Winning A Senior Patrol Leader Election (An SPL’s 5 Step Guide)


Are you in the running to become your troop’s next senior patrol leader? If so, a senior patrol leader election is the only barrier separating you from eternal glory! Today, I’ll be sharing some proven methods to help you win your upcoming election, and hopefully, become your troop’s next SPL.

In my experience, there are 5 key steps to being elected as your troop’s next senior patrol leader:

  1. Let your troop see you as a leader: Learn to be a leader by helping younger and older scouts alike. Take responsibility for doing more.
  2. Make a plan to help your troop: Be innovative and think of ways to improve your troop. See what leadership is working and what’s not.
  3. Rely on your friends: Let others speak for you. Keep your friends in the loop and understand the importance of personal relationships.
  4. Craft and practice a memorable SPL election speech: Preparation will set you apart. Let the other scouts trust and understand you.
  5. Acceptance: Be confident and start acting like the leader you want to become. Staying calm is key. You’ve got this.

In this guide, I’ll be breaking down each of these steps further, so that you can win your troop’s next SPL election. You should begin preparing a few months in advance. However, I’ll also share a few helpful tricks that can help you on the night of the election.

Remember, being your troop’s SPL is a huge responsibility, requiring much more effort than acting as ASPL (ASPL also fulfills the leadership requirement for your Life Scout rank). I wouldn’t recommend SPL for anyone unless they’re 100% committed to putting in the time and doing a great job.

Bonus Tip: As a patrol leader and ASPL, I remember looking for unique patrol patches, Scouting memorabilia, and customized shirts. Building morale is part of the SPLs job description, after all! My troop consistently found the best of the best over at ClassB (An official Scouting vendor).

Imagine my surprise when, just a few weeks ago, they offered me a coupon code to share with you all! Once you sign up for the ScoutSmarts newsletter, I’ll send you an exclusive coupon that’ll get you a $10 discount at ClassB’s Scout Trading Post!

BTW, this is not an affiliate. Some of my favorite patches as a scout came from ClassB and I can vouch for their outstanding quality!

Still here? Good! If you’re dead-set on becoming SPL, you’re already ahead of the competition. Most Scouts aren’t willing to put in the planning and work beforehand, which already gives you, my handsome ScoutSmarts reader, a distinct advantage. Let’s first review the process of a Senior Patrol election, then I’ll share with you what you can start doing today to make sure you have the best possible shot at winning!

How do I Become my Troop’s Next Senior Patrol Leader?

become Senior patrol leader

Every troop differs, but the most common method of appointing an SPL is by holding an election among scouts. The candidate with the most votes becomes their troop’s new SPL for the next 4-12 months. Each member of your troop will likely have 1 vote, and your goal should be to make each of those votes go to you! Obvious, I know, but the reason I point this out is to show you how to get an easy edge…

You see, most candidates who run for SPL have been in the troop for a while, and likely spend most of their time hanging out with older scouts. However, since every vote is worth the same, you’ll need to value each scout equally. Be the voice of the younger scouts AND the older scouts. If you can do this, I promise you’ll have a huge advantage.

You’ll likely have the opportunity to make a speech before your troop. Use your words and enthusiasm to sway any voters who are still unsure. In my experience, at least 25% of scouts determine who they’ll be voting for based on which candidate delivered the best speech. Make yours count! If you don’t have anything yet, don’t worry. Read my ultimate guide to crafting a winning SPL election speech, here!

After the speeches are delivered, your fellow scouts will vote by ballot who they’ll be choosing as their next SPL. Each member of your troop will secretly cast their vote for who they would like to be leading your troop in the coming months. At this point, all of your hard work could pay off!

Knowing the roadmap for your upcoming election, you’re now prepared to begin planning. Approach the election with only this main goal in mind: winning the most overall votes within your troop. If you want a strong chance at winning the election, you should begin planning at least 3 months beforehand. These are tried and tested methods, so pay close attention and refer back to this article often. Ready? Let’s get started!

1) Let your troop see you as a leader
(3+ months before election)

Even if you’re not currently in a leadership position, now is the time to step up. Show your troop that you’re a hard worker and be willing to do more than your share. Help out the younger scouts, and teach them things you wish you knew at their age. Once you have a reputation for being dependable, your troop will begin to trust you as a leader.

True leaders speak through their actions. By showing your troop, long before the election, that you’re dependable and have their interests in mind, they’ll be more likely to want you as their future SPL. You should start doing this at least three months in advance if you want people to immediately think of you when voting.

Learn what methods work when leading your troop. Start watching the current patrol leaders and senior patrol leaders more closely. Take note of what they do right and what they can work on — but only comment on the things that they’re doing well. Your goal here is to figure out what works when leading your troop, then start practicing it for when you become SPL.

A useful trick that I used while Scouting was helping younger scouts with merit badges and running educational workshops. Here are 3 fun and easy merit badges that you could teach to your troop in one evening! Not only will this improve your leadership skills, but the scouts you help will also remember your kindness and be more likely to turn the vote in your favor. 

Lastly, if there are any leadership courses that your troop or community offers, now is the time to take them. Leadership trainings such as ISLT or NYLT can take your leadership skills to the next level and give you the credibility needed to be voted a leader in your troop. If that doesn’t convince you, you should know that they’re also a lot of fun.

I’ve given you a few easy examples, but really, there are countless ways to demonstrate to your troop that you’re now ready to become a leader. If you’re interested, I’ve written a more in-depth article on becoming a leader that people respect here. Once you know the basics, the only thing you’re limited by is your creativity. In trying to show your troop that you can be their leader, funnily enough, you’ll actually become more prepared to lead.

2) Make Plans To Help Your Troop
(1 month before election)

If you followed my earlier advice of watching the leaders in your troop more closely, you’ve probably noticed what they do well, along with a few things that need work. Figure out if the rest of your troop notices the things that could use improvement (don’t complain, just ask them if they’ve noticed the issue). If they do, you’ve just found your election platform!

This is when you outline your plan for fixing the issue and then determine if it’s a reasonable solution. Take the time to outline a brief overview of the problem, as well as your idea of how to solve it. Speak to a few scoutmasters and the current leadership to see if your proposal could work. If you receive mostly positive feedback, that means your idea could be the solution!  

Once you’ve had scoutmaster feedback on 1-3 solid solutions for different troop problems, write out your plans in their entirety. I’d recommend bringing these to your parents for one last review. They’ll let you know if your ideas or sound and if you’re on the right track. After your parents give you the green light, now it’s finally time to share your plans with the whole troop.

Speak with the other scouts about a few of your best plans, and listen to their feedback. Make them feel included, and rework your ideas to help the most people. After you’ve honed your plans as much as possible, submit them as a written proposal to the scouts in your troop. You’ll be able to begin making changes even before becoming a leader, which, in itself, is an undeniable sign of leadership.

When sharing your ideas, remember never to place blame on individuals. You can point out systems, practices, or equipment that need improvement, but always avoid badmouthing other people. They might take it personally and dislike you as a result. Remember, a true scout (and leader) is kind.

3) Reach Out To Close Friends
(1-3 weeks before election)

Have you ever heard the saying, “A closed mouth isn’t fed?“ It means that you get what we ask for, but only if we ask. If you want to become SPL, reach out to close friends in your troop and let them know. They’ll tell others, and word will get around that you want to lead your troop and make positive changes. 

There are two reasons why reaching out to close friends is so effective:

  • Your friends will appreciate being included in your plans and be more willing to help and vote for you.
  • They’ll tell others about your plans for you. Great leaders don’t speak — they let others speak for them.

Remember, no one wants to elect the scout who is going up to each person, begging them for a vote. By letting your friends do the talking, you show that your main goal isn’t to win the election but to support and improve your troop.

Personally, I was much more likely to vote for a scout who I’d heard about from someone else, rather than one who came up to me only to talk about themselves. Generally, we believe that if something’s really important, then other people will be talking about it. Use this quality to your advantage by having other people talk about your plans for SPL.

This shouldn’t be a big scheme. Just mention to your friends that you’re hoping to run for SPL and ask them to help you out in getting feedback from the other scouts. If you’ve been done the previous steps, hearing that you’re running for SPL should make people excited enough to talk about you on their own.

The goal of these past three steps have been getting your troop to view you as a leader. Don’t be overly theatrical. You’re not trying to get elected, you’re trying to be respected. The scouts who win SPL elections usually aren’t the ones with the nicest posters or most flashy gimmicks, they’re the ones who are able to lead and listen. They’re the scouts who are genuinely trying to better their troop.

4) Craft and Practice a Memorable SPL Speech
(2 weeks before election)

Its two weeks out, the election is coming up, and now it’s time to get serious. You’re going to need to craft a legendary SPL speech if you want a shot a beating the competition, so start brainstorming early. This is where your plans will come in handy: they’ll be the foundations of your winning SPL speech!

This article would become too long if I walked you step-by-step through how to create a memorable speech. Luckily for you, I’ve already written for you a complete guide to crafting the best-possible SPL speech! Check it out by clicking here (It’ll open in another window so that you can finish reading this article first).

The main tip I can give you is for you to try to get your speech to be the right mix of inspiring, funny, and actionable:

  1. You’ll want to paint a great future for the troop in your vision as SPL.
  2. You’ll want to make your fellow scouts laugh so that they remember you as likable.
  3. You’ll want your ideas to be understood as practical but powerful.

The goal of your speech should be to build trust; to show your troop that you’re prepared to lead them with commitment and confidence. While you probably won’t win an election solely because of a great speech, you can definitely lose an election for lack of one. 

As I’ve said earlier, roughly 25% of the votes go to the candidate with the best speech. Make sure that person is you! Prepare, prepare, prepare. Say your speech in front of the mirror or record yourself practicing it if that helps. Trust me, being confident and polished can take your speech from good to amazing. If you’ve done every step so far, you’ve got this election in the bag!

5) Accept What You Can’t Change, But Change What You Can’t Accept (Night of Election)

It’s finally the moment you’ve been waiting for — the troop meeting where all of your hard work will pay off. On the night of the election, all of the other candidates are nervous, but not you. You’re cool, calm, and collected because you’ve been preparing for this for months! Take a deep breath, and start acting like the leader you’re going to become.

Do you ever see good leaders panicking? Probably not. Leaders learn to understand their situation, accepting the things they cannot change, but changing what they cannot accept. Things might go wrong during your speech or other parts of the election. That’s OK. Staying calm is crucial.

Watch the below video (5:50) for some great tips on delivering your speech in the best way possible (even if you’re nervous):

I’m gonna say it again: Don’t stress yourself out! I’ve seen scouts who stood a good chance of winning an SPL election, completely psych themselves out right before their speeches and ended up blowing their chances. Don’t let this be you. Treat the election like any other day. Be nice to other scouts, but don’t suck up. Don’t show that you’re nervous. Just be confident — remember, fake it ‘til you make it.

If you’re nervous, don’t worry. We’ve all been there. An exercise that I always do when feeling stressed, anxious, or upset is to take 10 deep breaths. Breathe in through the nose for as long as possible, then exhale out through the mouth. Then, pretend that the president of your fan club is sitting on your shoulder, telling you, ” Relax, you’re going to crush this!” It’s simple advice, but it works.

Putting It All Together (Final Lesson)

If you’ve managed to follow along so far, congratulations! You have an incredibly high chance of being elected as your troop’s next SPL. Not only have you mastered the SPL election process, you’ve also become a much better leader along the way.

If you’ve closely followed the process, once you’re SPL you may realize that very little has changed. The title of SPL likely didn’t change your actions or feelings of responsibility! By acting like how a good SPL would act, you learned how to become a great SPL and were elected as a result.

This is an important but difficult lesson: We always rise or fall to the level of our standards.

Lastly, if you somehow don’t win the election this time, that too can be a good thing. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Figure out what didn’t work, change it, then try again at the next election. If you view the goal of Scouting to become a better person and leader, by using the steps in this article you’ll accomplish that aim — whether or not you’re SPL.

Conclusion

While you started this article with the simple goal of winning an SPL election, hopefully, you’ll walk away from here with a greater mission in mind: Becoming a great leader who belongs in the SPL role. To recap, here are the main takeaways behind each of the methods I’ve shared:

  1. Let your troop see you as a leader: Learn to be a leader by helping younger and older scouts alike. Take responsibility for doing more.
  2. Plan to help your troop: Be innovative and proactive. See what’s working and what’s not. Collect feedback and improve constantly.
  3. Rely on your friends: Let others speak for you. Keep your friends in the loop and understand the importance of personal relationships.
  4. Craft and practice a memorable speech: Preparation will set you apart. Use proven methods to get people to trust and understand you.
  5. Acceptance: Be confident and start acting like the leader you’d like to become. You can’t control everything. Deep breaths, you’ve got this.

By setting your standards to the level of an SPL, even before becoming one, it’s only natural that others will notice and elect you into the position. Focus on each of these qualities, and you’ll become an exceptional leader in no time.

After following along, you’re now prepared to win your next election, future SPL! If you’re looking for more advice on Scouting leadership, I’d recommend checking out my article on mastering patrol leadership here. I hope you’ve gained a bit of ScoutSmarts and found this article useful. If you have, I’d appreciate you sharing it, as your support helps to grow the site. As always, best of luck in your Scouting journey!

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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