Being a Patrol Leader is a great honour and a big responsibility. It is one of the most important jobs in Scouting. The patrol leader will lead the patrol with plenty of fun, adventure, and friendship.
Patrol Leader Training is not something that happens once a year at a course; it takes place at every Troop Meeting, at every Court of Honour (COH) Meeting and also in those meetings when the Scouters and Patrol Leaders are planning future activities.
What is leadership
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.
See: Leadership skills
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.
See: the patrol system
What is a Patrol Leader
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).
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.
How to lead a patrol
If you have just started as a patrol leader, you may be wondering how you can be a good leader, and live up to the expectations of your patrol. Here is a 3-step plan to successful leadership which can help you.
Step 1: Know what it is you plan to achieve
Step 2: Communicate your plans and motivate your Patrol
Step 3: Make it happen
Step 1: Know what it is you plan to achieve
'Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world'. (Quote from Joel Barker.)
The one common feature of all the great leaders in history (and today) is that they have a vision for their Organisation, or business, or team; and the really successful ones have been passionate and enthusiastic about their vision. The vision comes from the leader. Clearly you will listen to your Patrol members and your Troop Scouters and other people important in the life of the Patrol, but YOU will have to decide on the vision.
- What is it you are planning to achieve during your time as Patrol Leader?
- What do you want your Patrol to be while you are Patrol Leader?
Step 2: Communicate your vision
If the vision remains just yours - or is a selfish one - it is going to be doomed to failure. You will need to communicate your vision to your Patrol members. If it is a good vision, and one with which they can agree, by explaining clearly what you see as being possible it will become the Patrol vision.
Each person is motivated by different reasons. To help your Patrol members retain their enthusiasm and remain energetic in achieving the vision you will need to find out what makes each of them 'tick'. Of course your own enthusiasm as example will do a lot.
Step 3: Making it happen
Lots of people dream and never do more than that. The one feature that is true of all successful leaders is that they get things to happen. The 3-circle model of leadership taught on PLTU courses will help you to do this. It is a matter of realising that there are needs to be met in working towards success.
If you as a leader give these three areas of need your attention, you will be working towards success:
- TASK: like planning and organising the job to be done and communicating these plans.
- GROUP: the needs your team has as a whole - each person being involved (sharing leadership); the use of the talents in the team; the development of team spirit.
- INDIVIDUAL: the Individual needs of each member of your Patrol - to be recognised as worthwhile people, helped where necessary, given encouragement and made to feel important.
Roles and responsibilities of Patrol Leaders
Responsibilities of a Patrol Leader
- Set an example as a leader in behaviour and attitude, especially:
- Develop a good Patrol spirit in the Patrol
- Instruct Patrol members in Scouting skills
- Share the leadership in the Patrol by giving everyone a role
- Plan and run the Patrol meetings, activities, camps and hikes
- Represent the Patrol at the Court of Honour.
- Keep Patrol members informed
- Work with other PLs, the TL and Scouters to make the Troop work well
- Know and be friends with each Patrol member
- Continually develop leadership skills by taking part in Patrol Leader Training courses and reading widely.
Roles of a Patrol Leader
- 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 meetings,
- 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.
See: Patrol meetings
As a leader, communication will be one of your key skills to develop. This means keeping everyone in the picture. Every Patrol member, parents, and the Court of Honour (COH) need to know what the Patrol is up to.
See: Patrol communication
It is the job of the Patrol Leader to ensure the patrol is getting training and advancing well. As the patrol advances and gains skills, the job of the PL will become easier, as you can take a step back from the detail and focus on leading your patrol.
See: Patrol advancement
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."
A good leader delegates tasks to those who are capable. By delegating, you are giving your patrol members a sense of responsibility which helps develop them and leads to a good Patrol spirit.
One of the great secrets of successful Patrol leadership is to share leadership with members of your Patrol. In a strange way, the more you share your leadership, the stronger will be the Patrol, and the more firmly your position as Patrol Leader will be entrenched. In your regular planning, look at the jobs that have to be done and other functions which can be undertaken. Assign these to Patrol members.
- 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.
- QM: Responsible and in charge of all Patrol Equipment and catering for Patrol Camps, Hikes, etc.
See: Patrol jobs for more.
Fostering Patrol spirit in your patrol
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.
See: Patrol spirit
Patrol den and equipment
Having your own Patrol den is a way to create pride in your patrol. Try to create an area that belongs only to your patrol - a place to keep your Patrol identity.
See: Patrol den
Ideas for Patrol Activities
You should always be looking for something new and exciting to do with your patrol. Discuss ideas with your Patrol to include them in your planning.
Here are some Patrol activity ideas.
Camping and hiking