Leading makes use of many skills….

Sharing Leadership

Last week the patrol of which Jim is the leader made plans for their part in the troop’s three-day canoe trip. All nine members were present and all had a part in developing the plans. The overall plan had already been made by the patrol leaders’ council, so the patrol had to stay within that plan in making their own. By the time the patrol meeting broke up, every member had taken on some responsibility for the trip, either before it or during it.

A day or so before they left, Jim called each member to check on his progress. Everyone was all set except Bill. He was to act as tour navigator, but he hadn’t got the maps he needed. With Jim’s questioning, he admitted he hadn’t done much about trying to get them.

Jim then wanted to know how he planned to carry out his navigator duties if he had no maps. "Oh, I thought we’d just follow another patrol," Bill replied.

"How do you think our guys will like that?"

"Not so great I guess. What do you think I should do?" Bill sounded a little bit defeated.

"We still have a day and a half before the trip, why don’t you call the Scoutmaster and see if he has any maps. If he doesn’t, you can try Mr. Jones, who’s on the troop committee. I’m sure they’ll get the maps for you. Next time you have a job to do, let me know if you need help."

"OK, Jim, I’ll get ’em. Don’t worry."

Although Jim is the elected patrol leader, he chose to share his leadership in several ways in this situation. Did you notice how?

At the beginning, he allowed every member to take part in planning. He had to set the limits, because some things had already been decided, but within those limits, he let them plan.

Second, he had everyone share in the responsibility for a successful trip. Everyone had a job to do and, thereby, felt a part of the team.

As leader, Jim was smart enough to check on everyone. When he found Bill hadn’t done his job, he had two alternatives. He could have taken over and got the maps. Or he could persuade Bill to do his job. That was the course he chose. Do you think it was the right one?

There are two other ways in which Jim might have shared leadership. One would be the "iron hand" type where he would simply tell the patrol what was expected of them. This is the least desirable for the growth of the members and the group, but it is sometimes necessary with an we an inexperienced group or in the event of an emergency.

Another approach is for the leader to join the group as an equal and not play any leadership role at all. This is a good style for discussion and works really well when the group has all the skills to do the job.

As a leader, you can share tasks but never share final responsibility. If you assign John to cut the firewood, the task is his but the responsibility is yours. If John doesn’t have a pile of wood ready when it’s needed, you will not get off the hook by saying, "Well I gave that job to John, and it’s his fault that there’s no wood." If there is no wood, it’s your fault. Giving the job to someone doesn’t end your responsibility. It ends only when the job is done satisfactorily.

Good leadership — using several styles and approaches — will produce such results as these:

  • A spirit of cooperation
  • Teamwork
  • A feeling on the part of each member that he is needed and wanted.

With good leadership, members of the group will continue to grow in their development as individuals because they are made to feel that they are accountable for their actions.

In your next few opportunities to lead, try using some or all of the various styles of leadership. They refer to the extent of sharing of leadership with the group, and are listed in order from the least to the most sharing:

  • Directing
  • Coaching
  • Supporting
  • Delegating (including joining)

When you have given several of these a try, then ask yourself these questions. Do you use more than one comfortably? How do you really feel about sharing leadership with the group? Do you get better results with one or more methods? How does the patrol react to each style of leadership you use? Can you combine styles?

"Leading makes use of many skills…." is adapted from Patrol and Troop Leadership, the handbook on leadership development written for Patrol Leaders and published by the Boy Scouts of America in 1972.

Much of the original leadership development material contained in the Handbook, including the eleven skills of leadership, remain at the core of today’s leadership experience in Scouting. Patrol and Troop Leadership covered nine of the skills presented at the Council Junior Leader Training Conference and other leadership development programs in Scouting.

Knowing and Using the Resources of the Group
Setting the Example
Representing the Group
Controlling Group Performance
Sharing Leadership
Effective Teaching

  "Learning About Leadership" is adapted from Patrol and Troop Leadership, the handbook on leadership development written for Patrol Leaders and published by the Boy Scouts of America in 1972. It provides some excellent background and insight into the BSA’s approach to the subject of leadership.
  From 1990 to 1993, the Junior Leader Training Conference program received an intensive review. A new Junior Leader Training Conference Staff Guide was published in 1993. Comments on the 1995 Revisions takes a close-up look at the most recent changes published in the 1995 printing.
  The Troop Leader Development Staff Guide (1974) presented a short history of leadership development and how elements of the White Stag program were incorporated into the leadership development efforts of the BSA in The Historical Background of Leadership Development
  Since the first experimental leadership development courses at Schiff and Philmont in the 1960’s, the National Junior Leader Instructor Camp has set the standards for Junior Leader Training courses in councils across the country. A unique experience in leadership and learning, NJLIC leads the way by providing the most up-to-date training for those junior leaders selected to lead their local council courses.
  Conducting a Council Junior Leader Training Conference. Offered for the first time this year at Philmont, this program covers all aspects of conducting a successful Junior Leader Training Conference. It will be conducted during the Boy Scout Conferences, from June 22-26, 1997.

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Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1997
Last Modified: 9:37 PM on 4-19-97