Patrol Leadership

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Patrol Leader Training is not something that happens once a year at a course; it takes place at every Troop Meeting, at every C.O.H Meeting and also in those meetings when the Scouters and Patrol Leaders are planning future activities.

In the same way as no two scouts are alike, neither are their skills of leadership. Each Patrol Leader will do his job in a different way and in a different style. For this reason, there is no such thing as “success” or “failure”; with the right encouragement the standards can only improve. All will have some leadership potential and if this is encouraged and developed it can only improve. The standards to aim for are those which can be best achieved within the capabilities of the scouts and their leaders, using the resources that are available.

The patrol system[edit]

Scouting started by Robert Baden-Powell writing a book "Scouting for Boys" in 1907 that encouraged boys to get together in “little gangs” and try out the ideas published in the book. That is what a Patrol is - a little gang of friends.

As Scouting grew, the gangs grouped together under an adult advisor - the Troop Scouter, and later Groups, Districts, Regions, etc. grew to cope with the vast organisation that sprang up.

The patrol system works

  1. Members of the Patrol feel they belong - they have a place that is theirs and they feel welcome - there is a Patrol Spirit.
  2. It is an ideal way of organising and controlling people as the small numbers with one person in charge makes sure things are done correctly.
  3. It is an ideal way of educating people as the leader passes his knowledge on to those below him and later checks that they put it into practice.
  4. It provides an opportunity to train for leadership - everyone gets a turn.
  5. Everyone has a chance to have a say as it is a democracy setup.

The above 5 points are some of the reasons BP said we should work on the "Patrol System" in Scouts.

Think of your own Troop and Patrol and ask yourself the following questions: -

  • Are you given the chance to be the real leader of your Patrol?
  • Do your Scouters refuse to try out the Patrol System fully?
  • Does your Court of Honour (COH) function properly?
  • Do you hold regular Patrol meetings?
  • How can you strengthen your Patrol and use the Patrol Method better?

Patrol Jobs[edit]

  • Patrol Leader: Ultimately responsible for the patrol
  • Assistant PL: Assists the PL with training (so can others in the patrol if qualified in the skill), possibly responsible for smartness of the Patrol - uniform, First Aid, etc, etc. The APL must be able to fill the role of PL in the PL's absence.
  • Scribe: Write up and maintain Patrol Books, Progress Chart, Patrol news for the Group Magazine, etc, i.e. he is the Patrol Secretary.
  • Treasurer - caring for any Patrol funds.
  • Hiker: Plans and organises Patrol Hikes, Camps or other similar activities (to be discussed at Patrol Meetings).
  • QM: Responsible and in charge of all Patrol Equipment and catering for Patrol Camps, Hikes, etc.
  • Corner: Responsible for the cleanliness, tidiness, repairs, decorating, notice board updating, etc, of the Patrol Corner.

It is a good idea to change the duties of No's 3 to 8 every six months or so, so that each member of the Patrol has an opportunity of doing various tasks.

Ways of fostering patrol spirit in your patrol[edit]

A good PL with plenty of ideas for activities and proper organisation of his/her gang is the most important factor in developing Patrol Spirit.

  1. The Patrol must do things together', winning or losing a game, Patrol hikes and camps, doing good turns, Troop meetings - in all these the Patrol must feel like a small rugby or soccer team. Every Scout should have that hidden voice inside him saying: "I must not let my Patrol down!" - and you as PL must tell a Scout if he is "letting his Patrol down."
    • Plan together - Get the whole group's ideas and involvement on what you are going to do. Plot the progress of each individual Scout.
    • Do things together - Try to have something special for your Patrol at each Troop meeting and have at least one weekend outing a month. Make your plans happen - together.
    • Identify together - Each Patrol will want its own Patrol flag showing your Patrol name and emblem; a Patrol yell; a Patrol song and your Patrol Logbook.
    • Stay together - Aim to keep the Patrol together at all times. Stick up for one another. Support each other in the Troop, at school, in your home territory. Work to find a Patrol den of your own (which only you have success to) which is safe enough to keep your own library of Scout books and your own camping equipment in.
  2. Patrol members must know each other - in other words you must have a stable Patrol and not one where members from other Patrols are moved in and out every so often.
  3. There must be pride in patrol traditions - the Patrol must have and use must be frequently made of the Patrol: - Name, Call, Yell or Song, Signature, Skill (good at pioneering, cooking, etc), Flag or Badge, Corner or Den, Logbooks, equipment, Jobs delegated, Uniform.

Scout Spirit is not something that just happens - it is built up gradually by doing Scouting activities together as often as possible. Patrol Spirit will come from the Patrol Leader's good leadership, enthusiasm, interest and example.

There are four very special ways in which you can keep the Patrol's spirits high.

  1. Ensure the Patrol is successful. Somehow success brings the team together, making the members of the team glad to be a part of it. Success is not only in inter-Patrol competitions (though obviously you will work hard to win them), but also in projects you undertake. Plan well, and complete your plans.
  2. Work hard to give attention to each Scout in the Patrol. Make friends with him. Get to know him and his family. Find out his interests. Most importantly help him to progress in his Scoutcraft tests and along the Scouting Trail.
  3. As their leader, think of your Patrol as a team. A good tip is to think and talk about OUR Patrol, OUR den and not MY Patrol or my den. Talk with the Patrol members a lot, and try to keep them informed.
  4. Try to build traditions of high standards in your Patrol. No one wants to belong to a sloppy show - everyone wants to be part of a success story.

When your Scouts say such things as:

    • we don't camp in a sloppy way - our campsite is always clean.
    • you will never see one of us looking untidy in Scout uniform.
    • no-one from our Patrol ever misses an outing or meeting.

then you will know you are running a good Patrol.

What is a Patrol Leader[edit]

A patrol is a group of Scouts (typically 6 to 8) made up of a variety of ages. The leader is called the Patrol Leader (or PL for short), assisted by an Assistant Patrol Leader (APL).

Roles of a Patrol Leader[edit]

  • Live the Scout Law and Promise and get patrol members to do the same.
  • Learn all you can about your job in order to be a good Leader.
  • Provide challenging, worthwhile and fun activities for your Patrol Meets,
  • Delegate every member a definite job for a part in the Patrol’s activities.
  • Keep ahead on advancement so as to be prepared to teach patrol members.
  • Qualify to be able to take your Patrol camping and hiking.
  • Get to know the parents and everything about each member (your friends).
  • Get a Patrol Spirit going in your Patrol, members should want to belong.
  • Wear your uniform correctly and neatly so your patrol will too.
  • Attend Court of Honour (COH) meetings and raise matters affecting your Patrol.
  • Work with the Troop Scouter and other Leaders to make the Troop run well.

What is leadership[edit]

Leadership is the way or process by which a group of people are helped towards achieving an aim. Every good leader seems to have certain abilities, many of which he/she uses without realising he/she is doing so.

Group, Individual and Task[edit]


The requirements of a Patrol Leader indicates to us that he has the responsibility to look after three things – the task, the Patrol and the individual. His/her job is to get the task done in such a way that the Patrol is kept together. This can be achieved by using the talents of each individual scout in the Patrol and, in so doing, he/she maintains the interest and enthusiasm of all the patrol members. By proper planning everyone understands what has to be done, how it is to be done and how each member of the Patrol can work constructively to achieve this.

The Patrol Leader who wants to ensure that the task, the Patrol and the individual scout are all taken into account can make use of several leadership skills. These skills are summarised in the following check list. They can be applied to any activity, programme or meeting.  

Leadership checklist[edit]

The good Patrol Loader should constantly be asking themselves:

In achieving the task…

  • did I plan for it carefully with the Patrol?
  • did I continuously evaluate how it was going?

In working with the Patrol…

  • did I share the leadership with the Patrol; were they fully involved in making and carrying out the plans?
  • did I use all the resources available within the Patrol?
  • did I co-ordinate the Patrol, so that it worked effectively as a team?
  • did I ensure that the Patrol’s interests were properly represented when discussing the task with other people?

In encouraging and helping each individual…

  • did I communicate with every member of the Patrol?
  • did I help others to learn new skills?
  • did I set an example to the Patrol?

In developing the ideas outlined above nine skills are implemented.

Nine skills of leadership[edit]

  1. Planning
  2. Evaluating
  3. Sharing the Leadership
  4. Resources of the Patrol
  5. Co-ordinate the Patrol
  6. Representing the Patrol
  7. Communication
  8. Helping others to learn
  9. Setting an example

Tips for Patrol Leaders[edit]

When giving orders:

  • Avoid giving orders you are unable to enforce in some way.
  • Avoid unnecessary orders.
  • Be polite when giving orders, don't shout them, be calm.
  • Avoid vague orders or too many i.e. do this and that and this and that and on and on.... Order, Counter-order and DIS-order is the result.
  • Example is a good order. If you want the pots cleaned, start cleaning one yourself, then ask so and so to help you, then take other pots, clean the table and so on, eventually you'll have everyone working with and for you.

See also[edit]

Patrol Leader Training Unit (PLTU) Patrol Leader Training Course (PLTC)