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Junior Leader Training -- White Stag Leadership Development

Unit of Training for the Senior Patrol Leader

From No. 6568 © 1972, Boy Scouts of America

[Thanks to Lew Gardner for providing this article.]


For coaching or counseling with the Scoutmaster who tends to bypass the authority or withholds responsibility from his senior patrol leader, knowingly or unknowingly, or who has not adequately prepared the senior patrol leader for the job.

This discussion between the coach/counselor and the Scoutmaster is the teaching-learning phase of our four-step method of leader development. No formal guided discovery is outlined here—the coach/counselor may recognize a need in the Scoutmaster for this session, the unit commissioner may detect a weakness in this area, or the Scoutmaster may realize his operation lacks something. The application of learning will occur in the future, of course, with still later evaluation between coach/counselor and Scoutmaster.

Note: The discussion form given here is not intended to be a rigid thing. The coach/counselor should first read the whole unit to see what the ideas are and the direction the conversation should lead. Check out the references. It is not expected that the learner will answer the questions as they are stated here. It is expected that the coach/counselor will want to rephrase questions or ask additional ones until the Scoutmaster arrives at desired understandings. The "answers" are goals only.


As a result of this unit of training the Scoutmaster should be able to:

  • Give two reasons why troops have boy leaders.
  • Describe the roles, responsibilities, relationships, and resources of a senior patrol leader.
  • State the troop leaders' council qualifications.
  • Explain how the senior patrol leader is chosen and give three or more results of this method of choosing the top boy leader.
  • Explain the relationship between authority and responsibility. Describe his own roles, responsibilities, relationships, and resources in dealing with the senior patrol leader.
  • Evaluate his own attitudes toward the senior patrol leader's role, responsibilities, relationships, and personality.
  • Tell how he expects to work with and through the senior patrol leader in such a way as to ensure that troop program happens and that the senior patrol leader grows through his leadership experience.


Scoutmaster’s Handbook, No. 6504
Patrol and Troop Leadership Handbook, No. 6502

Why Troops Have Boy Leaders

Success in working through boy leaders is mainly a matter of attitude, rather than special knowledge or skill. Try to detect negative feelings that could block success. Try to reinforce good insights or develop new ones that will help the Scoutmaster to work though the senior patrol leader.

Question: Why do troops have boy leaders?

Answer: To run the troop (carry out troop program) and to help boys to grow through leadership experience.

Question: How does leadership experience help a boy grow?

Answer: Boy leaders are given authority and responsibility for some function in the troop. The Scoutmaster and/or boy leaders help them learn their jobs and the needed leadership skills. The Scoutmaster observes and encourages personal growth, coaching and counseling the leader, as needed, when this cannot be done by other boy leaders.

The Top Boy Leader

The senior patrol leader is the top boy leader in the troop, elected to that office by the entire troop membership from candidates declared eligible by the troop leaders' council. He has the most authority and responsibility of any boy in the troop. The Scoutmaster must concentrate on coaching and counseling this boy to success—but the greatest threat to that success is probably the Scoutmaster himself.

Question: Who is the top boy leader in the troop?

Answer: The senior patrol leader.

Question: Who is your senior patrol leader? (If you don't know).

NOTE:Use the boy's name from here on, unless you are talking about the office of senior patrol leader in general. This may center the Scoutmaster's thinking on the individual boy and his particular problems or relationships—after all, this is the person the Scoutmaster must relate to and work with. Personalities may be important.

Question:fs How was this boy chosen as senior patrol leader?

Answer: He was elected by the troop from among the eligible candidates.

Question: Who determined the qualifications?

Answer: The troop leaders' council.

Turn to pages 166-67,Scoutmaster’s Handbook. Discuss the suggested qualifications. See if the Scoutmaster feels they apply to his troop. If not, evaluate differences for suitability to the spirit of the suggestions. Show that these can change as the troop situation changes.

Question: If the senior patrol leader is elected by the troop membership, could you suggest three important results?

Answer: The troop is committed to its top boy leader by a majority vote; the senior patrol leader feels committed to the job by a majority of the troop; and the Scoutmaster is committed to doing his best to help the troop's choice succeed. The boy has nearly everything for success going for him.

Question: What two things must a boy leader have to do the job and have a growth experience in the job?

Answer: Authority and responsibility.

NOTE: You may have to work hard to get to this point. It may be the very thing that is giving the Scoutmaster troubles.

Question: What authority does the senior patrol leader have?

Answer: He was elected to the top job in the troop by a majority of the troop members. His responsibilities include being the Scoutmaster's right-hand man, presiding over the troop leaders' council, choosing a staff, running all troop events, and assigning duties and responsibilities to other leaders. He has authority.

Question: So the authority and the responsibility are intertwined?


Question: How could a senior patrol leader lose his authority?

Answer: By not exercising it; by not performing to expectations; by shirking it.

Question: How about the Scoutmaster cutting in on it?

Answer: How do you mean—cutting in on it?

Question: What happens when the Scoutmaster takes over every time it looks as if the senior patrol leader is in trouble?

Answer: He whittles down the troop's confidence in their choice—he chops down the senior patrol leader's confidence in himself.

Question: So whenever the Scoutmaster takes on the boy's responsibilities himself, he takes over the senior patrol leader's authority as well?

Answer: Exactly.

NOTE: The conversation may not run as outlined, but the Scoutmaster should become aware of these principles and dangers.

Ask the Scoutmaster to read aloud the last paragraph on page 167 of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook, which begins, "Perhaps the greatest obstacle ........" Find out if there's anything there the Scoutmaster finds hard to live with.

Leadership Skills

To be successful, the senior patrol leader must exercise the skills of leadership effectively. If he has been a patrol leader, he may have had leadership development, but he probably needs additional study as well as application of the skills. The Scoutmaster will probably need to coach him in the more difficult task of leading a large number of boys through their patrol leaders and in managing a staff of support leaders.

Question: Suppose you are very conscious of not cutting in on the senior patrol leader's authority or responsibility—what else will he need in order to do the job and to grow in the experience?

Answer: Leadership skills.

Question: Are you familiar with the statements of leadership skills in chapter 3 of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook or chapter 3 of Patrol and Troop Leadership Handbook?

NOTE:"Yes"or"No."Offer the learner one of the books for reference. They do not explain the skills in exactly the same way—there may be differences of interpretation between Scoutmaster and senior patrol leader.

Question: Do you feel your senior patrol leader has a good grasp of the skills outlined here? Does he practice them?

Question: Do you see differences between the way he practiced them as a patrol leader and the way he does as senior patrol leader? Does he see the differences between the two jobs? Has he "shifted gears" to tackle the more difficult job?

Question: Does the senior patrol leader handle the troop leaders' council as well as he did a patrol? Does he handle his support staff as well? If he doesn't, does he need more coaching in the leadership skills that would help him do this?

NOTE:Pursue this line of questioning only long enough to get the idea across that because the boy had leadership development once—in another job—that this will suffice. The Scoutmaster must remain on the job as manager of learning, coach, counselor, and resource for the boy in his new job.

Question: How can you help the senior patrol leader have a good leadership experience resulting in personal growth?


  1. Know and practice leadership skills consistently; set the example.
  2. Know and use Manager of Learning techniques with the senior patrol leader.
  3. Counsel with him as needed.
  4. Coach him in leadership skills in which he is weak.
  5. Help the boy evaluate his own performance in realistic terms.
  6. Study his characteristics and needs.
  7. See that he is clear about the job he has—-its authority, responsibilities, his relationships with others, and the resources open to him.
  8. Be his best resource.

Next Steps

If things have gone well through this Teaching-Learning experience, the Scoutmaster should be able to apply his new attitudes to his dealings with his senior patrol leader. Observation should confirm whether this happens. Evaluation with the Scoutmaster should bear this out. He should be "working in such a way—-with and through the senior patrol leader—as to ensure that troop program happens and that the senior patrol leader grows through his leadership experience."

Program improvement and evidence of growth in a senior patrol leader will take some time to become evident. However, if the Scoutmaster appears to be working with and through the boy leader in an improved way, the coach/counselor can feel that learning has taken place.