Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops

Training boy leaders is the Scoutmaster’s most important job, and that process has now been revised and updated in BSA’s new publication Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops.

ILST, as it’s known in the acronym-crazy world of Scouting, succeeds Troop Leadership Training after only a few years in use, and improves on it in a number of ways. TLT, as you recall, took us away from the step-by-step training course that was provided to us in Junior Leader Training.It replaced initiative games and discussions with a three-step “Be-Know-Do” philosophy based on the sections of the Scoutmaster Handbook on training the senior patrol leader, patrol leaders, and other youth leaders. The  attempt to map “Be-Know-Do” to the material contained in the three sections wasn’t quite successful, in that there were a lot of Knows in section one, a few Dos in section two, and so on. It took several readings through the guidebook to figure out exactly what it was that we were intended to do. A worthwhile improvement was the addition of the position description cards, which listed the job duties of each position on one side and afforded the Scout an opportunity to list his vision and plan on the backside.

ILST takes us back to a more structured program that will hopefully make things clearer for both the Scoutmaster and the Scouts being trained. Possibly realizing that boys do like games, they’ve brought back initiative and teambuilding activities as part of the program, and have even offered supplemental and alternate games so we can change it up from time to time. Of course, in Scouting it’s not a game without a purpose, so a guide to reflection is included to coach the Scoutmaster and others doing the training in how to have a discussion about what was learned and how it can be applied.

The course has also been reorganized. While most of the elements outlined in TLT are included in ILST, the sequence has been changed into a more logical arrangement – one that answers the new youth leader’s need to “give me what I need to know now.” Both old and new started with a fast-start for the senior patrol leader, but the path changes from there:

Module Troop Leadership Training Intro to Leadership Skills for Troops
One Introduction to Youth Leadership Troop Organization
Two How to Do Your Job (Be) Tools of the Trade
Three What Is Expected of Me? (Do) Leadership and Teamwork

It’s important to note that the discussion on servant leadership has been moved from the third segment to the first. This gives youth leaders exposure to the concept early on, so they can contemplate how best to be servant leaders as the rest of the material is presented.

Scoutmasters should download the new training syllabus and read through it well in advance so they can be prepared to conduct this training after the next troop elections.

The troop committee can support youth leadership training in the troop in several ways:

  • Support the Scoutmaster in running the course. Consult on the format of the course – a single session covering all segments, or separate segments on different days
  • Work with the Scoutmaster to set the date or dates for training – ideally, immediately following elections
  • Reserve a location for the training
  • Provide any needed training resources – leader handbooks, copies of handouts, notebooks, game equipment, Trained patches and position patches
  • Help with instruction as needed, especially if you have former Scoutmasters and assistants on the committee (though most instruction should eventually be done by experienced youth leaders)
  • Work in a support role during the training. Provide lunch and snacks if called for in your schedule
  • Committee members who work directly with Scouts in their positions of responsibility should be present during the first segment to introduce them to their new job and give them some “fast start” training
  • Recognize any committee members who take part at the next troop court of honor

The troop committee can also be instrumental in supporting training in general:

  • Encourage a culture of trained leadership in the troop. Ensure that all adults are trained for their positions.
  • Budget to cover the cost of troop-conducted training, position patches and Trained insignia, and handbooks for patrol leaders and the SPL.
  • Find a way to raise funds to cover some or all of the cost of advanced courses such as National Youth Leadership Training, Den Chief Training, National Leadership School, and National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience
  • Promote these advanced leadership courses to Scouts. Work with the Scoutmaster to identify potential candidates. During boards of review, suggest that boys attend advanced courses.
  • Talk to parents of Scouts about the troop’s training and the advanced courses and how they benefit the boys, and encourage them to arrange for their Scouts to attend advanced courses.

Keep in mind that the new course is called Introduction to Leadership Skills. It’s not meant to be a complete course that turns out fully-trained leaders at the conclusion. It recognizes that leadership skills training is an ongoing process, and that by completing this Introduction, your Scouts will be better positioned to continue development of their leadership skills.

How will you train your youth leaders to run their troop?


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