Leading

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My son is off on a camping trip this weekend. And from what I hear, he may be scaring some of the younger Boy Scouts and Webelos who are in attendance. I think he would call it … leadership skills.

When the boys are starting to settle in for the night, my son will walk around to the young Scouts, approaching those who have chosen a top bunk.

“I see you’ve chosen a top bunk,” he will say to them matter-of-factly.

“Yup,” they will mumble as they burrow themselves deep into their sleeping bags. “Top bunk.”

“The first time I came here, I thought I was cool and chose a top bunk, too.”

And then he goes on to tell them that back when he was a Webelo, he attended this very camp out to this very location. And because he was young and … well, inexperienced … he, too, thought the top bunk was a good idea. And it was… at least, at first.

In the middle of the night, the slippery vinyl of the camp mattress had an argument with the equally slippery nylon of his sleeping bag, and the combination tossed him out of bed and onto the floor. And the floor was far, far below the top bunk.

The resulting impact awakened everyone else in the cabin. In the middle of the night, such a sudden and unexpected noise sounded like a freight train slamming into the building. (I was not there, but I was told). And the poor kid ended with up a concussion that lasted far longer than the thrill of sleeping in the top bunk. Actually, it was a pretty tough couple of months, but that’s a story for another day.

When my son is done telling his story, some of the younger scouts will change their original choice and move to a spot that’s closer to the floor just in case. But some of them will stay right where they are. And my son can retreat to his own bunk (a lower one, of course) with the peace of mind that he has done what he can.

Because sometimes we lead by example. And sometimes, it is far more effective to instill a little fear and lead by sharing your own hard lived experience.

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