Teaching Scouts to be Leaders

Leadership- That’s what youth learn in Scouting, but how do we, as adult leaders, teach it?

Recently, our ship began using the, “Introduction to Leadership Skills for Ships” (ILSS) course as part of our quarterdeck training. The ILSS course is a facilitated interactive “workshop” type course, designed to teach the basics of leadership to our youth as they move into leadership positions.

The Balloon Game- Part of ILSS
The Balloon Game- Part of ILSS

The ILSS course uses the “E.D.G.E  Method” for teaching leadership:

E.D.G.E  Method

E-Explain (explain the objective)

D- Demonstrate (demonstrate it)

G-Guide (guide the Scout to success)

E- Enable (enable them by providing what they need to reach the objective)

This is all great theory, but the challenge for us was how to consistently put it into practice…actually using what we learned in the classroom out in the real world.

The solution we found was to use these words in our everyday language. First, we simplified E.D.G.E. and how we talk about it:

Explain and Demonstrate– means you are (basically) doing everything.

Guide and Enable– Means you are not doing anything. (Sort of, not exactly)

Basically, “Explain and Demonstrate” is hands-on, while “Guide and Enable” is more hands-off.

Guiding and enabling Opal on the helm-Steaming into Honolulu, Summer Cruise 2014
Guiding and enabling Opal on the helm-Steaming into Honolulu, Summer Cruise 2014

Guide and Enable Status”

Now the goal was simple: get everyone to “Guide and Enable status” in their area of responsibility. A perfect example of this is a new Boatswain. As a Skipper, I will explain and demonstrate with the ultimate goal of getting her to “Guide and Enable status” as quickly as possible.

Once the Boatswain has reached “G&E status”, I can take a backseat, giving guidance when needed and enabling by making sure she has what she needs to get the job done and lead her crew.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Boatswain’s goal is to get her crew to “G&E” status as well. And so it goes down through the chain of command, from the Boatswain to the newest crew member.  Optimally, everyone on your ship will be striving to reach “G&E status” and the goal of your leaders is to help to get them there.

Using E.D.G.E. method (and the phrase “Guide and Enable status”) in our everyday language actually brought E.D.G.E. Method out of the classroom and into the real world, where we could use it.

So where can your ship put the E.D.G.E. method into practice?

Pretty much everywhere!

The new kid learning Apprentice knots?

Often teaching knots means tying knots, but get that kid to “guide and enable status” (Or better yet, have a crew member do it) and then you can show him where the knot lines are and tell him to come get you when he can tie all of his knots in under a minute.

The veteran of a few cruises learning engineering?

If you’re explaining and demonstrating, you’ll be in the engine room, but if you’re guiding and enabling you can sip coffee on the bridge and wait for the report from the engineer.

E.D.G.E. method can work well in any situation, but remember: The best situation is to have the youth explaining, demonstrating, guiding, enabling (and leading) each other!

guiding and enabling with a bowl of Froot Loops- Crossing the Kaiwi Channel, Summer Cruise 2014
Guiding and enabling with a bowl of Froot Loops- Crossing the Kaiwi Channel, Summer Cruise 2014

Measuring Success

You know it’s working when you hear yourself (and others) saying things like, “whatever you think is best” or, “what do you need from me make this successful”. At that point, youth are assessing the situation, making their own decisions and running the show. They are leading!


E.D.G.E. Method did not work so great when we talked about it once every 6 months during leadership training. It only worked for us when we used the words in our everyday language because it made the concepts relevant, the goals attainable and the results real.

Start using the phrase, “G&E status” on your ship, and make that a goal. Before long you will hear yourself saying, “whatever you think is best” and your youth will be leading their ship.

Newly trained quarterdeck- Ready to lead!
Newly trained quarterdeck- Ready to lead!

Respectfully submitted by

Larry Richardson

Skipper, SSS Decisive, Kauai, Hawaii

Western Region Program Task Force

The “Introduction to Leadership Skills for Ships” course can be found here: http://www.seascout.org/component/edocman/introduction-to-leadership-skills-ilss-bsa-official

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