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 working[edit]

  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.

Does the patrol system work in your Troop?[edit]

  • 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?

The patrol method is working when the adult acts as a guide, mentor, and counsellor to the youth, helping them by word and example to lead one another, to influence one another, to encourage competition and excitement so that the boys grow as a group and as individuals.

In 1920, Baden-Powell consolidated notes he had assembled on the training of boys through Scouting and published them as Aids to Scoutmastership. He wrote, “When you want a thing done, ‘Don’t Do It Yourself’ is a good motto for Leaders.”

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.

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.

How you know your team is NOT working[edit]

Individual attendance is spotty or inconsistent. Meetings are irregularly held and sometimes consist of extended periods of games or goofing off interspersed with something resembling a meeting. There’s no youth in charge, but perhaps a single individual who tries to rally the group into doing something constructive. The adults are frequently telling the youth what to do, or are disciplining youth who are out of line. Teams are organized haphazardly, by age group, or without consideration to a mix of senior and junior members. The older youth are inadequately prepared to train the younger members. The older youth have not attended any junior leader training in more than a couple of years. The adult leaders have not attended adult leader training.

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. 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.

  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.
  4. 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.
  5. Work hard to give attention to each Scout in the Patrol. Make friends with him. Get to know them and their family. Find out their interests. Most importantly help him/her to progress in his/her Scoutcraft tests and along the Scouting Trail.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Tips for Patrol Leaders[edit]

  1. 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.
  2. Keep your word. Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
  3. Be Fair to All. A good leader shows no favourites. Do not allow friendships to keep you from being fair to all members of your patrol. Find out who likes to do what, and assign duties to patrol members by what they like to do best.
  4. Be a Good Communicator. You do not need a loud voice to be a good leader, but you must be willing to step out in front with an effective ‘Let’s go for it!’ A good leader knows how to get and give information so that everyone understands what is going on. No-one can read your mind.
  5. Be Flexible. Not everything goes as planned. Be prepared to shift to ‘Plan B’ when ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work.
  6. Be Organised. The time you spend planning will be repaid many times over. Take notes; keep records.
  7. Delegate. Some leaders assume that a job will not get done if they don’t do it themselves. Wrong! Most people like to be challenged with a new task. Get your patrol to try things they have never done before. Do not try to do everything yourself. Sharing jobs and fun is a much more rewarding way.
  8. Set an Example. The most important thing you can do is ‘Lead by Example’. Whatever you do, your patrol members are likely to do the same. A cheerful attitude can keep everyone’s spirits up. “Laugh, and the world laughs with you….”
  9. Be Consistent. Nothing is more confusing to a young Scout than a leader who stands on his/her feet one day, and on his/her head the next. If your patrol knows what to expect from you, they will be more likely to respond positively to your leadership.
  10. Give Praise. The best way to get credit is to give it away. Often a “Nice job” remark is all the praise necessary to make a Scout feel he/she is contribution to the efforts of the patrol.
  11. Ask for Help. Never be embarrassed to ask for help. You have many resources at your disposal. When confronted with a situation you don’t know how to handle, ask someone with more experience for some advice and guidance. They too will learn much from you.

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

See also[edit]