Leadership Selection Process

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Background: From the inception of the troop until recently, while we were organized in a Top Down Org Structure, our Troop would hold an election process in accordance to various the Scouting literatures. The scouts would hold elections for SPL and PLs.

Once we evolved into a Matrix Org Structure with scouts leading the matrix, the senior scouts realized that they needed to evolve the troop’s program to produce two results:

1) The troop’s program had to grow the scouts’ leadership skills and align leadership abilities with maturity for a steady stream of scout leaders year after year.

2) For the scouts to be able to lead the troop’s operations, the scouts required a certain level of leadership, communication, ethical decision making and team building skills.

To achieve these results and sustain a BLT model year after year, the senior scouts developed a system to align the scout’s maturity, advancement and leadership responsibilities so that over the years, there was a steady progression and growth in leadership. This growth process provided enough trained scout leaders to sustain the scout’s ablity to lead the troop.

Leadership Selection Process:

Note the word selection and not election. See paragraph at the bottom of the page if not having elections is contentious

Mid March – SPL, one or two of the most senior scouts, Charter Organization Representative, Committee Representative and Scoutmaster gather to review the troops roster and categorize (A, B, C, D, or E) the scouts according to their leadership skills and maturity.

Important - This is a closed door session. The notes, comments and discussions need to be honest, respectfully and are not repeated outside of that meeting. The candidate list is then held by the Scoutmaster and SPL for secure keeping.

Attached is a diagram of the BLT Ops Model showing the categories A, B, C, D and E which represent the levels of leadership and responsibility

End of March – SPL announces they are seeking next years leadership candidates, all scouts interested in a leadership position please see him or the SM. For the next two weeks, the scouts socialize and discuss their leadership desires. At the end of the two weeks, the SPL and SM collect all the names.

Start of April – The SPL and SM compare the categorized list of scout leader candidates to the list of scouts asking for leadership positions.

Mid April – The SPL and SM work with the scouts align the scouts so that there is at least one qualified scout leader for each leadership position.

Start of May – The scout leaders are then presented to the troop. If there happen to be more than one qualified scout for a leadership position, then an election takes place for that position.

Mid May – New scout leaders take over and experienced scouts provide mentoring and training. Our June outing is led by the new scout leadership.

Observations and Experiences:

  • The SPL and senior scouts know the scout’s behavior, who gets along with whom and accurately assess the level of leadership capability of the scouts.
  • The SPL and senior scouts involved in this process were very respectful of the sensitivity of the discussions concerning the younger scouts and did not take the conversations outside of the closed door meetings.
  • We expected we would be having elections every year. We were wrong. Our reality was that once we aligned the scout’s leadership capabilities, advancement and maturity levels, we had just enough scouts to fill the leadership positions.
  • Our experience was that a majority of the scouts requesting a position, requested a position that was the same as the A, B, C, D, E category assessed by the SPL and senior scouts. There were very few times when a scout was asking for responsibility beyond his capabilities.
  • We saw two types of leaders emerge. Operational leaders wanted to be out front running the troop, category C and D. Mentoring leaders wanted to be behind the scenes hands on with various scouts, category E.
  • While there were several scouts who were qualified for the SPL position, we received only one candidate per year requesting to be SPL. When we asked the scouts why, they responded that they had other competing priorities and they wanted to balance their time evenly throughout the year.
  • We learned that the SPL is a position where desire and wanting to lead is more important than having the most qualified leader in the position.

2 Key Perspectives

1) This process was used as a training opportunity for the older scouts. As SM, I would brainstorm with the scouts what is considered leadership qualities, how to evaluate skills and discuss examples for when they are going to be in this situation in their futures. Most importantly, we would discuss the magnitude of responsibility and how their decision making would define the operational success for the Troop in the upcoming year. I would tell the scouts that their success was based 50% upon how they led and 50% upon how well they set next year’s scout leadership up for success. Upon hearing this, there was a change in the senior scouts in that they realized just how important their role was for the troop’s future.

2) Once the leadership team is announced in May, you may have several scouts come forward and say they wanted a leadership position. It may be said that these scouts asked for positions and were not contacted. In most of these situations, the motivation comes from two agendas:

a) The scout does not like, respect or thinks they can do better than the person who is announced as the leader – When this situation occurs, we use this as an opportunity to train on accountability, responsibility and team work. This type of motivation is very strong because it is fear based. Fear of the appointed leader falling short. Use this fear to teach the concerned scout to volunteer to be part of the leadership team as an assistant. By working as a team, they will mentor and learn from one another. In these situations, it is important for the adult advisor to monitor the situation. When working with parent’s of the scouts, I have found that they are very understanding of the situation if you describe it as it is. The fact that this process has been on-going for several months, involving many people and many discussions with the adult leaders who are responsible for the troop is enough for everyone to realize the true motives. In these situations, I do not condone nor do I reward the scout coming forward at the last minute the lead position. I point out to them that they are bypassing the process which is no different than cutting in line at the supermarket checkout. I follow this by stating if they truly wanted to lead, they had several months to voice their desire. Our experience has been that the concerned scouts choose the assistant position and over the course of the year, the scouts learn from one another and develop into a functioning leadership team.

b) The scout sees the action going on and wants to be involved – To be prepared for this situation we recommend that you publicly announce the leadership selection process several times, in several ways in March, April and May. Following our example, we have a monthly newsletter about the troop. In that newsletter the SPL or SM would write a paragraph or two about the process and status. Each time solicit and direct people to contact the SPL and SM if they are interested in leadership. At the same time, at least once a month, send out an email to the troop providing a status update. Also provide updates at the committee or PLC meetings. If you have a troop web site, post information on the site. Finally, make frequent announcements at the end of the troop meetings when parents are there to pick up the scouts. You may be surprised, but after doing all of this communicating, you will still have scouts and parents approach you with “I did not know.”

Words of Advice:

As a former Scoutmaster, I can not emphasize enough how critical it to align the scout’s maturity and leadership responsibilities to advancement so that the troop’s program is producing a steady flow of qualified scout leaders. This provides the troop the ability to sustain BLT year after year. The next critical factor is accountability. By evolving this process in your troop, the accountability for learning and practicing leadership falls directly on the shoulders of the scouts and their parents.

Selection versus Election

To set the proper context, the BLT model is a "leadership system". Hence, the selection process outlined above provides a consistent process for the requirements to be known, boy/scouts to consistently work year after year to achieve and grow their leadership skills and for leadership growth to occur so that the scout and the troop knows the scout is ready/qualified for that position.

The selection process above was challenged by some who wanted elections. This debate went as far as committee meetings where some committee members took this as far as the right to vote.

The challenge for Troops pursing BLT is that the boys/scouts need to have a certain level of leadership, communication, ethical decision making and team building skills for the boys/scouts to be successful in their position. The Troop has to have enough qualified scouts to fill the required positions. My challenge to the senior scouts and adult leaders of the Troop is to mentor, train and grow the scout's leadership skills so that there is a surplus of leaders for each leadership position.

The solution is to ensure that you have enough qualified scouts to fill each leadership position to sustain BLT. With a surplus, the Troop can now have elections for the leadership positions that have a surplus.

Debating Selection / Election

When I became Scoutmaster of the troop, my predecessors provided perspective about elections. The past scout behavior was the scouts voted on popularity, not necessarily leadership qualifications which put the Troop's operations in a precarious position. To correct this issue, the system was implemented. The systematic approach set consistent accountability in place year after year.

While debating, there were some who would focus on the principle of voting and debate from a right to vote principle. Understanding the passion and political energy associated with this position, the risk is that the debate will loose focus from what is needed to operate and sustain operations of a BLT. Therefore, we resolved this debate by stating that when there was a position that had more than one qualified boy/scout, an election would occur for that position.

I would like to share with you an email from one of our committee members, Mr Martin Baker, who gave permission for his email to be posted. I believe he was able to best communicate and summarize to the committee the key points and why the selection approach is needed and built into the leadership system to sustain BLT.

Dear Committee Members, Scoutmasters and other interested parties:

I am one of the Committee Members who agreed with the idea that the Scoutmaster should select the SPL. I support this position after seriously considering the merits of a vote. My reasons are:

1. Our troop is very large and requires a very strong SPL to successfully operate as a “Scout Lead Troop”. Any short comings of this selection will place a significant and unfair burden on the scoutmaster(s) who already have an enormous responsibility and workload.

2. As ____ points out - “This is not to say that apathy, favoritism, or confusion would not play a part in this or any other election.“ Well that happens then if it does? Sounds to me that such an outcome would considerably detract from the scout experience – much more so then the “disappointment” of not having an election.

3. I think selection will have the effect of rewarding the scout that has shown outstanding scout spirit, leadership and commitment. The scouts will just as easily recognize that the new SPL was selected for this prestigious position because they are outstanding scouts not just the “popular guy”.

4. We don’t elect our Army generals, Chief Executive Officers, most judges, etc. Just politicians. Why – because these positions require qualifications that can’t be assured with an election. An SPL is such a position.

While acknowledging the many virtues of an election, in my mind the practical and real world issues of running a large Troop make selecting an SPL the correct choice.

Yours in scouting, Martin Baker

Alternate Method:

Another approach used by another Troop is to have scouts apply for the leadership positions as if they were jobs. The leadership positions have the role and responsibility defined. The scouts then put together their scouting resume and apply for the job. They are interviewed and the leader is selected.

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