Leaders

Recently, I had an opportunity to observe several scouts prepare for a weekend trip. As the boys gathered camping supplies, water and cooking tools necessary for the long haul and an exciting weekend, they demonstrated a variety leadership skills.

What was most interesting about observed interactions between the scouts was the emergence of leadership skills displayed to work together and complete a series of simple tasks. This article will focus on important leadership lessons learned through the lens of the youth.

Chat It Up

Effective communication with others is a necessary component of leadership success. Engaging team members in discussions including work and non-work topics helps build the interpersonal dynamic within the organizational culture.

A primary benefit of talking with team members is to better understand the individual by listening to information that is important to them.

On the day of the scout trip, this skill was demonstrated by the boy assigned to scout check in and camp fee collection. We will call him Robert. Robert was focused on his task but was he an effective communicator!

With great ease, organic conversations flowed between each of the boys that initially focused on the camping event.

For example, as each member of the patrol arrived, he explained to each person the exact amount of money to be paid prior to departure. As the boys gladly made payment, Robert effortlessly engaged troop members in conversation and answered questions about the upcoming trip.

The scouts appeared to be pleased with Robert’s easygoing approach. He managed each interaction by focusing on topics of common interest.

Chat It Up Lesson

Talking comes naturally.  Get to know people by showing authentic interest in talking with them.  Conversation starters may include a favorite memory, pet peeves or music. By taking an interest in talking with team members, leaders will develop valuable relationships and promote an interactive workforce.

Try a Bit of Tenderness

In order to reach a collective goal, leaders have to show sensitivity to team members. Shouting orders may work in a military environment and for good reason, however, it may not be the most effective way to achieve goals in other organizations.

A more productive method of encouraging team members to perform involves setting clear directions, encouraging collaboration and motivating for a successful outcome!

chuck box

An apparent difference in leadership behavior emerged from the scout responsible for organizing the chuck box than that of the boy described earlier. This scout’s name is Garrett.

As each scout checked the inventory against the list to be sure all items were in the right place, Garrett wanted them to work faster. He indicated that there was no time for play and told the boys to stop talking so that they could get the job done.

Though only a young teenager, Garrett already demonstrated signs of misplaced power and control.  He stood over the boys while working while incessantly referencing how slow everyone was working or not listening to instructions.

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The choice of actions in dealing with the patrol members caused a visible negative reaction.

In an instant, the demeanor of the group shifted from a cheerful disposition to irritation and resentment for Garrett. The more Garrett complained about the way the boys worked the more despondent the group became. Eventually, many of the patrol members revolted by ignoring Garrett in order to finish the task with some semblance of harmony.

Tenderness Lesson

Caution unyielding leaders, combat ahead! The behavior demonstrated by Garrett in the scenario is defined as micromanagement. This style of management is a success limiting behavior. Leaders that align with this style seldom influence enthusiastic achievement of organizational goals.

Here is a consideration. Team members commonly know what to do to get a task accomplished.  Occasionally redirection is necessary to focus the group to achieve the common goal.

This can be achieved without using rough or brash leader interactions. Maximize your leadership potential by following three steps:

  1. Recognize behaviors that may cause organizational discord.
  2. Identify the potential outcome of undesirable interactions.
  3. Select a more team-focused manner of interaction

Play Time!

Children know how to let loose and live! They appear to have a never-ending supply of adrenaline and use a good amount of it during play. Like children, leaders must find ways to incorporate play at work.

Now this may not mean that you start recruiting for the next kickball league but if kickball works for your organization go for it! What play could also mean is finding ways to connect through team building interactions or just having a great time at work.

Just before the scouts departed, they played a round of dodge the water bucket. The chuck box fiasco appeared to have minimal impact on the group. Once again, the patrol was back to the happy and carefree group of boys who were excited about the camp out.

The water game represented a way to build a stronger bond following a tough interaction. In that moment, the boys demonstrated two things that successful leaders and team members should do:

Move beyond the past and appreciate the gift of future interactions.

boys playing

Examination of leadership qualities through the lens of the youth provides an opportunity for organizational leaders to get back to basics.

By incorporating simple yet overlooked skills that children demonstrate, leaders will experience the benefit of an improved organizational dynamic.  This renewed focus is sure to have a profound effect on leadership skill growth.

How Can Leaders Incorporate Overlooked Skills?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Florida Starks
Dr. Florida E. Starks is an Area Training Manager at Verizon. With more than 22 years in corporate higher education, her primary objective is managing new hire training, continuing education initiatives, employee on boarding, and enterprise change strategy.
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