Choosing a new Leader


Scouting Ireland’s National Council will elect ten, possibly eleven new members of the National Management Committee of Scouting Ireland in early 2015. This represents a thus far unprecedented opportunity to set an agenda for the coming three and possibly six years. A central part of setting that agenda will be the decision made about whom the association elects as its next Chief Scout.

The Irish Scouter, not known for being overly traditional, has some rather traditional views when it comes not so much to the role of Chief Scout, but to the personal attributes a Chief Scout should have.

Some roles in Scouting can get by with a ‘second rate’ candidate. The Chief Scout role, if being undertaken correctly, cannot.

So what does the role look like from an ideal perspective?


The Chief Scout is the titular head of Scouting Ireland. The occupant of this role is above all, a leader of unquestionable integrity, an individual of impeccable ethics, a leader by example and an inspirational one at that.

The number of hours worked, young people met, meetings attended or even the crispness of uniform fade into insignificance when set against the importance of integrity.

The Chief Scout is the upholder of the moral and ethical code by which Scouting and Scouts, Scouters set out to live their lives. The Chief Scout is everyone’s Chief Scout. The occupant of the role does not favour one type of scout over another. Urban and rural, liberal and conservative, traditional and modern, male, female, gay, straight, whatever religious or spiritual beliefs, from wherever in the country and whatever views a member has of scouting and indeed of the Chief Scout, the Chief Scout is the leader and is at all times flawlessly fair-minded to all.

The Chief Scout impresses with the power of their example, (not with examples of their power).


The Chief Scout respects the viewpoints of all within Scouting Ireland. The incumbent is a respecter of traditions, but not a slave to them. The Chief Scout embraces innovative and new thinking, but does not react to every fad, nor is the baby thrown out with the bath water. He/she has two ears and one mouth and understands why, but does not shirk from articulating a vision of a truly unified Scouting movement in Ireland, because united, Scouting can achieve far more than it does in its current divided, overly corporatized and demoralized state.


The Chief Scout may well be a superb manager, an accomplished administrator, a formidable chairperson, great with kids, inspiring for adults and many other things in his or her own right. He or she may have independent means and thus vast amounts of time to devote to the role. None of this however is necessary, useful and all as it might well be.

The Chief Scout is a leader first and foremost. The most important role for the Chief Scout is not to be aloof or distant, but to be outstanding in terms of integrity and in ability to inspire, encourage, unite, support and provide a vision around which the association can unite and grow.

Whilst prepared to lead, the Chief Scout does so always with humility and courtesy to all. The Chief Scout will lead by example.

Of all the functional tasks associated with being Chief Scout, the office holder can retain and develop those for which he has aptitude. The Chief Scout will know what he is good at. Equally, outside core competencies, the Chief Scout will delegate to good people and will know they are good people because they will operate to the same high ethical standards as the Chief Scout himself. On key matters, the delegation may be partial and the responsibility will be retained. On routine issues, the delegation may be complete and passed to (for example) the National Secretary, Treasurer another officer or a chosen envoy.


In terms of time devoted to the role, the Chief Scout will be a balanced individual with a well-rounded life. She will be aware of world and national affairs, will have a broad and informed perspective on things generally, but will also have a strong rooting to local scouting and understand the value of community.

All this means that the time the Chief Scout gives will vary week to week. A good Chief Scout will know when it is important to be somewhere and will also understand that sometimes ‘important’ and ‘high profile’ are not the same thing.

The Chief Scout will be a champion of genuine youth participation – not merely the provider of lip service around it. He/she will encourage and inspire scouters nationally and locally to raise the game on youth participation. The Chief Scout will also know that ‘youth participation’ needs to be far more than token individuals in a chosen elite – it needs to be all-pervading at every level and it needs to be real and sustained (this will of course take time, but the Chief Scout has a role to play in setting out the vision and then gently but firmly seeking to lead and inspire Scouting further along this path)


The Chief Scout, as Chair of the NMC and National Council will discharge these responsibilities effectively, efficiently, with good nature towards colleagues and with good humour. He will be tactful and diplomatic but will not shirk from banging heads together (in a good-natured way) when required. He will ensure debates are fair and balanced, that people get their say but that both sides of the argument are heard. He will encourage and foster a culture of robust debate but mutual respect.

At National Council, the Chief Scout will chair proceedings in a timely and good-humoured manner, ensuring people get their say & that all arguments get fair airing and debate is robust without being unpleasant.

On matters where the NMC or other national entities are shown to be in the wrong on a matter, a transgression is highlighted or in such circumstances where the NMC are simply overstepping the line, the Chief Scout will act decisively to take personal responsibility and undertake to do the right thing. The membership will, over time come to trust that if the Chief Scout makes a commitment, she is as good as her word.

Before long, the same perception will apply to every member of the National Management Committee – and it will be a well-earned accolade, because the example will be coming from the leader of the team.


In essence, whatever one member might think of another, whatever the background, worldview, attitude or culture – Whatever side of the argument or debate one is on and no matter whom one crosses swords with in the spirit of lively debate and robust decision making, the Chief Scout is the last line of defence in terms of independence, fairness, upholding the ethics and morals associated with Scouting at its best and thus the one office and one individual who above all others in the association can be relied upon to make a balanced decision that is genuinely in the interests of members as a whole, not narrow self interest or being beholden to or part of one particular interest group or clique.

All of the above may of course look as though it will require near super-human qualities. It will not.

If above all else, the Chief Scout has unquestionable integrity, truly leads by example, is genuinely fair-minded and determined to represent every member equally, quite a lot of other things will simply fall into place with surprising ease.


Scouting is on the cusp of a very significant vote. The vote for this particular role will be the most significant of all by far.

Whoever you choose to vote for, if you have a vote, use it.

6 thoughts on “Choosing a new Leader”

  1. . Over the last few months we have seen Candidates for NMC using ‘transparency’ and ‘Group Centered’ as their mantra. which in turn says that neither exist in the NMC of 2014/15, With Keirnan jumping ship or being turfed overboard? at the last hour, it only left the secretary of NMC 2014/15 for election of chief scout however he did not reach the quota for election…So the National Council made the correct decision, even though it leave us without a Chief scout for a while …. Very interesting politiking on the Hill over the next few weeks me thinks.

  2. I have to disagree here Jimmy, the events on Saturday were an absolute disgrace. As an Association we let ourselves down badly.

    In Irish Presidential elections, if there is only one candidate, that person is deemed elected. If that’s good enough for the highest elected position in the land, why is it not good enough for Scouting Ireland?

    If the Away team don’t turn up for the match, it’s awarded to the Home team – you don’t make them play a match against themselves!

    I also found out (and didn’t know it before) that in SI elections spoiled votes are counted as valid… that’s quite ridiculous…in our national elections, spoiled votes are counted but discarded; they are not included in the total valid poll.

    Two highly respected, long-serving Scouters are now in place they don’t want to be. They deserved better from us; the Association deserves better, our youth members deserve better.

  3. There was a motion passed by National Council a few years ago to ensure that uncontested candidates enjoyed the support of the majority of the voting membership, a kind of Re-Open-Nominations. Spoiled votes, especially deliberately spoiled votes, are clearly a vote against the candidate. If an unopposed candidate cannot get 50%+1 of the votes there are issues that need to be addressed.

    I wasn’t at National Council but it seems it was just one more in a string of disgraceful National Councils, something of a speciality of SI.

    I don’t know Seán but I have no doubt that he has worked dilligently, to the best of his ability and in a manner which to his best judgement, was for the betterment of Scouting in Ireland. I do know Kiernan somewhat and believe that he has worked dilligently, to the best of his ability and a manner which to his best judgement, was for the betterment of Scouting in Ireland. I wish Kiernan a speedy recovery.

    However I would also dearly love to see Scouting Ireland look to its future with new hands, eyes, ears and heads at the helm, yoke or reins. I mean no disrespect to the two gentlemen when I say that surely, after 10 years we can find people who DON’T have 30 years of experience at the shiny end of scouting. Has there been no succession planning to get some of our fine, intelligent, capable and articulate younger scouters to encourage and foster the development of Scouting Ireland for a new generation.

    Among other things we need to take a long hard look at how some of the roles have expanded as the Association has, like a Limited Company (exempt by law from using the word limited), become more controling and more centralised. Smaller jobs, fewer meetings, more delegation. Isn’t that how scouting is supposed to work. Each Patrol has a PL, a QM, a scribe, a librarian, a treasurer and each is trusted to perform their function.
    I know from experience that matters that should have been dealt with by GLs have taken up the time of two or three national officers. Their time could have been better spent at home in bed or with their family or doing some real scouting.

  4. I cannot disagree with your detailing of what we require of a chief scout. It strikes me that we must have many members, of all shapes and sizes who might meet these criteria. What you don’t name, is that there are significant practical blocks to many of this number being able to aspire to and commit to this role. The role is extremely demanding on personal time, requiring significant freedom and flexibility to travel and attend meetings – not at all friendly to most family, professional and personal circumstances. Maybe it’s time that we looked at the position being a paid one, which would allow many more fine candidates be able to throw their hats into the ring!! I made a point in another setting about the lack of female candidates for NMC roles. We can unwittingly design structures and processes to exclude people…….let’s now look at how we can flip these structures and processes.

    1. Hi Paul. You make a very valid point about how structures can sometimes unintentionally exclude some potential participants. On a paid role, payment in my view risks fundamentally altering the dynamics of the role, because when one takes a payment, one is no longer a volunteer. To me, the Chief Scout role simply needs to become less ‘hands on’ – it was never intended to be a ‘manager’ role, it is a ‘leadership’ role. The association elects various people to ‘management’ roles – we even employ some managers to assist with policy implementation. The Chief Scout role should be that of Leader, Ambassador, Strategist. Let others do the running around and focus on the bit we have been missing – LEADERSHIP.

  5. Hi Garret. Obviously payment changes the voluntary nature of the role. One could look at it from the perspective of ‘volunteering’ for the role and then being ‘reimbursed’ by members for what is far from a part-time role. I agree with the manager/leader dichotomy and it would be desirable to redefine the chief scout role in these terms. However, from an exclusionary perspective, you would still find most unable to step forward for selection, as effective Leadership requires significant availability, visibility and presence. Show me the young worker, the parent of teenagers, the mid-career professional, the adult with carer responsibilities etc who could seriously consider volunteering for selection as Chief Scout…… Continue to do what we’ve always done – get what we’ve always got!

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