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Junior Leader Training -- White Stag Leadership Development

Unit of Training for Working Through Boy Leaders

From No. 6563 © 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 of boy leaders or who withholds responsibility from them, knowingly or unknowingly, resulting in poor program and leadership.

This discussion of coach/counselor with the Scoutmaster is the Teaching-Learning phase of our four-phase method of leader development.

Note: It should be understood that the discussion form given here is in no way intended to be a rigid mold. The coach/ counselor, to use this successfully, should first read the entire unit to see the direction the discussion should go. He should read the references given and be able to find key paragraphs with no hesitation. It is not expected that the learner will answer the questions as they have been given here--it is expected that the coach/counselor will need to rephrase the questions or ask additional questions until the Scoutmaster arrives at the understandings pointed to in the answers as stated here. The "answers" are goals, not gospel.


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

  • Give two major reasons why troops have boy leaders.
  • Explain the relationship between authority and responsibility.
  • Describe the Scoutmaster's two roles in dealing with boy leaders.
  • Tell how a Scoutmaster influences troop and patrol program while working through boy leaders.
  • Tell how he expects to operate in such a way that boy leaders will have both authority and responsibility for running their troop and will grow personally through leadership experience.


Scoutmaster's Handbook, No. 6504
Cornerstone Guide, No. 6533
Patrol and Troop Leadership Handbook, No. 6502


Paper and pen or pencil

Why Troops Have Boy Leaders

Success in working through boy leaders is mainly a matter of attitudes, not special knowledge or skill. Probe for negative attitudes that can block success. Try to reinforce positive feelings or give new insights that will help the Scoutmaster work through his boy leaders to achieve Scouting's purposes.

Question: Why do troops have boy leaders?

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

Question: What two things, in general, should troop program do?

Answer: Fulfill Scouting's aims and satisfy troop members.

Question: How can you be sure of fulfilling Scouting's aims through program?

Answer: By seeing that Scouting methods are followed in planning and carrying out the program.

Question: How can you be sure that the program will satisfy the desires and needs of troop members?

Answer: Allow it to be developed by the troop leaders and carried out by troop leaders--under the guidance of the Scoutmaster.

Question: About the second reason troops have boy leaders--helping Scouts to grow through leadership experience--how does this happen? How do you help this happen?

Answer: Elected or appointed leaders are given--and accept--both the authority and responsibility of the position. The Scoutmaster and/or boy leaders help them learn their jobs and the leadership skills needed. The Scoutmaster observes and encourages personal growth, coaching and counseling as needed when this cannot be done by other boy leaders.Ask the Scoutmaster to turn to pages 163-65 of the Scoutmaster's Handbook or pages 16-17, Cornerstone Guide. Ask him to pick the troop diagram closest to his in size or structure. Now ask him to make a similar diagram of his own troop, putting in the actual names of Scouts serving in leadership positions, as: Tom Boone, SPL; Jack Hamlin, JASM; and so on.Ask the Scoutmaster to read the paragraph atthe bottom of page 164 and the top of 166, Scoutmaster's Handbook.

Question: Would you feel that your troop organization is about right now, for its size?

Question: Which boy leader would you say is the weakest link in the troop structure? What seems to be his problem? How could you help him? Is there anyone else who could help? Are you giving him the attention needed? Are you encouraged at his progress?

Question: Who is the most able of your boy leaders? Could he help the other boy? Would this work? Which one would you coach?

Question: Could you say that you sometimes operate as described in that last sentence at the top of page 166? Do you ever do jobs that could be done by boy leaders?NOTE: In the above questions, the idea is to lead the Scoutmaster to think that perhaps he could expect his boy leaders to help each other in becoming effective. If he were to coach leaders to coach leaders, his own efforts would go farther. Isn't it part of the growth process for boys to learn to do this? Is it one of the jobs he's doing that should be done by boy leaders?The Scoutmaster may feel that his boy leaders are too inexperienced or not serious enough to handle their jobs--that he is justified in taking over their duties. He may be right--up to the point of taking over. Maybe he finds it is less work to do things himself or allow them to go undone. Try to get him to see, though, that this shortchanges the boys and that matters aren't likely to get better. As B-11put it, partial responsibility means partial results.

Why Scoutmasters Work Through Boy Leaders

The discussion should now lead the Scoutmaster to feel that he can and should give both authority and responsibility to the boy leaders, helping them meet the demands of the whole job through coaching and counseling.

Question: What is the most important boy leadership position?

Answer: The senior patrol leader.NOTE: Check the chart of the troop--if the senior patrol leader is not the Scout identified as the ablest boy leader, there could be a real problem here. Does the Scoutmaster feel that he has the "right" senior patrol leader? Has he really made an effort to support the troop's choice of its top leader through all-out coaching and counseling? Or is there the feeling that the Scoutmaster should be able to pick his own "right-hand man" as in the past?Action See the Scoutmaster's Handbook, pages 166-68, on the senior patrol 1 leader. Find out if the qualifications for the senior patrol leader had indeed been established by the troop leaders' council. Does the boy meet the qualifications? Ask the learner to read the paragraphs on pages 167-68 to the heading "Appointed Boy Leaders." Ask if he has questions about the ideas given there. Try to help him find answers to these because if he has good relationships with the senior patrol leader, he can't go far wrong in dealing with the other leaders. The senior patrol leader has the responsibility for coaching and guiding the patrol leaders and his own staff --if the Scout master succeeds with him, his efforts are multiplied and the boy gets needed experience. This should be brought out--it may motivate.

Boy Leaders Carry Out Troop Program

The discussion now touches on the first reason for having boy leaders in the troop actually develop and carry out troop program.

Question: How is your troop program decided?

Answer: The troop leaders' council, under the leadership of the senior patrol leader, with the Scoutmaster present, draws up a general program plan for the year at the annual program planning conference. The senior patrol leader and Scoutmaster do some "homework" in preparing the agenda and collecting program ideas along with a calendar of established dates. They use the materials and procedures in the Scout Program Helps. Program is cleared by the troop committee and the parents.At monthly meetings of the troop leaders' council, plans are firmed, assignments set, and evaluations of previous performance ensure improved operations. Small changes in plans and evaluations are made at after-troop meeting or other quick meetings of the troop leaders' council.

NOTE: If this answer isn't forthcoming, refer to both the Patrol and Troop Leadership Handbook, pages 88-98, and the Scoutmaster's Handbook, pages 101-6, to show what the boy leaders expect and what the Scoutmaster is expected to do about program.

Question: How do troop members make their program needs known?

Answer: They forward ideas through their patrol leaders to the troop leaders' council, but their ideas may also come out during their personal growth agreement conferences with the Scoutmaster or at other times.

Question: How do you, the Scoutmaster, influence program to be sure of meeting the aims or using the methods of Scouting?

Answer: Through suggestions to the senior patrol leader or to the troop leaders' council at its various meetings. During evaluations is the time to make sure that evaluation results in improved program or operations. The Scoutmaster can make suggestions--he just doesn't vote on them.

Question: Would you say it was more when or bow you influence program decisions or operations that makes the difference in working through boy leaders? Why?

Answer: if it can be done so as to preserve the authority and responsibility of the boy leaders, anytime is OK.

Boy Leaders Have A Growth Experience

In this final phase, the discussion turns to the second reason Scouting has for boy leaders in the troop--so Scouts can have a good growth experience in leadership positions.

Question: Alright--suppose you're very conscious of not cutting in on a boy leader's authority or responsibility--what else must he have to succeed in his leadership position?

Answer: Leadership skills.

Question: Have you read chapter 3 in the Scoutmaster’s Handbook? Or chapter 3 in Patrol and Troop Leadership Handbook?NOTE: Either "Yes" or "no" offer the learner one of the books for reference, whichever he's least familiar with.

Question: How should you, the Scoutmaster, help boys have good leadership experiences that will result in personal growth?


  1. Know and practice leadership skills; set a good example. Know and use Manager of Learning techniques. Counsel with boy leaders about problems. Set up the adult-troop leader outdoor skills session as soon as possible when new leaders are elected. See that learning opportunities are built in to most troop leaders' council monthly meetings. Coach leaders at every opportunity that will not break down the Scout's authority. Evaluate performance with boy leaders and promote the evaluative attitude in them. Study the characteristics and needs of each boy leader. Consciously use acceptable methods of controlling group performance. See that the boy understands the job he has undertaken-its authority, its responsibilities, relationships with others, and the resources open to him.
  2. Make use of boy leaders wherever possible to do any of the above!

NOTE: This last question will not produce these answers in these words or in this order. Reference to the book may only produce the same phrases the book uses--probe a little, get restatements hat may indicate insight. Of course, this list is not just the list of leadership skills--it may take some questions about items not listed in the book, especially the last one. It is the most important one.

Next Steps

If things have gone well through this Teaching-Learning experience, the Scoutmaster should be ready, willing, and able to apply his new attitudes and knowledge to his troop situation. Observation should confirm whether the learning has"taken."Evaluation with the Scoutmaster should bring this out. To go back to the purpose stated on the first page;"The Scoutmaster should be working in such a way-through the boy leaders--as to see that troop program is satisfying and attractive to boys and that boys are growing through their leadership experience."

Program development and evidence of growth in boy leaders both take considerable time to appear. However, if the Scoutmaster appears to be working through the boy leaders properly or in an improved way, the coach/counselor can feel that learning has taken place.