[September 25, 2017] I’m writing this after just returning from a three-day campout in a local state park with a Boy Scout troop. It is always easy to be optimistic after spending a few days with the boys and getting to understand how much they know (or don’t know) about leadership. I can honestly conclude that even the young scouts can understand the basics of good leadership.
The Boy Scout Handbook discusses “leadership” as a requirement in every merit badge and rank advancement. Describing the meaning however is not as well developed so I have discovered that the adult leaders must instill those leadership qualities and overall we do a pretty good job. Scouts, on the other hand, must have someone explain to them what leadership is about.
One of the quotes we use is a derivative of what U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said many decades ago.1 Our definition is not only of leadership but of good leadership. We tell them that good leadership is about getting someone to do something they would not ordinarily do because they want to do it.
I got a lot of strange looks from the younger scouts who had not heard this because it seems, to them, to be a contradiction in logic. We explain that leadership is about getting people to do things you want done. Good leadership means that a leader ensures that people do it because they want to do it; not because they were ordered to do it or somehow pressured into it.
“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” – Indra Nooyi, CEO Pepsi
The secret to getting people to follow you is found in the ability to get people to want to do it. In other words, the challenge for leaders is to help create the fire in the heart that is an internal motivation for a person to do something good for the group. Leaders motivate, they inspire, they push and they prod. Leaders do those things that help make people better and the ways to do it is endless … but it also must be effective.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that the young scout patrol leader, who was 15 years old, understood this and was looking for ways to motivate the younger scouts to “want” to fix meals, clean dishes, and pick-up trash. But this is what leadership is about and he told me that no one had ever explained that to him that way.
There is optimism for our youth. A weekend of camping out, cooking meals, sleeping under the stars, and hiking on nature trails made for a fine time for both the adults and scouts. There were very few complaints about the chores.
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- Dwight D. Eisenhower said “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”