What to do when younger Scouts resent Troop's 'bossy' junior leaders

A Scouter asked how new Scouts—who were used to being led by adults as Cub Scouts and now complain about older Scouts’ authoritarian leadership—can be helped to accept boy leadership in the troop.

All Scouts need to learn how to accept leadership as well as how to lead. If the boy leaders are “bossing” the new Scouts, they are not leading properly. Leadership should be by example, not by bossing.

In the Scoutmaster’s Junior Leader Training Kit (BSA No. 34306), one of the leadership styles discussed is the “Big Boss” type in which the leader makes all the decisions and tells everyone what to do. Nobody likes that.

The key to having new Scouts accept boy leadership is to train both new and older Scouts in the skills of proper leadership as explained in the Junior Leader Training Kit.

Scoutmaster B.T.
Woods Cross, Utah

These boys should not have been led solely by adults in Cub Scouting but also by den chiefs, which would have made them more accustomed to responding to the direction of older boys. Scouts serving as den chiefs not only establish the concept of boy leadership but also create a friendly environment for Webelos Scouts crossing over into the troop.

The older boy leaders in the troop direct the new Scouts through their role as patrol leaders. The new Scouts can also learn to accept boy leadership by participating in the election of their own patrol leader and assistant.

Sometimes older Scouts do tend to boss younger boys. This problem should be addressed by adult leaders. It is the Scoutmaster’s job to teach leadership to bossy older Scouts.

Manlius, N.Y.

Leadership in a troop is not about bossing someone around. It’s about instructing, guiding, and encouraging younger Scouts.

Boys are selected for leadership because they are good examples of what a Scout should be. But if they are bullies, they won’t last long as leaders, and there should be adults around to serve as a check on their power.

It won’t be long before the new Boy Scouts become leaders themselves, in an unbroken chain of teaching and learning that has gone on since Scouting was founded. Also, there is no better way of showing that you know something than by teaching it, and there is a great feeling of accomplishment in that.

Finally, in our careers and as adults, we often learn from those only a little older and a little more experienced than ourselves, so we might as well get used to it.

Commissioner D.A.O.
Wantagh, N.Y.

This sounds like the perfect situation for a new-Scout patrol. You might have each boy in the new-Scout patrol serve as temporary patrol leader for a camp-out or other event. With guidance by the troop guide, an older Scout who works well with younger boys, the new Scouts will have a better grasp of the work and planning necessary for an event.

After encountering a taste of leadership, the new Scouts may decide that the older boys are not bossing them around but are trying to make sure that the younger Scouts have the tools and training for an enjoyable and memorable Scouting experience.

W.J.R. Jr.
Riverton, Ill.

Editor’s note: For more on the new-Scout patrol system, see “A Year With a New-Scout Patrol” in the May-June 2004 issue of Scouting, or in the archive of past issues at www.scoutingmagazine.org.

Web Exclusive Responses

The following responses do not appear in the print edition …

I would take the new Scouts aside for a private meeting with the Scoutmaster and senior patrol leader. They should explain that the troop is run by the boys themselves and that boy leaders in the troop and patrol will tell them what to do. I would encourage questions by the new Scouts.

Try to direct the discussion toward how this works during Scouting events and the need for this to work to have a successful troop.

Placentia, Calif.

First, you need to understand whether the problem is bossing or an overly sensitive Scout. If the problem is a boy’s sensitivity, he should be counseled by a boy leader who is able to explain how the program can benefit him.

If there really is an element of bossiness, it is time to renew the junior leader training program so that each boy leader understands his job and the need to be sensitive to the younger boys’ need not to be bullied. It will help if the new Scouts have had good den chiefs in Cub Scouting and Webelos Scouting.

Victorville, Calif.

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