Wood Badge, Scouting, and Leadership

In August 2021, I had the privilege of travelling to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM to attend Wood Badge 133. The Wood Badge experience was nothing short of exemplary. I’ve been a scout leader for 5 years and leader and manager of software teams for over 13 years, and I’ve never been to anything quite as comprehensive and well-thought as this leadership training. What was the price for this 5 day training? It’s a steal at under $700!

The purpose of this blog post is to talk a little about leadership, a little about Scouting, and a lot about Wood Badge.

What is leadership?

If you ask this question to 5 different people, you’ll likely get 7 different answers. What leadership means is very subjective, but leadership is not just being a manager or a CEO. Everyone is able to lead, regardless of the position they hold in their company (or in scouting).

To me, leadership is situational. You can be a leader by helping to rally a group of people around a vision, a mission, or a task and see it to completion. You can be a leader by providing coaching or mentoring to people whom need guidance. You can be a leader by helping to bring about change, whether it’s to your team, your office, your company, your school, your community, your nation, or your world. You can be a leader for something small that is very quick, or you can be a leader for initatives that take years. There are so many situations where you can be a leader.

Most times, chosing to lead is intentional. But sometimes, it’s unintentional. People whom step up to take charge because something must get done can do so without intentionally thinking they are being a “leader”. Are you a volunteer? Guess what - you’re helping to be a leader. You chose to do something without being told. That’s definitely one of the fundamental ways of finding good leaders - finding people with natural drive to want to help and let them soar!

What is good leadership?

Now, just because you step up and take charge of a project doesn’t make you a good or successful leader. It takes a lot to be a really great leader. Great leadership involves:

  • Defining and measuring success.
  • Understanding the situation and how to navigate the waters.
  • Finding appropriate team members to help you succeed.
  • Communicating effectively with your team and with others (this includes listening).
  • Coaching and mentoring your team to help them succeed.
  • Planning for how to achieve success.
  • Planning for contengencies in case of hypothetical impediments.
  • Driving you and your team to success.

There’s much more to leadership than this above list. Ask another leader and they’ll find probably another half a dozen things to add to my list.

Being competent in any of these takes time and experience. You won’t always succeed in everything you set out to do. As backwards as this may sound, failure is one of the greatest tools to help a good leader become great. It’s just important not to fail when there are dire consequences!

The other essential tool to help learn these leadership talents is training. I cannot overstate the importance of leadership training. It helps to provide frameworks, tools, and techniques to help you with various situations. It also provides a safe environment to practice and fail using new tools so you can become comfortable before using them in real life.

This is why I’m so excited about what Wood Badge leadership training provides to the community.

What is Wood Badge?

Wood Badge Logo

On paper, Wood Badge is the ultimate adult leadership training to help scouting leaders to understand the scouting model and ensure the youth in the program get everything out of the scouting program. At it’s core, Wood Badge is a leaderhip training course. They teach concepts such as:

  • Defining Vision, Mission, and Values
  • How to Understand Yourself to Lead Others
  • Effective Communication and Listening
  • Including and Optimizing Diverse Talent
  • Situational Leadership
  • DiSC Personality Profiles and how to use them with your team
  • Project Planning with a Bias for Action
  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Building a Leadership Culture

In total, there are 14 leadership competencies in the Wood Badge curicculum. As you can imagine, there’s not enough time in 5 days to really dive deep into each of these competencies. They give you enough of what you need to know in order to investigate further. However, they do not disappoint in what they are able to present. It is enough for an inexperienced leader to come home with new skills to try and be effective. If they wish to take it further (like with Situational Leadership), additional training exists to help dive deep on any of those topics.

The Wood Badge training ties these leadership competencies to scouting by using the Patrol Method. Your patrol is your cohort for the whole of Wood Badge, and you end up forming a good bond with this team.

My Cohort - Fox Patrol

Why Wood Badge for Leadership Training?

Part of the reason I loved this training so much was how it told the story of the competencies and how they fit together. Most leadership training I’ve ever been thru has been isolated to one or two competencies. Nothing has ever connected training concepts with one another to help maximize potential. I’ve had to learn how to use each of the concepts and figure out my own path for stitching it together. Wood Badge put us thru grueling, time-limited situations to help us as a patrol see how to effectively use those concepts we just learned to be successful.

As a leader (scout leader, company leader, or otherwise), you owe it to yourself to get the best training you can that gives you plenty of opportunity to exercise that training in an environment where failure is acceptable and low-risk. Depending on your environment or situation, you don’t often get those opportunities to try to fail (or at least the consequences for failing may be too high).

If you don’t believe me how inspiring and valuable a training opportunity Wood Badge is, go ask other scouters in your community whom have attended. I have yet to meet a scouter who hasn’t had the same feeling on the importance Wood Badge has been on their life and their relationship to scouting.