Who’s the Boss in Your Troop?



Last week I had a great time facilitating the Smarter, Strategic, and Sustainable Boy Scout Troops conference at the Philmont Training Center. (As an aside, you really owe it to yourself, your family, and the young people you serve to consider a trip to PTC next summer.)

Throughout our week together, we kept returning to the topic of the Scout-led troop, which of course should be the goal across Boy Scouting. Our discussions really crystallized when we visited camping headquarters for a behind-the-scenes tour of how Philmont’s backcountry program works. A third-year staffer who was working as a training ranger gave us a great explanation about how she and the eight rangers she supervises get crews started on their backcountry adventures. We then visited the radio room, where a staffer I assume was 18 or 19 years old handled all the radio traffic from Philmont’s 30-plus backcountry camps while an adult staffer talked with us about logistics.

After the tour, one of our participants pointed out that we had seen young adults providing real leadership while older adults mostly handled jobs related to health and safety. And that’s true across the ranch, from the PTC children’s programs to the backcountry camps to the dining halls.

So who’s the boss in your troop? Do the adults make the key decisions, like who will be senior patrol leader and where the troop will go camping? Or do they let the Scouts lead their own troop?

Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell once said, “To get first-class results from this system [the patrol method] you have to give the leader a real free-handed responsibility; if you only give partial responsibility you will only get partial results.”

What kind of results are you getting in your troop?


2 thoughts on “Who’s the Boss in Your Troop?

  1. When I was Scoutmaster, we cancelled a couple of campouts because the PLC (we call them Greenbar) didn’t get their stuff together in time. I was OK with that. Failures are a sign of real responsibility without the adults taking up the slack.

    Are your Scouts failing enough?

  2. Connie Knie

    Without knowing any details about the situation I can’t (and don’t want to) judge. So maybe allowing a campout to not happen was a good lesson.
    On the other hand, I have seen adults twist the words “Boy Led” so that they can set the scouts up for failure. Not at all saying that is what happened here.
    What I mean is, without the Adult Guided part of Boy Led, we have set them up for failure. And then roll their eyes with that I told you so expression. Then either step in and save the day or make the youth feel like failures……..

    Boy Led is only as successful as the adults administering it.

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