Nine Leadership Skills
Leading makes use of many skills. We are going to take up nine of them here. These nine skills are presented in leadership courses you may take as a patrol or troop leader.
These nine skills are most important. Many of them intertwine. Some cannot be used alone. If you can improve your skill in each of the nine, you'll improve your effectiveness as a leader.
With each skill, we'll follow this pattern:
Communications [Getting and Giving Information]
A patrol leader sent two Scouts on an errand from camp. Rusty and Bruce did fine until they came to a stream.
"Hey, where ya goin'?"
"He said turn left."
"He did not. He said turn right here."
"No, that was back there. By the clearing. He said when we get to the stream, we turn left."
"No he didn't. But go ahead, wise guy. I'll see you there."
So Rusty turned right and Bruce turned left. They were soon out of sight of each other. Bruce followed directions and reached their destination in a few minutes. When he arrived there, he found no Rusty. Half an hour later, still no Rusty. Bruce finally raced down the trail back to camp, got help, and they began searching. It took 2 hours to find Rusty. He had taken the wrong turn at the stream, soon lost the trail, and couldn't get back.
Why did this happen? Here are some possibilities. Which do you think was the problem:
Now let's consider each of these statements.
Whatever happened, we need look at the results.
Information wasn't given and received properly. The job didn't get done (and the search for Rusty prevented some other jobs from getting done). Besides, the confused information began to affect the way members of the group felt about each other. This kind of thing threatens the group morale and effectiveness.
How could this misunderstanding of one word have been prevented? Check any of the following that would have helped if the patrol leader had done them:
You probably checked all of them. And you're right. Any one of them might have prevented the misunderstanding. Notice that leaders both give and get information. Communication happens both ways. How can you apply these ideas in your leadership tasks? Easy.
To improve your skills in getting information, follow these rules:
To improve your skills in giving information, there is a similar set of guidelines:
From time to time you can check yourself to see whether you are improving in the skill of getting and giving information. Ask yourself these questions:
Most of the members of the Owl Patrol were new Scouts. Harry, the patrol leader, thought the Scouts should be trained to pitch tents just before their first campout. He picked Phil to run the demonstration because he was aggressive and, always seemed sure of himself.
Much to Harry's surprise, Phil's tent-pitching demonstration was a bust. It was pretty clear to all that Phil didn't know which part of the tent to fasten down and which part to put up in the air. But Bob, another patrol member, helped Phil out and soon had it going right. Then Bob helped the others set up their tents.
Later on, Harry learned that Bob had done a lot of weekend camping with his family and knew a lot about tents. But why had he picked Phil to do the demonstration?
Harry probably thought that Phil, being as confident as he was, could handle it. It never occurred to him that Phil didn't know anything about tents. And because Bob was quieter, it didn't enter Harry's mind that he had some skills.
Harry didn't learn about Bob's knowledge and skill as a camper until it was almost too late. How could he have avoided embarrassing Phil in front of the patrol?
As patrol leader, Harry needed to know what resources were available to him. A resource is a thing you can use. A book, a tool, a piece of wood, or a handful of sand may be a resource. People can also be resources, because:
Every member of every group is some kind of resource. Not everyone has something to give to every job, but each member of a group should be encouraged to add what he can.
From our example, it is clear that Harry needed to learn the resources of each of the members of his patrol. How might he have done this? Here are four ways:
However you find the resources in your group, make notes of them in your notebook or keep a card file of personal resources. Don't trust your memory.
Find out these things and keep a record.
It may be that you will sometimes find ways to strengthen other Scouts by helping them learn to do things they have had little chance to do. You may give them experiences doing things they may have been afraid to do. In such ways your resource knowledge works to benefit each Scout.
From time to time, check over your resource file and ask yourself whether you're keeping it updated. Has your patrol program improved through your use of the information recorded on each boy's card? Are you helping him to grow? Has knowing these resources made you a better leader?
A leader must know the resources of his group. He can never know too many. Every time there is a job, some of these resources should be used. Which ones? The ones that will:
Setting the Example
A den chief came to a den meeting without his uniform. A week later, two of the Cub Scouts appeared out of uniform.
"Why?" demanded the Den Mother.
"Bill didn't wear his last week."
Bill never said to any of the Cub Scouts, "It's OK if you don't wear your uniform sometimes." But that was the message that came through. His good example of coming in uniform broke down only once. That was enough for a couple of his group.
Which is stronger, good or bad example? We can't always be sure. Setting a good example will often not work all by itself. But if you exchange it for a bad example, you may get immediate action (of the wrong kind).
Alan was elected senior patrol leader. He took his new job very seriously. If there was ever any horseplay, he stayed out of it. He felt he had to in order not to set a bad example.
On one camping trip the patrol leaders got some horseplay going after "Taps," and Alan joined in. Everybody had a ball.
The next day, every one of the patrols got completely out of hand. The Scoutmaster finally had to step in and settle everyone down. Then he and Alan had a talk.
"That's the first time I've done anything like that since I was elected," Alan complained.
"What effect do you think it had?" asked the Scoutmaster.
"I don't know. There's been a little trouble before, but never like this. They always knew I wouldn't put up with it."
"Always until when?"
"Until... well, until last night. I guess I showed 'em a little fooling around is OK."
Thus, Alan learned to keep a good example going. Even if it seemed not to do much good. Because a bad example would almost certainly make things worse.
People learn from models and examples. I show you my square knot. I untie it and tie it slowly while you watch. Then you try to tie a knot like mine.
We use models in teaching because they work. Models let people know what we want. Models say, "Here, do it like this."
People are models themselves. A girl models a dress for a customer.
The message is, "If you'll buy this dress, you'll be as beautiful as me."
A leader is a model whether he wants to be or not. He doesn't have to tell the group to follow his example. In fact, he can even tell them not to follow his example, but they will.
"What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say," said Emerson.
Setting an example is more than staying out of trouble. It is an important element in leadership. It is showing the way. It is an active process that raises standards and goals. It is a great deal more than just avoiding the wrong things. Setting an example means doing the right things, and knowing why.
As a leader, you are observed by others at all times. Other Scouts are watching you and learning to do what you do. Are you proud of what they see? How can you set a good example?
Follow instructions. There's at least one right way to do everything.
There may be a dozen wrong ways to do each. Don't expect others to-do things right if you don't.
Try harder. If you'll settle for last place, so will the group. Get up earlier and run faster than anybody. They can't follow you if you're not out ahead.
Take the initiative. Shakespeare wrote, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Don't wait for leadership to be thrust upon you. Find out what has to happen and make it happen.
Act mature. If you act like a half-wit, you'll be a good model for those trying to win the half-wit badge. That's not what your group needs. You'll get a lot more respect by acting mature than by being a silly kid.
Know your job. Never quit trying to do a better job. Know your group and its resources. Pick up new skills and improve on old ones. You can't learn too much about leadership (But it's very easy to learn too little).
Make a special effort to conduct yourself at home; school, and during Scout activities so that you will be pleased when others follow your example. How you act includes what you say and do and how you dress. It includes your attitudes and how you relate to others.
As you work at improving your example as a leader, you should take stock from time to time. What new area can you develop? How is your conduct in meetings of the troop and the troop leaders' council? What kinds of attitudes are others "catching" from you?
Representing the Group
At the troop leaders' council meeting, Charlie, the Fox Patrol leader, voted for the hike to Donner's Mill with great enthusiasm. He thought it would be a great hike. At a later troop meeting, the senior patrol leader announced the hike to Dormer's Mill and there was a loud groan from the Foxes. The Scoutmaster and senior patrol leader were quite surprised, since Charlie had been so enthusiastic.
What made the Foxes react in that way? Did they have a better location in mind? Had they grown tired of Dormer's Mill for some reason? Most likely, they just wished they had been consulted. Charlie just hadn't represented them. He had spoken for himself, not his patrol.
In a pure democracy, everyone speaks for himself. No one is ever appointed to speak for anyone else. Thus, everyone has to be consulted before anything is done.
There aren't many pure democracies, because it is almost impossible to get very much done. The bigger the group, the less possible it becomes to have a pure democracy.
To overcome these problems, we have representative democracies. A Scout troop is an example of one. The patrol leaders are the representatives of the patrol. They speak for the members of their patrol.
Suppose you are a patrol member. The patrol is going to elect a leader. Three members of your patrol are candidates. You don't know which one to vote for.
Each candidate is asked to state what he understands about representing his patrol at the troop leaders' council. Which of the following boys would get your vote?
SAM: Look, man, if you elect me, you gotta trust me to do what's right. I know what you guys want. I won't let you down.
PAT: I don't agree with Sam. I don't think he knows what you want. I don't know either. But any time there's a question, we'll take a vote. Majority rules. I'll speak for the side with the most votes. Isn't that fair?
TIM: No, it's not fair. I think the leader should speak for everybody, not just the majority. If five of you vote for A and only two of you vote for B, I think the two should be heard too. If you elect me, I'll speak for everybody, whether we all agree or not.
You can vote the way you please, but...
You Can Count on This. You can't represent a group unless you know what they think. And you can't know what they think unless you ask them.
Here are some suggestions for asking:
When You Represent the Group. Make sure you get all the information, opinions, and ideas of your group before speaking for it. When You Represent the Group. Make sure you get all the information, opinions, and ideas of your group before speaking for it.
Have you been elected patrol leader? How can you best represent your patrol at the troop leaders' council and the council to your patrol?
Some possibilities are:
As you practice the skills noted above, you need to evaluate your progress. Are you giving every patrol member a chance to express his opinion? Do you report opinions different from your own? Do you present the opinions of others fairly or slant them to your own opinions?
Do you recall the last time a skill was demonstrated at a troop meeting? How did it go? Who did it? Do you think you could do as well? Better? Quite a bit better? There you go - evaluating. And it's all based on your personal values.
"Boy, I wish I was as good a patrol leader as Pete."
"Look at those Foxes. The Owls can do a lot better than that."
"We made a few mistakes this time, but watch out for us at the next camporee!"
The easiest evaluation for a leader is to trust his own judgment. That's also the worst. What the leader thinks and what the group thinks are often far apart.
Years ago a survey was made of Scout camps. Camp leaders were asked how they thought the Scouts liked various camp activities. The Scouts were asked how they liked the same ones.
The results showed that the camp leaders weren't very good at guessing what the Scouts liked. For example, leaders rated religious services in camp as very low in popularity. Scouts rated them very high. Camp leaders rated big, mass activities as most popular among Scouts. But the Scouts said the things they liked best were the ones they did in small groups.
Everything your patrols and troop do should be evaluated. But not by you alone; let the Scouts who take part in them share their thoughts with you.
But you have to be sure you understand what they're telling you.
Here are some pointers that will help you understand the answers you get from the Scouts.
This type of question will get a simple answer: How many patrol meetings should there be every month?
On the other hand, this question will not get a simple answer: Why do you think your patrol should meet once a week?
Which of the following questions leaves the person the greatest freedom to tell how he feels?
(The first two questions above allow only one possible answer each, and they don't tell us why. You can say anything you want to answer the third.)
You may want to try some group evaluation in your patrol the next time you have an activity. Were all members present? If not, why? What did the patrol get done? Did they enjoy doing it? Will they do it again? How could the activity have been improved?
To check your ability in this skill, you must decide just how you are using evaluation to help you lead better. Do you listen to what is said? Do you make excuses for doing what you do?
A Scout troop recently made a bus tour of the Southeast. Most nights the troop camped in parks and campgrounds. The four patrols set up their camps in their usual fashion without difficulty.
One night the troop stayed in a motel. The Scoutmaster told the senior patrol leader that five boys would sleep in each of seven rooms. He then gave the SPL the task of assigning boys to rooms.
The SPL laid out seven pieces of paper and announced that Scouts should sign up for their rooms and select their own room leader.
Before the Scouts began moving into the rooms the Scoutmaster asked to see the room assignments. The SPL was very proud of what he had done and handed over the signup sheets. The Scoutmaster then discovered that two rooms had only five boys between them, and five boys had no place to sleep at all. Of course, the problem was quickly solved, but how did it come about in the first place? Poor planning!
Someone must have known in advance that staying in the motel would involve different arrangements than the usual patrol setup. You can't just pull into a motel and register 40 people in an instant. How could it have been handled better?
In this case the troop leaders' council should have done the planning, not just one person. The first task was to consider the situation: 35 boys in seven rooms, each room with a room leader. Next, the resources should have been reviewed: five beds in a room, four patrols of eight boys plus the SPL, assistant SPL, and quartermaster. (Do you see an obvious plan already?)
Planning is almost always faster and easier if you know what you're planning. More specifically, you have to know what you're trying to accomplish. So in considering the task, think about the outcomes. What do you want to happen? What will be the result? Will there be more than one desired result? If so, will they conflict?
As a plan develops, you need to consider alternates. (For instance, what would this troop have done if it turned out that some rooms held four and others six?) Have a Plan B ready in case something upsets your plan.
Finish your plan, make assignments, and write the plan down so everyone can understand it.
To plan anything, follow this course:
You can use these steps in planning just about anything: a hike, teaching a skill at a troop meeting, a window display, summer camp, a service project. After a while the six steps will come to you naturally.
Improve every time you plan by evaluating what you did last time. How can you do it better? Did you use all available resources? How do you know? Were all alternatives considered? Did everyone participate? Did they enjoy it? Were they satisfied with the outcome? Did everyone understand the plan?
George is a senior patrol leader. At a camporee, the troop was packing its gear, getting ready to leave. The equipment was spread out on the ground, and each of the five patrols was assembled around its equipment.
The senior patrol leader was barking out instructions: "Trail Chef Kit - first; the large pot." In turn, each patrol leader would shout to his patrol to come up with the large pot.
Seeing each patrol leader with the large pot in hand, George would bellow out the next order:
"Four aluminum plates in the bottom" Then each patrol leader would respond, the plates would be found and inserted, and the next command would follow. So it went through the folding of the tents and the storing of all equipment.
The task was finally completed, and everything was in its proper place. But long before the job was finished many of the Scouts were horsing around, learning nothing about camp housekeeping or, for that matter, responsibility.
In managing the job this way, George had the task under control but not the troop. He had lost sight of the people while he got the job done. How might he have done it?
At the troop leaders' council meeting he should have reminded the patrol leaders of the task of putting away equipment properly. When the time came to do it, he should have been casually observing the patrols as they went about it. Where it was being done quickly and well, he would comment on the good job being done and go on. If he found problems, he would offer to help, give the patrol leader a hand, or perhaps note how it might be done better. If he encountered disagreements about how to do it, he would resolve them.
So we see that control is not being a dictator. Rather, it is-using good sense and skill to get the job done and keep the group together. Briefly stated, control consists of:
Your next patrol or troop activity will give you a chance to try this system. How will you know how successful you were? Ask yourself these questions afterward.
Successful control gets the job done at the right time, at the right place, and in the right way. But more, it encourages the group to do better next time.
Last week the patrol of which Jim is the leader made plans for their part in the troop's 3-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 troop 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 a weak or 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 but is not the right approach for most situations.
As a leader, you can share tasks but never share 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:
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:
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 methods?
For a patrol hike, Mike had been made responsible for bringing the hamburger buns. He got them in plenty of time and put them in the freezer to keep them fresh for Saturday. When the patrol reached its destination on the big day, everybody began pulling out their part of the patrol's lunch. It wasn't until Mike reached for the hamburger buns that he remembered that they were still home in, the freezer! And there was just no way to get back or to get some substitutes.
At the time it wasn't a laughing matter, but by the next meeting of the troop, Mike and his patrol leader Tom were having a good laugh as they told the story to Carl, the senior patrol leader.
"What'd you learn from that?" Carl asked them.
"Not to forget the hamburger buns!" was Mike's instant reply.
"Sure," laughed Carl, "but is that all?" He seemed to be looking straight at Tom.
"Well, I guess it was my fault - I didn't check up on Mike. He agreed to bring the buns, and I let it go at that."
Carl pressed a little further. "How will you handle things like this another time?"
"Well, I guess I'd better keep a list of responsibilities and review them with those on the list before we get going," said Tom.
"OK, that's good," responded Carl. "Now how about you, Mike? What did you learn?"
"Well, I made a list of what I was to bring. But Saturday morning I didn't read it over carefully. And I should have checked off the items when I had them packed."
Thus, a simple matter of forgotten buns was made into a real learning experience. Let's review just what Carl did to bring this about.
First, he noticed that the two boys (and the whole patrol, for that matter) had had what can be called "a guided discovery." They had been in the middle of something and they knew about it firsthand.
Second, he had Tom and Mike review the experience and helped them to realize that they had learned something that could be applied to other situations. They hadn't learned that hamburgers need rolls but about how to get things done.
Third, he had them think about how they would apply what they had learned next time.
The final step would be to evaluate the learning. That could only happen next time. If Mike was more careful about reading his checklist or if Tom was more thorough about checking up on his patrol members, they would know that learning had really occurred.
We call this process "managing learning." In this case it was Carl who did the managing. He took advantage of a situation that had already happened. If he had ignored it or just had a good laugh about Mike's forgetfulness, there might have been little or no learning.
You can use this same method to help almost anybody learn almost anything. We'll take another example and see how you can use the method.
Suppose a camporee is coming up. There is to be a competitive event involving use of the map and compass. You think your patrol members are a little rusty on that. Here's how you might proceed.
Provide each member of the patrol with a compass and have each one orient a map and plot a course that you specify. Watch how they do. Some may do well. Others will get off to a bad start and fumble. Out of this, you will know just who needs to learn what. But equally important is that the learner "discovers" his shortcomings or unforgotten skills.
You or someone you share leadership with gives instructions and information about the map and compass task. Let them practice each step as you describe or demonstrate it. When you feel certain the learners know the skills, you allow them to progress to the next phase. Some learners may reach this step faster than others-that's just fine--let them progress at their own speed.
Have the learners do a series of problems with map and compass. If they are successful, they go on. If not, you take them back through some of the teaching-learning process until they can be successful.
This process occurs every step of the way, but it's important to review all four steps when you are through. As learners are called on to perform, you must decide whether they are performing acceptably. Have each learner express himself about what he thinks he has learned. Ask questions, such as:
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Last modified: August 20, 2012.