost like all the training he had up to Star was thrown out the window.


What I've done so far, is to review leadership responsibilities at our PLC meetings, encourage him to act on the situations he needs to act upon, have our SPL and ASPL help him out, and encourage my ASM's to help him along. We've had very little success.


I'm debating whether its appropriate to keep him as PL or not.


I'm thinking of having a sit down with him and his parents to explain the situation and encourage him to attend JLTC training in May ( but I'm not sure if I can hold out until then :-) ).


So I'm soliciting opinions from the forum for methods to motivate and encourage this boy. I'd appreciate your input...








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Are you the SM or ASM (I see your profile says ASM). Depending upon how your adult leadership is structured, it could effect how you should approach this.


As SM, I look at this type of situation as one that is clearly my responsibility to help with. First, I would make sure that my ASMs and I are in-synch on this. I wouldn't want to have this blow up in my face with the mom.


My first step would be to have a sit-down with the boy. This time would be with an ASM. I would explain to him clearly the expectations. Explain to him that he may have to be removed from office if he cannot fulfill these responsibilities.


Second, I would meet with the parents to find out what is going on with the son. Is he having similar problems in school? at home? What are some methods to better deal with him? Parents often have "tricks" that work on motivating their kids. If you can learn and use them, that's great. For instance, I have a boy that has problems with being told "no". He needs to understand the "why" as well. So, I try to take the time to explain to him the "why" behind the "no" whenever I can.


Removal from office may be your next step. But remember that the other tool you have is the "living by the scout oath and law" requirement. It's been discussed here often. I believe it's one of the SMs most powerful tools to use with disciplining a scout. The pressure of not "keeping up with his friends" will often outweigh his desire to act up.


I wish you luck. This story sounds very familiar to me. Let us know how it goes.

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Having a boy in Scouts who doesn't really want to be there for whatever reasons but is because his parents are deteremined that he make Eagle is a recipe for disaster. See if you can find out if that is the case. If so, you need to either convice his parents to back-off or convince the boy to step up. Good luck.

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Has the SM sit down with this scout and have regular SM Conference with him? This includes discussion of his behavior and how he can correct it (namely his advancement goals and why he is not accomplishing it!). Has the impact and consequence of not completing as his goals and requirements (namely serving his position as expected by the position and others requirements) been communicated and reinforced to him? Has the realization that Life and Eagle are not possible without fullfilling all requirements, one of which is leadership position? Has someone talked to him about his job description and trained him for it?


You indicated that you will encourage him to attend JLTC. That may mean that the young man has not been instructed. We have a young man who is 13 going on 11 as you indicated in our troop. He took on the job of Quartermaster. At first, the job was left unfilled. We worked with him by having many SM conference conversations and coaching sessions with him. We even consult with his parents to find out what make him ticks and ticks off. Eventually, he served his post well and earned his Star. He is still an 11 year, especially during his medicine crash time; however, he has taken on a lot more responsibility and taken them seriously. By the way, he also took shot at another scout. Our SPL rectified that situation.


Good luck,



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Thanks EagleinKY for reminding me to update my profile.


I am Scoutmaster now.


In response to other questions, no, he's had no training and I haven't sat down with him yet... that's what I'm going to do next...( with an ASM )...



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Hi All


Sounds to me like you are doing everything right. Maybe the expectations are too much for this one scout. Its easy to have average expectations that most scouts can meet. But not all scouts are average, which makes our job all the more interesting. The objective of the program is to find some kind of success experience to give him a positive stepping-stone toward his next opportunity.


I had a very wise SM once tell me that instead of trying to keep frustratingly push a scout toward the same objective, ask him how he thinks he is doing and just listen. One way or another, get him to brag about himself so you can see just where he views himself. Then you may have better information to plan the next step. You would be amazed how much you can learn. Take him for a walk on that next SM Conference and give it a try.


As for taking him off the responsibility, I have never had to encourage this of a scout who at least gave an effort. Now if the scout is performing badly because he doesnt want to be there, well then you have to teach him the nobility of getting out of a bad situation before he takes others with him.


I would suggest waiting a year for JLTC. JLTC is an advanced training course for senior scout responsibilities like SPL, ASPL and Quartermaster. If he is struggling with the basics of PL, he will be left in the dust by the material and bored to death for a week with a bunch of strangers who dont want to be held back by his attitude. I would give him a year to mature a little more and send a scout who has earned the experience.


Those are few things of the top of my head. One thing is for sure; this is a learning experience that will help you in the future. I dont know why learning has to be so painful sometimes, but it must be a God thing. One thing is for sure, you sound like the perfect person this scout needs right now. Maybe that is God thing too.


I love this scouting stuff.




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What did BP say, " train them, trust them, let them lead.".


You can not expect a boy to lead without our training. Imagine an adult situation. Your given a box by your boss and told to open it up and put it together. You have no idea what it is or how to put it together. SO you fail.


Your boss then says, you have failed at your task.


You have a boy who is new to the position as PL. You tell him to lead. He has no idea how to do that. So he fails.


You say, "I have a new PL who has shown practically no leadership at all over the last two months."


YOu are not born with leadership skills. YOu must be taught. When boys are unsuccessful, the first question is: Have I given him the tools and skills to succeed.


Once he has been taught and knows what to do, if he still does not show leadership, that is a different story.



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As so often happens in these forums I find myself agreeing with more than one poster.

Eagle Dad makes some very good points as does mich632.

Train them, Trust them, Let Lead, only works if we follow the formula as it is written.

A lot of what we do does come back to "Do My Best". Different Lads are good at different things and their best might not always live up to our expectations. You and the leadership team need to do everything that you can to catch this Lad doing things right and reward him for that.He may need a lot more support than any other PL in history, but that is what Scoutmasters are for!!

A meeting with him where he gets to set down his goals on paper might help this might work best after you have made sure that he has taken the Patrol Leaders Handbook home with him for a couple of weeks - A couple of "How are you coming along with it" might also help.

If the Lad was elected to become Patrol Leader, he would have to do something really terrible for me to even consider removing him. Scouts can learn just as much from making the wrong choice as they can from making the right one!!



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Hasn't been trained...


How many times has that been the cause of problems?!


Leadership isn't a natural skill; some pick up the principles easy, some struggle their whole lifes.


Get him trained and have a chat with him is a good start.


We have a new Scout patrol, my partners Son was selected as the Patrol Leader. He had problems with the patrol members resenting him as an outsider trying to lead and teach them. I had a chat with him, got him a copy of the Patrol Leaders Manual and had a chat with all thepatrol. Things are turning around-slowly!


But, on another thing!


"This last weekend, our campout was called short due to rain"




If it didn't rain on one of our campouts, we are amazed!


It's been said that if Troop 566 is present, rain will come!



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Aardvark, talking about rain, funny thing just happened last weekend, we had to punt late Saturday after we got pounded by hails and high winds. We checked back with our "in-town" contact and he informed us that the second wave with possible tornadic activities was coming our ways. That's when the adults overruled the SPL and hauled everyone and everything back. Our young SPL shined! He pulled all the boys together and packed up the camp in driving rain. Our scoutmasters were very impressed. This young man has great potentials!


Our first ever evacuation, but usually, we camp in rain, sleet, snow, or sun. Here in Texas, it can rain or sun at any given time!


(This message has been edited by OneHour)

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If he is so inept how did he get the position? We have had a few PL that were not up to task in the past few years. One was very book smart but unable to command respect on trips and at camp. The other was having emotional issues that bled into scouting. In the first case, having a guide or staff member work closly with the PL helped a lot, getting him to think as a leader and gain the confidence to lead. In the second case it took a lot of counseling with the scout and his parents just to get him through his term and when his term was done he was not re-elected.


Leadership positions can bring out the leader in the scouts. Some scouts take longer to be ready for those positions.


Patrol leaders that arent preforming just need more attention from the older scouts to guide them along. Removing a scout from a position should realy only be done if absolutly needed.

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Dug brings up several very good points. (Sorry for length)


First - how he came to be PL if he's so immature. Too often, I've witnessed PL elections and heard the guys discussing "whose turn it was" to be PL. We need to continually emphasize that they should elect the best available leader for the job. There are no term limits in BSA.


Second what position of responsibility did he use to earn Star? Was it the Den Chief job that he was removed from? SM has a definite say in which scouts are allowed to represent the troop in Den Chief jobs. If a scout has maturity problems, he should not be allowed to undertake this position. At the very least, its not fair to the Den Leader. Theres a detail in the position of responsibility (POR) process thats often missed: In order to get a job, a scout must either be elected to SPL or PL, or be appointed by the SPL (for one of the other staff jobs ASPL, QM, Historian etc.). The only jobs the SM has a direct voice in are Den Chief and Troop Guide. Of course, the SM can also assigned the scout to accomplish a project in order to meet the requirement for Star and Life (not Eagle). In short, a scout gets a job only by being elected or by appointment by SPL or SM. (Note that parents dont have a say. More on that later.) If a scout has serious issues, it will probably be hard for him to get elected and SPL/SM have the option to not select him as the best available for other jobs. We do not have a responsibility to make sure a scout gets a job just because he needs it for his next rank. He has to earn that job.


Third some scouts simply do take longer to be ready for these positions. A lot of factors come into it: maturity, confidence, knowledge, etc. The scout and other scouts usually know whos ready and whos not. Some have a lot of natural ability while others take more time to learn and grow. As part of their growth, we need to look for small ways to give them experience. Asst PL can be a great opportunity, if its done right. PL and Asst should work together to run the patrol. Asst should be ready to step up to the plate when PL misses a meeting or campout. It doesnt count for rank advancement, but its great experience. Patrol Quartermaster or Grubmaster can be a real growth experience, too. The scout gains experience and the other scouts see him in action. As Eagledad/Barry put it so well, find some kind of success experience to give him a positive stepping-stone toward his next opportunity.


(Related side story: We recently visited an Air National Guard fighter wing. The Vice-Wing Commander told us a wonderful story about earning your stripes in that tough environment. When he arrived at his first flying job out of pilot training all full of himself at being a new fighter pilot he was given the job as Squadron Snack Officer. No joke he was in charge of keeping their snack bar stocked with goodies and coffee while the more senior officers were developing F-16 tactics, overseeing maintenance, planning deployments, etc. It was a blow to his ego, but he realized that this was his first opportunity to show his skills in the most menial of tasks, so he made the most of it. Today the former Snack-O is helping lead his F-16 Wing back to Iraq for a second tour.)


Forth parents are all too frequently the root of problems here. While the boys may be content to grow at their own pace, parents who are in a rush to Eagle arent being fair to their sons or anyone else involved when they push them into a situation they arent ready for. We really want the boys to be successful in their attempts to fulfill a leadership role. When theyre pushed in before they are ready, Ive seen scouts come out of it with their confidence in shambles.



Finally after too much rambling Ill get to your request for methods to motivate and encourage this boy in his current job as PL.


#1. In the best interest of her son, encourage mom to calm down and let her son enjoy the program at his own pace.


#2. At the same time, look for ways to help him gain experience and enjoy small victories. Ive heard it said that, as leaders, all we can do is guarantee a program what will allow a scout the opportunity to make First Class. After that, its up to him. When hes ready


#3. I wouldnt recommend JLTC to solve this problem. He needs more training at the troop level first preferably from combination of adults and SPL. Use the PL Handbook as the basis of the training. Make expectations very clear and preferably in writing so he can put them in a notebook. (And so parents can have a copy.) Include some specific small steps that he can use to get started and so that his performance can be measured. Things like plan and lead a patrol activity separate from a troop meeting within the next month. If they dont already have it, include making a patrol flag, yell, etc. Be sure to include things that the scout must do himself where well-intentioned mom wont be able to help too much. If he is unwilling or unable to meet specific, reasonable expectations within the next couple of months, it may be time for another patrol leader election. Or the next thing you know, mom is going to be on your back about getting him his leadership position for Eagle


#4. Assign an older scout or adult to work closely with the scout as a coach/mentor. Someone who can watch carefully and quietly give him feedback and guidance on a continuing basis. Help him plan his first patrol meeting, then sit in the back or around the corner while he executes it. Work with him until he understands the importance of his job and how much the rest of his patrol and troop are counting on him. Give him specific ideas about how to take charge.


Good luck!


-mike f

(This message has been edited by Mike F)

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Thanks all for your comments - I have a plan of action now.


I'd been spoiled a bit by my own son being a patrol leader in his first year in scouts, and doing a decent job. I expected that this scout, with a couple of more years experience, would have a good idea of what needs to be done as a PL. I did spend time explaining what I expected out of my PL's, but perhaps I didn't communicate that very well.


I purchased the PL handbook and the Scoutmaster's Junior Leader Training kit. Instead of waiting a couple of months for JLTC training ( which some of you advised against with this scout ), I'm going to take on the training myself ( with an ASM ) and get this kid up to speed. At the same time, I'll be doing the same training with my other patrol leader ( and their assistants ), so I don't run into this problem again.


Thanks all for your input. I love this Scouting stuff!!!!!











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I too have encountered my share of new PLs (and even SPLs) who are, to put it mildly, not reincarnations of Audie Murphy. Before we throw in the towel, we need to provide them with an introduction to the tools they need to use (train them), encourage them and help build their confidence (trust them), and let them use the tools they've been given (let them lead). Importantly, they need to be able to do this in an environment in which well-intentioned mistakes are not punished, but seen and celebrated as evidence that the lad is doing something, even if it's wrong.


Troop-level JLT is absolutely critical, for all the Green Bars, even the ones who've been through it before. It's the first step toward building THIS leadership team to perform for the next six months, or however long your terms are. We issue either the PL or SPL handbook to the SPL, ASPL, Guide, and PLs -- their copies, they get to keep 'em -- we do this before JLT, and ask them to read as much of it as they can before coming to JLT. If the standard BSA TJLT curriculum doesn't cover what you want it to, or it's gotten a little "stale" for your unit, supplement it with your own material. We do, with lessons/discussions that get them into the SPL/PL handbooks. They don't memorize them, of course, but they have an idea what's inside, and where they can find it.


They're going to be rough around the edges, but you should see steady improvement as the months go by, with more confidence and fewer repeated mistakes.


All this assumes, of course, that the Green Bar Scout wants to be there, and is trying to put in a good effort. If he doesn't and/or isn't, no amount of training will make a difference. He may be the patrol "stuckee", under parental pressure (not always an entirely bad thing; some parents exert pressure for the wrong reason -- re-living their childhood vicariously through their kid -- but some exert pressure for the right reasons. Maybe we can start out by giving parents credit for knowing their son better than we do, then let 'em prove us wrong), immature, ran on an impulse not knowing how much work was involved, circumstances changed, or just in over his head.


Figure out which it is, and see if it's easily and quickly fixed. If so, great. If not, it's time to do something about it. Personally, I'll allow Scouts to make mistakes all day, until their mistakes begin to have a negative effect on the unit as a whole. And, I'm talking about retention, advancement, YP issues, etc., for the other Scouts in his patrol or in the Troop if he's SPL/ASPL. I'll repeat something I've said before: boy-led doesn't mean boy-led-into-the-ground. I'll engineer a change if it's obvious that's what's happening. If we start to tank as a unit, the DC and DE aren't calling my SPL, they're calling ME. I'd consider the same thing for a PL under the same circumstances. Every Scout in his patrol has a right to expect what they're promised in the front of the Handbook -- if they're not getting it because their PL is incompetent, change the PL.


I'll probably take shots over this, and I understand the argument that the Scouts should live with the choices they make. At the same time, we all know that there are recall provisions in most places -- remember Gray Davis and Arnold in CA?



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Here I sat reading you post agreeing with you and then I got to the end.

Unlike you I have never been in the military, where demotion might be acceptable. But to demote a Scout? How much damage can one Lad do in six months with the training and the support of the SM?


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