Much of what I believe about leadership I learned from the scouting program. I was a scout as a boy and when my children reached that age we enrolled them as scouts and took leadership training. The adult training programs are among the best I ever attended. Scouting gives you the opportunity to be a follower and a leader; you can learn a great deal about both in a single rainy weekend.
When NASA announced plans to go to the moon, the scouting movement saw a good way to interest boys in science. Life magazine published a big photo spread of astronauts in survival training and the next thing you knew, we were on a survival camp-out in homemade tents of thin plastic sheeting. Naturally, the sky opened up on us and we found ourselves in ankle deep mud wrapped in our tents and reflective survival blankets.
At least some of us did.
During the stormy night a few of our adult “leaders” extracted their sons from the quagmire and relocated them to regular tents or cabins. My old man, a World War II veteran, viewed the camp-out as a “character building” exercise and left his sons to sleep in the muck. In fact, he gave up his bunk in a cabin to join us in a plastic tent of his own construction that held up about as well as the kid-built ones. The “mudders” lost trust in the adult leaders who pulled their sons out of the mess and left them to get soaked. They respected my father for joining them. I know this because 25 years later they told me so at his funeral. Grown men remembered that soggy adventure like it was yesterday.
I have had the opportunity to work for both types of bosses over the years, and believe the first building block of a good leader is commitment. People want to know the boss is willing to sleep in the muck with them if that is what the mission requires. Giving the “team” an extensive task list for the weekend before leaving early on Friday simply doesn’t work. Involvement is much different than commitment. A chicken is involved in a ham and egg breakfast. A pig is committed to it.
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