What kind of a leader are you?

37003n611jgi5t7With the renewed emphasis on leadership – something Scouting has always produced as a by-product of our program – we’re compelled to examine just what we mean by leadership.

It’s been said that leadership is all about getting results. That’s truly the bottom line, when you think about it. Without leadership, people and organizations would wander aimlessly and not get anything cohesive done.

But what are we trying to get done? Scouting is a multi-faceted program. Adults lead in many ways: as den and pack leaders, directing the program, and in a troop, leading other adults and guiding the youth leaders. However, our mission for the long haul is to train youth leaders to actually lead, and not follow adult direction or watch adults lead.

Leadership, though, is not monolithic. Anyone who has studied and practiced leadership knows there are many leadership styles. An excellent examination of the various types of leadership was written by Daniel Goleman for Harvard Business Review. Goleman offers six leadership styles, all of which are essential to effective leadership but with each having a specific purpose. In short, they are:

  • The pacesetting leader, who sets the agenda, gives specific directions and expects them to be followed.
  • The authoritative leader, who establishes the vision but trusts his team members to develop solutions.
  • The affiliative leader, who builds team spirit and encourages trust and relies on praise and nurturing.
  • The coaching leader, who advances individual strengths and encourages trying new things.
  • The coercive leader, who demands immediate compliance, as when directing in an emergency or when all else has failed.
  • The democratic leader, where it’s desirable to build a consensus and reach common agreement.

As you can imagine, each of these styles can be found within the framework of Scouting, used either by youth or adults, and for various purposes. For instance, a committee chair would need to be a democratic leader when leading the discussion at a committee meeting on fundraising projects, a Scoutmaster can be a coaching leader when working with the senior patrol leader, and a patrol leader can be an affiliative leader when leading the members of his patrol. See if you can think of some other ways each of these styles can be used in your own leadership or in training the youth you serve.

For more reading on this topic, see the article Six Leadership Styles and When You Should Use Them by Robyn Benincasa from Fast Company.


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