When I started as the committee chair of our troop, one of the things that went through my mind was how many things I’d need to be responsible for. I had a pretty good handle on advancement (or so I thought), matters of finance and the rules of safety and youth protection. But what about the outdoor program? Camping equipment? High adventure?
Sooner or later, I learned that I didn’t need to know every nuance and detail of those subjects, because we had other volunteers who had the know-how to take care of them. I relied on them for a basic understanding of their areas, and let them do what was needed without any interference.
A committee chair who views himself or herself as the ultimate expert on every aspect of troop operations is fooling himself and shortchanging those around him. As much as you think of yourself as a dedicated Scouter, you aren’t the best at everything. In fact, it’s very likely that right within your own troop you’ll find others who are better than you at something. You might have broad knowledge and a basic understanding of many things, but your committee and unit leaders are there to put their talents to work under your guidance – not to be dominated and told how to do their jobs.
Leadership blogger Dan Rockwell reminds us that while you may think you have a broad range of competencies, you probably don’t. Such leaders imagine themselves on a high white horse, but should instead be riding a small brown pony.
From the high horse, you intimidate others. Talented people want to contribute without being ruled over, so you shortchange your committee by squelching the talented contributions of others. Being down on a pony lets you collaborate rather than dominate, and you show respect for those around you.
How do you change your ways toward being less of a high-horse leader? Rockwell offers some thoughts:
- Check yourself. How well do you recognize the talent that others have? Think about those on your committee and what skills they possess. If you don’t know, find out what they like to do and how much they enjoy what they’re doing.
- Let them decide. By delegating decision-making power, you enable others to use their abilities unfettered. But be aware of their competence and performance, and be prepared to give guidance if they need it.
- Manage by walking around. It’s now a well-known concept in management – visiting people in their departments and workplaces just to get a feel for things. You can practice it by checking in with everyone from time to time – not just at committee meetings.
- Ask for feedback. It’s a valuable gift and can help guide your committee to higher performance.
- Be grateful. Thank people when they have triumphs large and small. Everyone wants to know they’re appreciated.
Climbing down off the high horse and allowing others to own their piece of the organization can reap benefits for everyone. It may seem less efficient, but by doing so you improve accountability, show respect and develop talent – and you might get an inside track on who your eventual replacement might be.
Image: wikihow /Creative Commons