What Scout Leaders Can Learn From the Presidential Election



Dispiriting. Disgusting. Disillusioning. Distressing. Deplorable. Despicable. The dictionary is full of words to describe the 2016 presidential election in the United States. One thing Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and independents can probably all agree on is that November 9–the day after the election–can’t get here fast enough.

But in the midst of all the mudslinging and misstatements, both major-party candidates have been doing something positive that Scout leaders can learn from. Like their predecessors going back decades, they have formed transition teams to begin thinking about next steps should they be elected. This is a longstanding process, one that has become ever more important as the world has gotten more complicated. And it’s something every major-party campaign does, despite how every losing candidate complains about the front-runner prematurely “measuring the drapes” at the White House. (Let me go out on a limb here and say that the decor at the White House is probably not high on any new president’s agenda.)

Typically, members of a candidate’s transition team work behind the scenes. Rather than spending time on the campaign trail or the Sunday talk shows, they spend time behind closed doors, doing the work required so that the new president can hit the ground running come Inauguration Day.

So what can we as Scout leaders learn from the presidential transition process? Scout units go through (usual) peaceful transfers of power whenever a Scoutmaster steps down or when a new chartered organization takes over a unit. And long-range planning should be happening all the time if the troop wants to grow larger or tackle its first high-adventure trip or do something else that will cause it to stretch. (I talk a lot about long-range planning in volume 2 of the Troop Leader Guidebook, which I hope you have a copy of.)

The best people to think about these long-term issues are not the people who are worried about short-term challenges, like finding enough drivers for next weekend’s campout. Instead of asking the usual suspects to take on one more project, you should create a task force of less-active leaders, parents, and Scouts to do the work. They’ll be more effective, your already-over-committed volunteers will be less stressed out, and your unit will be better prepared for a better future.


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