Happy New Year, fellow Scouters! As we enter January, many troops will be holding their youth leader elections and embarking on another six months on the bumpy road to leadership development. Every troop has its own way of selecting candidates and conducting elections, and the Scoutmaster should consider helping the process along by encouraging the boys to elect patrol leaders and the Senior Patrol Leader from a pool of responsible candidates. It would be foolhardy (though not tragic) if the winning candidate was elected solely on the promise of pizza and chocolate cake at all campouts (though he might get my vote!). To responsibly lead a troop or patrol, the elected leader must be willing to serve and capable of discharging his duties. A SPL who has band or sports commitments that prevent him from attending campouts, or one who isn’t motivated to lead by serving others, won’t be a highly effective leader. While it’s not our job as adults to select worthwhile candidates, it’s our responsibility to make sure the boys understand they need to choose leaders who have the ability to lead and are willing to do so.
One way we can do this is to impress upon the boys the meaning of the term “position of responsibility”. The key word here is responsibility. In addition to being essential for troop function, it’s also important in the context of the POR requirement for the upper ranks. It’s not sufficient to hold a job for six months but not actually do anything. A scout can’t just be on the roster as an assistant senior patrol leader, or librarian, or historian, but never have responsibilities commensurate with the job. If you have a Bugler, he must actually play his bugle at troop meetings and campouts. If you have a Chaplain Aide, he needs to be leading (or encouraging others with) meal graces and campout Scout’s Own services regularly, or helping other scouts with their religious awards.
A savvy Scoutmaster will use the Position of Responsibility system to further the aims of Scouting within the troop and to help ensure that all boys have a hand in making the troop go. This can be done during Scoutmaster Conferences by explaining that the intent of PORs is not in holding a lofty title, or merely satisfying a requirement to be checked off later, but impressing upon the young leaders that the positions they will hold are in service to others and to the troop, and suggesting PORs that they might enjoy serving in.