Chapter 5 - Developing Staff Leadership

While the overt focus of our leadership development efforts are the participants in the week-long summer camp program, in reality the greatest growth occurs among the staff. This is because they not only prepare to present the competencies to others but experience continued opportunities to put the leadership competencies to work in their ongoing lives.

Identifying Youth for Staff Leadership

Most of the youth staff will work directly with a patrol, either as a Patrol Leader (PL) in Patrol Member Development, or as a Patrol Counselor (PC) in the two older phases. As the role of PL has been well documented elsewhere1, this section describes the role of the PC.

The influence of the youth counselor upon individual learners cannot be overemphasized. For this reason alone, the adult staff must take great care as they select and develop the talents of the youth staff. The youth staff are the models that course members will learn from. The power of this association is immensely important. These youth staff are key staff members.

The Role of the Patrol Counselor

You must seek individuals as Patrol Counselors with a variety of characteristics:

The counselor is a resource to the patrol. He helps the leader and the patrol members in any way short of making their decisions about anything. It is a passive role, very difficult for some young people to play, as he serves the patrol. He helps each patrol grow into what it can best become. He must be willing to allow the patrol he advises to fail so that they might succeed.

The Patrol Counselor may, in a delicate balancing act, retain some authority over the patrol, but this is usually only exercised in critical situations affecting the health and safety of patrol members.

The Tasks of a Patrol Counselor

The Boy Scouts of America adapted the White Stag program's leadership competencies and have used them since the early 1970s in their youth Junior Leader Training and adult Wood Badge programs.

Near the end of the first pilot of the National BSA experimental leadership development course for junior leaders in 1968, the staff of young men who were pioneering the methods now used in the Scouting's National Troop Leadership Training Conference program got into a deep discussion that lasted into the night. From them came a summary statement2 on the tasks of the patrol counselor that has not really been topped.

The Patrol Counselor's job is to:

Knowing Your Patrol Members

Most people who are highly successful in their chosen field are not the ones who have an inborn aptitude for their business, but they are people who were persistent at their work and mastered it. They came to enjoy their work more than wanting to play; they enjoy their work so much because it is play. They are outstanding because they are motivated by the sheer thrill of accomplishment.

It is their attitude, not their aptitude, that makes them leaders in their field. Aptitude is often wasted; attitude expresses itself irresistibly.

We cannot alter a candidate's inborn aptitude, but we can contribute toward shaping his attitude by inspiring, motivating, and influencing his desire to grow. We can also encourage the more effective use of his natural aptitudes. This is our opportunity for achievement! We have one week in which to give the candidate some direction on the path to self-fulfillment.

Getting Acquainted with Patrol Members

You can only be successful with people in so far as you understand them and see their point of view. This comes from knowing something about their background, such as the adversities and challenges they have overcome and their attitudes toward these situations.

Helping the staff form into a cohesive patrol who can plan and put on a successful summer program (or manage any project) is an essential part of the staff development process. Helping them understand each other and, later, the program participants, enables them to build group identify more quickly.

When you know an individual's strengths and weaknesses, you know where he needs help and where you can best supervise, build, coach, train and encourage.

The only way you can really understand a person is by asking him questions about himself. This doesn't require great skill or above-average intelligence, but it does require reasonable judgment, a sincere interest in people, and a capacity to put another person at ease and gain their confidence. You need to learn to ask the right questions, to seek critical information, and to logically interpret what you learn.

You can serve individuals more effectively as a manager of learning when you discretely, sensitively gather information about the following 12 areas in someone's life.

Family Life

Psychological research has shown the overwhelming negative impact on the lives of delinquents and criminals caused by ruptured homes, alcoholism or family conflict. A person's entire future--whether he challenges the laws and lives for his own selfish interests, or lives a constructive, positive life--are often set by such family experiences.

What kind of people are his father and mother? When asked, does he talk easily and pridefully about them, or reluctantly, if at all? How many brothers and sisters does he have? How close in age are they. Do they get along? What kind of a neighborhood does he live in? What kind of a school does he attend?


Does he tend toward being positive or negative? Does he think the world owes his something or is he more interested in an opportunity to prove by his efforts an ability to assume responsibility?


Is he ambitious to get himself ahead? Is he willing to make personal sacrifices to back up his dreams with hard work? Is he aggressive and resourceful? Does he take the initiative and apply himself once committed to an undertaking?


Does he stick to a job until it's done? Is he erratic and changeable or does he show persistence in the things he tackles?


Does he show self control? Can he manage money well? Is the self centered or neglectful of others for whom he is responsible? Can he make sound decisions? Does he thing logically and intuitively or respond emotionally, "shooting from the hip?" Can he see his own weaknesses, admit them and then improve? Is he pleasure minded? Can he face adversity and make sacrifices to get results?


Does he have an outgoing personality? Does he have the confidence of his associates? Is he mechanically inclined? Is he musical, artistic, or good in history, math or English? What is his general intellectual ability?

In summary, no single area of a person's life provides adequate information for making a total assessment of his personality but data from the above eight areas will reveal a pattern of basic behavior and provide a critical understanding of his abilities and needs.

The counselor's effectiveness and success is manifested in his ability to quietly and unobtrusively get this type of information, draw valid conclusions about the attitudes, motivations, stability, maturity and aptitudes of the patrol members, capitalizing on their strengths and building on their weaknesses.


It is possible to learn a great deal about a person from the interest he takes in learning and particularly by the motivation he shows in educating himself, inside and outside of formal schooling.

Many great men of the past had no college degree and some had very little formal education. This does not mean that they were uneducated. It means they educated themselves.

Anything which will help you get a feel for the candidate's attitude toward education, his motivation in pursuing it, and his steadfastness in obtaining it, will be valuable in understanding his as an individual.


A person's hobby reveals what he likes to do at the pace he sets for himself. If you can determine the amount of effort he devotes to his hobby, you will learn a treat deal about his temperament. If he shows a strong drive, great enthusiasm and a desire to excel, it's a good bet these characteristics will carry over into his or his other activities.

Social Life

Does he contribute time and effort to the organizations to which he belongs (school clubs, church, Scouting, etc.) or does he join only to gain personal advantage?

A person's ability to get along in groups and to take responsibility, his capacity for leadership and teamwork are quickly revealed in this area.


Does he have a part-time job? Doing what? How did he get the job? What dos he do with the money? If you know how a person handles his money, you know a lot about his basic personality, temperament, and character. If he buys what he wants when he wants is and obligates himself beyond his income, he is probably lacking in self-control, judgment and foresight.

Mental and Physical Health

A person's attitude often contributes if not controls their health as well as his ability to do many things. Serious attitude problems--self-doubt, criticism, complaining--may leave some people with a lack of concern for others. He may often be unable to get along with others.

Religious Faith

Knowing what church someone belongs to is not as important as knowing how he puts his faith into practice. Does he attend church regularly? Does he participate in his church youth groups? Does he attend Seminary or Sunday School? Does he believe in a higher power and show by his humble behavior that he just might not have all the answers?

If he's not a regular church attendee, how does he observe his spiritual beliefs? What is his attitude towards faith, religion, and a higher power?

Information of this nature reveals a candidate's belief in something bigger than himself, his willingness to serve others, to contribute time and effort to a worthwhile cause, and his sense of values and his controlling ideals.

In short, when you take the time to ask personal questions, people appreciate your interest. Understanding them better, you can help the group grow and achieve results more effectively.

There are other skills a leader may possess that also help the group grow together. These include leading songs and games.

Leading Songs

Singing can set the entire tone for the camp and its members. You can whip a group into a state of tremendous enthusiasm and introduce an atmosphere of quiet retrospection by effectively using music.

Singing has always been a medium for emotional expression, and by the same token has greatly influenced the course of human events. High morale and good feeling are essential to the success of any camping operation.

Singing began when people began. We sing for fun, we sing because the song fits the mood, or we influence the mood by the song. Singing can be a tremendous force by which the counselor can influence the attitude and temperament of his patrol. Songs of fellowship enrich the enjoyment of being with new friends; some songs heighten religious, spiritual or patriotic fervor; inspirational songs open a world more beautiful and satisfying.

Wes Klusmann, who was one of America's greatest and most distinguished campfire directors, and a man who had the delightful knack of inspiring his audience to spontaneous song, pointed out that one need not be an expert to lead singing. His tips are as follows:

Leading Games

Games are very effective as learning tools. Sometimes they are an excellent way to help members get acquainted. They can be a fun way to teach, review, or practice skills. They strengthen the feeling of teamwork and fair play.

Games contribute to mental, emotional, and social growth. They provide opportunities to develop leadership, fellowship, initiative, self-expression, sportsmanship, citizenship, teamwork, and positive feelings toward others.

They are a means to change pace during a long activity and allow individuals to "blow off steam." And sometimes they are just pure fun.

The spontaneity with which a group can be enlisted in a game or a song instead of waiting idly does much to keep a group's morale high. The Patrol Cunselor who anticipates such a need and has alternate possibilities available will be pleased with the results. The game may by a low organization, quiet game, like "Cahoots," or a boisterous, active game, like "Crab Soccer," depending on circumstances.

Many games can be created with just a little thought. They can help you teach a skill, reinforce a point taught earlier, or to utilize a common interest in the group.

Simple games requiring little or no equipment and very minimum rules ought to by accumulated in the repertoire of every leader.

Selecting Games

There are several factors you can consider when selecting games.

Participants' Age Level

Since candidates' age levels vary from 11 to 16 and older, their ability to play certain kinds of games varies widely. Be aware of the attention spans and other characteristics of the varoius age levels. Choose games the compensate for individuals' lack of ability in one area with opportunities to apply different skills in another.


Choose games relevant to the outdoor, woodsy setting typical of the summer camp program. Plan games that take advantage of the terrain and the physical resources available to the group.

Group Size

Select games that are appropriate to the number of participants. Playing Capture the Flag is not nearly as much fun with a single patrol as it is with an entire troop--even two troops. On the other hand, Steal the Bacon with more than a patrol is too unwieldy.


Games can be active or quiet, simple or complex. Quiet games are usually more suitable for developing individual's thinking abilities, while active games help burn off energy. Simple games are quickly learned and easy to play, while complex games with more rules take more time to pick up on and require a higher degree of organization.


Select games in which the activity is relevant to learning leadership. Steal the Bacon, mentioned above, is fun, but how does it relate to leadership? Capture the Flag, previosly mentioned, can require an advanced degree of leadership, and in fact has been used within the program for that very pupose. On the other hand, Steal the Bacon is not relevant t most leadership situations.

Teaching Games

Copyright © 1981— , Brian Phelps. All rights reserved. Short portions may be excerpted for review and quotes. For copyright purposes, only introductory portions of this book are available online. Order the newest edition today.