Leadership and Social Change Term Paper

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Leadership and Social Change: Boy Scouts of America

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Oddly enough, the element of my adult life that incorporates service to the community is my work with the Boy Scouts of America. I say that this is odd because most people associate the Boy Scouts with boys doing service projects, but it also requires adult volunteer participation. While boys doing service projects is a huge part of the Boy Scouts, the reality is that the Boy Scouts could not function without adult volunteers. Boy Scouts of America can be considered a true community partner because it is one of the nation's largest youth-oriented groups. Boy Scouts works to help boys develop into strong young men. To do so, the Boy Scouts concentrate on developing character. They try to help young boys develop responsibility, promote good citizenship, and try to promote physical fitness. However, the Boy Scouts are involved with the community on multiple levels, because the Scouts interact with the community. On national holidays, some Boy Scout troops sell and place flags at residences and at businesses. To become Eagle Scouts, boys have to finish community service projects. Furthermore, Scouts and troops are involved with the community in different ways throughout the year. Depending on the troop, Boy Scouts might work with Habitat for Humanity, different Earth Day organization, Meals on Wheels, or other community charities to help give back to the community. Boy Scouts also teaches boys respect for the land, by teaching them not only how to camp, but how to interact with nature in way that preserves its use for future generations. Taken as a whole, with its emphasis on giving to the community and preserving the community for future generations, it is clear that the Boy Scouts plays a role in the community.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Leadership and Social Change Assignment

Because of its greater interaction with the community, the Boy Scouts provides great opportunities, for both boys and adult volunteers, to be servant leaders in the community. Boy Scouts are told to be obedient, and obedience is one of the less-discussed, but critically important aspects of servant leadership. One of the reasons that Boy Scouts provides a good opportunity for servant leaders is because of its emphasis on religion. It would be erroneous to say that Boy Scouts is a Christian organization, because it welcomes boys from all faith backgrounds and is not limited to Christians. However, it is accurate to say that the Boy Scouts is a religious organization. Boy Scouts stresses the importance of God in lives, requiring that Scouts be reverent. Given that servant leadership has been characterized in religious circles and that some of the best examples of servant leadership have a religious context, the fact that the Boy Scouts emphasizes reverence helps explain why it has been so useful in helping develop boys into servant leaders.

As a parent, I have been involved with different volunteer roles in the Boy Scouts. In the past, I have been a den leader of a Tiger Scout troop. I currently have a seven-year-old son who is a Cub Scout. While I am not currently a troop leader, I help out at the weekly events. Furthermore, I volunteer to help out at the different special events that the boys have. Boy Scouts are very focused on the outdoors, and much of my volunteer activity has been in outdoor activities and camping trips. Each outdoor activity offers a different opportunity for adult involvement. First, adults have to set up any of the activities that the boys do. A simple canoeing trip involves planning a location, ensuring that the location is reserved or otherwise usable for the boys, making sure that there are adequate supplies for the children, making sure that the appropriate adults are present, because there are rules about the adult to child ratio, and the presence of a first-aid trained adult at events. Therefore, even when I have simply been acting in the role of a parent-volunteer, this participation has taken a significant amount of time and energy. As a troop leader, the ultimate responsibility for the success of a venture, as well as the safety of the boys, rested with me, so I spent additional time not only setting up events, but ensuring that they would be safe.

I have also volunteered at the Pinewood Derby. To help conduct the Pinewood Derby, I had to take a training course which taught me about the origins and purposes of the derby, how to plan the derby, how to organize the derby, and how to conduct the derby. What is interesting is that the Pinewood Derby, which so many people associate with the Boy Scouts, is very different from many traditional Boy Scout activities because the boys compete with one another. Although the Boy Scouts emphasize the importance of doing one's personal best, the competitive event helps build character by helping boys create something of their own, promote family bonds because boys work with an adult partner (usually a parent) to create the vehicle, and teach sportsmanship as the boys race against one another and cheer on their pack mates through eliminations and victories. I particularly enjoyed working on this project, because so many aspects of adult life are both competitive and cooperative, like the Pinewood Derby, and I felt like it helped prepare boys for that part of life. One of the most difficult things for young people to learn is how to be competitive with grace and without animosity towards the people against whom one is competing. In the increasingly cutthroat atmosphere of children's sports and other youth-based competitions, it seems like very few adults are willing to model friendly competition, instead wishing to teach children that winning at any cost is important.

The values and skills that have initiated and sustained my service have been based in my relationship with my child. While people may be able to connect with their community without children, for me, having a child reinforced the idea that I am part of a greater community. Looking at the Social Change Model, the concept of citizenship refers to "active community participation as a result of a sense of responsibility to the communities in which people live" (Komives & Wagner, 2009). My sense of responsibility began with my responsibility to my child, as I realized that if I wanted him to have the experiences of childhood; I would have to do my part to help provide those experiences. As I became more involved with Boy Scouts, I came to the realization that many children lack parents who are able or willing to devote time to them, and that my obligation to them compelled my continued community service. Rather than allow myself to be resentful that some parents seemed unwilling to shoulder their share of the work involved in the scout troop, I tried to embrace the idea that I was in that troop to help those children, in addition to helping my own child. Because it encouraged me to change my perspective, I believe that my involvement in Boy Scouts has also helped develop my group values of collaboration and common purpose.

I realize that all of our school texts touch on the idea of servant leadership, but I still believe that Robert Greenleaf's description of the servant leader is probably the most concise and helpful description of servant leadership available. Greenleaf stresses how important empathy is to the servant leader. I believe that I have done a very good job developing my empathy. When I first began working with people, I would concentrate on the ideals. As a result, I found myself frustrated when people failed to live up to my expectations for how I thought people should be. I also found that my plans did not work as I had hoped they would, because I was planning for idyllic scenarios, not real life scenarios. The reality is that people are not idyllic, and leaders who wait for ideal conditions or people find themselves without people to lead and without occasions to lead. Rather than wait for the ideal, servant-leaders are expected to accept people as they are and work within the limitations of human imperfection (Greenleaf, 2002). It is in those scenarios that empathy is critical. Moreover, I believe that empathy helps a leader build community, and I feel as if another of my strengths as a servant leader is in my community-building capacity. Part of being empathetic is dealing with the fact that people are not always going to live up to their promises and obligations. Sometimes, this failure to meet an obligation is unintentional; a person experiences a death, loss, sickness, or other emergency that prevents them from meeting the obligation. Understanding those circumstances was always easy for me. However, sometimes the failure to meet an obligation seems to be the result of poor planning on the part of the promisor, resulting in more work for people who have relied upon them to do their part. Learning to be empathetic not only helped… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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