January 2015

Two Things All Leaders Can Learn From Eagle Scouts

By Tom Deierlein

As part of TD Foundation I have had the great pleasure of working with two Boy Scouts as part of their Eagle Scout projects. One from New Jersey and one from Massachusetts. They both selected our charity to be the recipient of their project. When the second one approached me about a year after the first, I unknowingly offered to send him the first project plan. He insisted that he could not review or use the work of another Scout and must do it entirely by himself. No one would have known. I didn't. But, he would have and that is all that mattered. He did it on his own and I was honored to be invited to speak at his Eagle Induction ceremony.

I had been a Boy Scout back when I was a kid, but didn't quite remember all the values that were the real focus of the programs. There are 12 principles a Boy Scout lives by which is actually considered the Scout Law. "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent."

All leaders must have and live by a set of values. The Boy Scouts do an excellent job at that — even starting with the Cub Scouts. So the first important lesson that all leaders can take from Scouts is the importance of values. Having them; defining them in simple and easy to understand terms; documenting them, and constantly reinforcing them for the team; and of course modeling them for your team.

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During the Eagle Scout ceremony one Scout at a time will light a white candle and say one principle of the law.

A Scout is Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him.

A Scout is Loyal. A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and nation.

A Scout is Helpful. A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward.

A Scout is Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.

A Scout is Courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.

A Scout is Kind. A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing.

A Scout is Obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them.

A Scout is Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.

A Scout is Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his own way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.

A Scout is Brave. A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.

A Scout is Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean.

A Scout is Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

The second lesson is more specific to Eagle Scouts alone. It is about GRIT. Setting goals and having the GRIT to stay focused on achieving them. Only about 5% of all Scouts go on to become Eagle Scouts. It is an elite status with rigorous and well maintained standards. To achieve the rank, you must set out on that path at a very early age in order to meet the deadline of 17 years old (not yet 18). To me the most amazing and therefore most admirable fact is quite simple. The Eagle Scouts are not special – in fact they are exactly like every single other Scout. With one, small, critical difference: GRIT. They set and achieved goals and had the persistence and discipline to stay on the path where so many others fail and 95% fall short.

There are many famous Eagles Scouts including Neil Armstrong, Michael Bloomberg, L Ron Hubbard, JW Marriott, Stephen Spielberg, President Gerald Ford, Ross Perot, and Sam Walton to name just a few. These athletes, politicians, military generals, businessmen, astronauts, and entertainers all the set the stage for a lifetime of success as teenagers.

We as leaders can all learn from Eagle Scouts. First, have and share values with your teammates. Second, set goals, and then have the focus and persistence to achieve them.

I have three boys now and all will be Cub Scouts. It will be character building and I would be very proud if they can learn and live by those 12 principles. I hope one or even all three go on to become elite Eagles. I won't push them. That will be up to them.

The Building Blocks of Scouting Values

Scouting is a values-based program with its own code of conduct. The Scout Oath and Law help instill the values of good conduct, respect for others, and honesty. Scouts learn skills that will last a lifetime, including basic outdoor skills, first aid, citizenship skills, leadership skills, and how to get along with others. For almost a century, Scouting has instilled in young men the values and knowledge that they will need to become leaders in their communities and country.

Cub Scouting's 12 Core Values Character Development

Since its origin, the Scouting program has been an educational experience concerned with values. In 1910, the first activities for Scouts were designed to build character, physical fitness, practical skills, and service. These elements were part of the original Cub Scout program and continue to be part of Cub Scouting today:

  1. Citizenship: Contributing service and showing responsibility to local, state, and national communities
  2. Compassion: Being kind and considerate, and showing concern for the well-being of others
  3. Cooperation: Being helpful and working together with others toward a common goal
  4. Courage: Being brave and doing what is right regardless of our fears, the difficulties, or the consequences
  5. Faith: Having inner strength and confidence based on our trust in God
  6. Health and Fitness: Being personally committed to keeping our minds and bodies clean and fit
  7. Honesty: Telling the truth and being worthy of trust
  8. Perseverance: Sticking with something and not giving up, even if it is difficult
  9. Positive Attitude: Being cheerful and setting our minds to look for and find the best in all situations
  10. Resourcefulness: Using human and other resources to their fullest
  11. Respect: Showing regard for the worth of something or someone
  12. Responsibility: Fulfilling our duty to God, country, other people, and ourselves

Reprinted with Permission