Leadership Notes #53 – White Stag and the 11 Skills of Leadership

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

As a follow-on to last week’s Note on a history of the BSA’s leadership development programs, this week we will take a look at White Stag, which used to be a part of the BSA’s leadership development programs.

What is White Stag and its history?

White Stag started with the work of Bela Banathy, a Hungarian now living and working in the US after WWII at the Army Language School and who had an interest in leadership development. From this interest in leadership, he developed a concept of “11 skills of leadership”, and in 1958 in Monterey, California, rolled out a local training program for Boy Scouts, which he called “White Stag Leadership Development”. The name came from a Hungarian folk legend, and was uses as the logo of the 4th World Jamboree held in Hungary before WWII (which Bela attended as a Hungarian Boy Scout).

BSA National took an interest in this training program and after testing, incorporated it into the new Troop Leader Development program in 1973 and in the new “Leadership Development Wood Badge” course rolled out in 1972. TLD became the basis for JLTC and subsequent “junior leader” training courses until the more recent Wood Badge-based NYLT came along. “Leadership Development Wood Badge” (usually called “Boy Scout Leader Wood Badge”) was more or less the standard Wood Badge course until it was totally revamped as the 21st Century Wood Badge in 1998, with the White Stag-based “11 skills of leadership” was replaced with Situational Leadership/Situational Team Leadership.

In addition, Banathy wrote up a report for WOSM called “World Scouting Reference Paper No. 1: Leadership Development” (you may read a copy here: http://whitestag.org/history/world_scouting_ref_no1.html) which explains the 11 skills of leadership. Further, in the earlier editions of the “Venturing Leader Manual”, there was a chapter covering the 11 Skills. This chapter was dropped in the wake of the Wood Badge revamp.

Despite National dropping White Stag and the 11 Skills of Leadership, White Stag continues to this day as a local training program for youth. They maintain their own website (www.whitestag.org) with full info on the program. It’s a three phase program that is more actually a 9-level training program. The levels are:
1. Patrol Member Development (Phase I)
2. Patrol Leader Development (Phase II)
3. Troop Leader Development (Phase III)
4. PMD- youth staff
5. PLD- youth staff
6. TLD- youth staff
7. PMD- adult staff
8. PLD- adult staff
9. TLD- adult staff

These levels are explained here: http://whitestag.org/youth_leadership_camp/index.html

So what, then, are the 11 Skills of Leadership? They are:
1. Getting and Giving Information
2. Understanding Group Needs and Characteristics
3. Knowing and Understanding Group Resources
4. Controlling the Group
5. Counseling
6. Setting the Example
7. Representing the Group
8. Planning
9. Evaluation
10. Sharing Leadership
11. Manager of Learning

BSA National actually changed a few when they incorporated them into TLD & Wood Badge, but we’ll go with the original names. Most of these skills seem obvious, and we’ve touched on a few in past Notes.

“Getting and Giving Information” is all about communication. And it focuses on the importance of *two way* communication between a leader and a follower. And in including the importance of the leader obtaining information from a higher level and passing it along to their follows.

“Understand Group Needs and Characteristics” is about getting to know the people you work with. Otherwise, how will you know their needs? How will you know their characteristics? And “Knowing and Understanding Group Resources” is kind of the twin to that. What can the group do (or more precisely, what can the members in the group do)? What are the skills, knowledge, resources that exist in the group? Too often people overlook what the people they work with can do.

“Controlling the group” sounds negative. More accurately, it may be better to say `directing the group’, getting them aimed at their goal and keeping them on track.

“Counseling” means mentoring & coaching the members of the group.

“Setting the example” is something that all leaders must do. How you conduct yourself is a reflection of who you are. If you say one thing, but act another, you are setting a poor example, and people will notice. “Do what you say you will do” should be your watch phrase.

“Representing the group”. Often times as leaders, part of our job is to represent the group to another, perhaps higher group. This could be giving a committee report to the crew executive committee, or serving as your crew’s VOA representative. In representing the group, one must give a correct and fair assessment. This can include not taking credit for others work (someone WILL find this out). And it goes back also to “giving and getting information”, in conveying information back and forth.

“Planning” is pretty obvious. We’ve touched on this before. The importance of planning what the group is doing, using problem solving techniques to come to a decision.

“Evaluating” is about always giving feedback. What is going well, what is not. In many ways this ties in also with Counseling.

“Sharing Leadership” actually touches on Situational Leadership, where the leader shares leadership with their followers. It also can be seen as similar to servant leadership.

“Manager of Learning” is about the concept that the leader should be developing their followers, but in a method of ‘guided discovery’, which could also be called ‘facilitation’. Again, this touches on an aspect of servant leadership where the leader develops their followers.

All of this is covered at their website, as well as fully covered in the book “Resources for Leadership” (5th edition) which may be purchased as a PDF. A separate PDF book, “Follow the White Stag” (3rd edition), gives information on how to implement the training. (I guess they haven’t discovered the concept of “print on demand”) Overall I think the White Stag program is one that is too often overlooked in favor of more well known programs. Check it out.

Here is a YouTube video on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMSH-X5WhqQ