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White Stag Leaders' Address to the to the National BSA Council

Development of Leadership in Boy Leaders of Boys

By Maurice Tripp, Monterey Bay Area Council, Salinas, California
Excerpted from a talk given before the 53rd Annual Meeting of the National Council, Boy Scouts Of America, New York, N.Y., May 23-24, 1963.

Many people are of the opinion that Boy Scouting experiences develop leadership ability in boys. It is probable that a major portion of our achievements in this respect are a result of chance, and it might be quite impossible to repeat for the benefit of the second boy what was effective for the first one, simply because it wasn't known what was influential or why. Too often our well-meaning unit leader is concerned only with keeping the young men busy and happy. There is a common fallacy that this is a measure of the unit's success.

This is not intended as a condemnation of what we are doing but is an observation that perhaps we might do better.

Leadership is not something that is taught on two or three Thursday evenings. It is not achieved on a weekend or during a whole week in camp. Leadership is a quality of conduct, attitude, and way of thinking and conducting one's self in relation to others that must be developed — it is true, to differing degrees in different boys — over a period of months and years.

There are wide differences in the efficiency with which troops and patrols operate, ranging from near perfection to complete chaos. It is often not possible to know critically why a given unit operates smoothly. Actually, the leaders may have developed a smooth operation by an intuitive, trial-and-error series of experiences. Unfortunately, they often are unable to understand their own skill, let alone being able to convey it to others or apply it to other circumstances.

What I am saying is that we are all pretty much agreed that leadership ability is a fine and desirable quality, and we are proud of Boy Scout experiences because they tend to develop leadership. So perhaps we ought to analyze what the functions of leadership are and plan specifically a program to develop competence in these functions instead of counting on chance. Can we expect an average unit leader to be intellectually cognizant of the functions of leadership and to know how to develop competence in his junior leaders?

Let us agree that we can define leadership as the quality of influencing the activity of others, and then we will examine the functions of a leader that make it possible for him to influence the activity of others. Then we will look briefly at how to help boys learn these functions.

If two or more people must work together, leadership is needed. The nature of our society demands more leadership skill every day. One man could build a canoe, but it requires a team of specialists under perceptive leadership to build a Mercury capsule capable of orbiting the earth twenty-two times. Many of us would even agree that there is a substantial amount of leadership skill required to assume the role of the head of a family, so let's get on with the problem of how to achieve leadership development.

Continued >>


Dr. R. Maurice Tripp was a long-time Scouter in the Monterey Bay Area Council. In 1962, Dr. Tripp chaired an advisory board of educators, psychologists, management specialists, and members of the Scout professional staff who were formed to study the White Stag program. Dr. Tripp was a research scientist and member of the National Council, BSA. This article was excerpted from a talk given by him at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the National Council, Boy Scouts Of America, New York, N.Y., May 23-24, 1963.