Becoming a patrol leader is the first real taste of responsibility for most scouts. Suddenly, you’re in charge of leading your peers and communicating their interests to the rest of the troop. If that sounds difficult, don’t worry! Every Eagle Scout has been there too, myself included. In this article, I’ll be teaching you everything you need to know to become the best patrol leader possible!
What does a patrol leader do? A patrol leader is an older scout who’s in charge of leading a group of 6 or more scouts (called a patrol). These leaders must know each patrol member personally, and represent their patrol’s interests within the troop. They’ll need to regularly lead patrol meetings, plan fun camp activities, attend patrol leaders’ councils, and set a good example for the other scouts.
Leadership and responsibility come hand in hand. As a patrol leader, you’re responsible for the success of your patrol. The first key to success as a leader is to always take responsibility for whatever happens. Keep this point in mind! Later in this article, I’ll be teaching you the other keys I’ve learned that’ll help you to succeed as a patrol leader. 🙂
First, take a second to watch the video (1:13) below to learn about the general duties and responsibilities of a patrol leader:
Your Responsibilities as a Patrol Leader
As a patrol leader, you’re responsible for all of your patrol’s functions. You represent your patrol, you lead your patrol, and you ensure that everyone within your patrol is accounted for. Your role is to keep every scout on the same page and taken care of.
Here are the 7 main duties of a good patrol leader:
- Lead patrol meetings and activities
- Communicate the interests of your patrol to the troop
- Represent patrol at PLC (patrol leaders’ council) meetings
- Delegate responsibilities to your assistant patrol leader
- Finalize duty roster for camps and events
- Make sure every patrol member is heard
- Set a good example for patrol
Keeping these responsibilities in mind is essential as a patrol leader. You should always be looking for the next challenge that your patrol may face, and plan accordingly. This could mean taking on extra duties or communicating more with your patrol.
How to Become a Great Patrol Leader
When camping, hiking, or participating in a service project, it can be hard to remember each of your responsibilities as a patrol leader. I’ve definitely been there! However, that all changed once I learned a useful trick to make sure everything was taken care of.
When I was a patrol leader, an effective way I found to easily keep track of my responsibilities was by keeping 3 elements in mind:
- Patrol to Troop: Is there anything in your patrol that your troop or scoutmasters need to be aware of? Do you need to remind your patrol of any troop plans?
- Patrol to You: Is your patrol comfortable speaking with you? Are you able to effectively speak to your patrol and have them listen?
- Patrol to Themselves: Is everyone in your patrol getting along? Is everyone keeping up with their own responsibilities?
By recognizing if there are any issues with each of these elements, you’ll be able to uncover challenges more quickly. When you discover these issues, it’s your job as a leader to either sort them out yourself or to delegate responsibility.
Delegation can only be done if you’re able to effectively communicate within your patrol. To communicate well, it’s essential to build trust within your patrol. By earning your patrol’s trust and respect, they’ll be more willing to listen to you. Once your patrol listens, you’ll be able to lead them effectively.
Being Liked And Respected by Your Patrol
Great leaders lead by example. You wouldn’t want someone telling you to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. Be the leader that works harder than their patrol members. They will see your dedication and follow you for that. This is the first and most important step to being respected by your patrol.
Once respect is built, people will do what you ask. But once they like and respect you, they may do it even before you ask. The key to being liked and respected is to relate to each patrol member on a personal level. Understand what jobs they want to do, and then try to put them in a position to do that. People do a better job doing the things they want to do.
Keep in mind that your patrol members are in a similar position to you. Talk about life with them and discover their interests. You’re all in Scouts together, so become friends. Remember though: you’re a leader first. Sometimes you may have friends that want you to make exceptions for them. Although tempting to favor a friend, a patrol leader should treat every scout equally. Your true friends will respect that.
For a few more tips on becoming a respected leader, watch the video (5:59) below:
Sometimes, leadership won’t be as easy as you might expect. Maybe you’ll have a patrol member or friend that’ll be difficult to manage. Although it will seem like an unnecessary challenge, these people are your best opportunity to go from being a good leader to a great one.
Dealing With a Difficult Patrol Member
Sometimes you’ll have a patrol member who just won’t listen. Those situations are tricky. It may be no fault of your own but, as a patrol leader, it will be your responsibility to work with the difficult member and encourage them to become a helpful part of the patrol.
Here are 3 tips that I’ve found useful when dealing with a difficult patrol member:
- Listen: Speak with the difficult patrol member and determine what their issues are. Having concern for their issues will go a long way towards building understanding.
- Support: If the difficult member has a friend in the patrol, speak to the friend. Ask them to buddy up with a difficult number and lead them through the activity.
- Commend: Recognize when a difficult member does a skill well, and be sure to compliment them it in front of the patrol. By making them proud of doing well, you encourage them to work harder in the future.
Part of being a leader is working with difficult members. However, don’t be afraid to ask other leaders or scoutmasters in your troop for help. It can be challenging to manage your patrol perfectly, especially if it’s your first time in a leadership position. Just continue to lead by example and you’ll keep improving over time.
When difficulties arise, it’s the job of the assistant patrol leader to help relieve some of the patrol leader’s responsibilities. For my complete guide to being a great assistant patrol leader click here. As a patrol leader, you need to know when and how to ask your assistant patrol leader for help. This next section will walk you through how best to use the help of your assistant patrol leader.
Receiving Assistant Patrol Leader Support
Good leaders try to do everything themselves, but great leaders delegate. Your assistant patrol leader is your second pair of eyes and ears. By directing them to solve problems that you don’t have the time to handle, you can more effectively lead your patrol. In the previous case of a difficult scout, sending your assistant patrol leader to handle them would be perfect as a first response.
An assistant patrol leader is also great for spreading information within a patrol. As a leader, your attention is often required in many areas.
The assistant patrol leader can simplify the patrol leader’s job in two main ways:
- Reducing Requests: The APL can assist patrol members with non-critical issues, reducing the responsibilities of the patrol leader.
- Simplifying Communication: The APL spreads the Pl’s instructions to each patrol member and ensures they fully understand.
By making information in and out easier for the patrol leader, the APL can be extremely valuable in supporting the functions of the patrol.
A patrol leader able to use their assistant patrol leader will be much more successful when dealing with difficult situations. By putting together these aspects of leadership, you will soon grow into an amazing patrol leader within your troop.
Leadership is a lifelong skill that you should begin to build during your time in Scouting. The position of a patrol leader offers a great way of practicing leadership skills and contributing to your troop!
By understanding your responsibilities within the troop, how best to interact with scouts in your patrol, and the ways of using your APL for support, you’re prepared to be a great patrol leader.
To recap, here is an overview of what it takes to become a great patrol leader:
- Take responsibility for your patrol
- Understand each patrol member as an individual
- Treat each member equally
- Look and prepare for oncoming challenges
- Delegate responsibility to your APL
- Lead by example
- Listen to the needs of your patrol
- Clearly provide information to your patrol
I hope you’ve found my article helpful! If you’d like to become a strong patrol leader, these tips will earn you your patrol’s respect in no time. Stay focused, and your leadership will improve quickly. Heck, in six months you might even be elected as your troop’s Senior Patrol Leader!
Thanks for visiting ScoutSmarts! Until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey. 🙂