My fellow classmates,
It is my belief that leaders emerge through a development of their skills. One person may be more suited to lead than another, that much is true, but ultimately there is no true “natural leader”. Leaders, for the most part, must learn how to lead. I was fortunate enough to join an organization that has a primary focus on teaching boys how to become leaders. Joining the boy scouts is what made me into the person that I am today. I’ve met many wonderful mentors throughout my time in the BSA, but there’s one person that really stands out to me. My old Scoutmaster, Mr. Roell, was a great leader. He was an excellent instructor to all scouts under his leadership. Not only did he build an excellent relationship with the scouts in my troop, but he also taught us many useful skills, such as knot tying and first aid. The most important skill that he helped teach us, however, is leadership. I was never old enough to actually lead scouts when Mr. Roell was Scoutmaster, but he still had a major effect on how I see leadership, even to this day.
Mr. Roell built a strong relationship with the scouts in my troop. He was always friendly, helpful, and any other point of the Scout Law (one of the guiding principles of scouting) that you could name. Any scout could come up to him with any issue with complete confidence that he would treat them with respect and help them solve their problem. What is most notable about his character, in my opinion, is his scoutmaster minute. For context, towards the end of every scout meeting, the scouts would “fall in”, which is where scouts would form up by patrol, with the senior patrol (older scouts) at the front watching over the other patrols. Once everyone is assembled, scouts and adult leaders could make announcements about troop events coming up. The Senior Patrol Leader (An older scout elected by everyone else to lead) would turn the meeting over to Mr. Roell after announcements were finished. Mr. Roell might make his own announcements, or he might also congratulate scouts who successfully advanced in rank, but he
would without fail always end the meeting with something for the scouts to think about. He’d talk to us about something seemingly small, but the moral of his story always pertained to scouting, and I always left the meeting inspired by what he said. Unfortunately, I can’t remember any specific examples of this, as this was a few years ago, but the fact that he always did the scoutmaster minute is something that stuck with me.
Mr. Roell taught me how to lead. While he didn’t necessarily teach this skill to me directly, he still taught me indirectly by showing me what leadership is. As a leader, Mr. Roell was always sure to hold himself in high regard. He always dressed correctly, spoke politely, and otherwise act like a role model for the impressionable young scouts in the troop. This is one of the many ways that he led by example. As another illustration of this, I can never really remember a time when Mr. Roell complained. There were times where he would get angry about something – we all have our fair share of these moments – but I don’t recall him ever complaining about the cold, or how his feet hurt, or anything like that. He was always optimistic about the future, no matter the circumstances. We could all be stuck underneath a tarp, soaked, miserable, and Mr. Roell would do his best to cheer us all up. He never failed. It’s almost as if seeing the leaders being cheerful made us realize that the situation we were in wasn’t so bad, and it consequently cheered us up as a result. It was through small lessons like this one that I learned how to lead from Mr. Roell. From him, I learned that leadership isn’t always about what you say to your group members; rather, your actions influence the group as well.
To relate this to what we’ve learned about in class so far, I’d say that Mr. Roell best exemplified the behavioral approach to leadership. From what I’ve stated previously, it should become apparent how he does so. He puts great focus both on establishing a relationship with his followers and getting the job done. Overall, on the Leadership Grid, I’d place him at around a (6.5, 6.5). That is, he puts great effort into both areas, but he isn’t going all out, and he doesn’t really need to. The whole goal behind Boy Scouts is to build young boys (and girls too) into strong, good-willed adults. Therefore, it is the scouts who should be the ones stepping up to lead, and his leadership style reflected this. He adapts his leadership style to the situation; he gets people in order when he needs to and is more laissez-faire when he can afford to be more relaxed. Through him, I learned that there is no one “true” way or formula of which I must use to lead. Instead, as a leader it is my duty to adapt my leadership style to the situation at hand in order to be most effective.
Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like for me if I hadn’t joined scouts. I was a member of the cub and boy scouts all throughout my youth. It’s hard to overstate just how much of an effect it had on me as a person. Now, I’m wondering what it may have been like had I done scouting in a different town. Had I done so, I likely wouldn’t have met some of the key adult figures in my life. I only mentioned Mr. Roell, but there were other scoutmasters and adult leaders – heck, even older scouts – who held a major influence over who I am as a person today. I chose to talk about Mr. Roell because he is the most prominent of them all. Through his lessons, I learned that leadership doesn’t come naturally to most people. To learn how to lead takes time. It’s not something that can be learned in one sitting; rather, it is much more akin to a marathon. Learning leadership skills takes patience, endurance, and the will to lead.