Solving the Puzzle of Youth Leadership


Photo by chadou99 from FreeImages

One of the puzzles most Scoutmasters and other adult troop leaders must solve is how much leeway to give their youth leaders in making decisions. Should you keep them on a short leash? Or should you give them enough rope to hang themselves?

Of course, the right answer is somewhere in between. But where exactly is the sweet spot?

Here’s a story that may help you decide.

My nearly two-year-old grandson likes to work jigsaw puzzles, especially if they have buses, planes, and cars on them. He’s not all that proficient, however. For example, rather than match puzzle pieces by picture, he tends to match them by shape, which means he often gets a piece upside down.

What I’ve started doing is to hand him two pieces that go together and let him solve that small challenge. I’ll also take one piece out of a 25-piece puzzle that’s already put together and let him figure out how that piece goes in. As he gets better, we’ll progress to more pieces until he’s able to work a whole puzzle. Of course, along the way, I’ll suggesting things like starting with the edge pieces or leaving the background for last.

You should do something similar with your youth leaders, especially if they’re new to leadership. Give them small challenges to tackle, guide them along the way, and then gradually increase the difficulty level. They’ll progress without becoming frustrated and–perhaps more importantly–you’ll learn what level of challenge they’re ready for.

NOW AVAILABLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available from and on Kindle! Updated to reflect the inclusion of girls in Scouts BSA, the book features gender-neutral ceremonies, a new Scouting segment called “Scouting for Girls,” and downloadable boys’ and girls’ versions of all ceremony materials. Print versions will be available soon from Amazon and

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