An integral part of the Boy Scouts of America and the Order of the Arrow is service to others and the community. Whether this service be in the form of camp clean-ups or participating in local volunteer organizations, every Scout knows that it is vital to the BSA program and helps build stronger community ties. However, there is another form of service that is especially prevalent in the OA: servant leadership. Servant leadership is different in the fact that it is a quality within a person and cannot be measured numerically, whereas traditional service projects can be counted. Servant leadership, in its most broad definition, is the idea that a person wishes to selflessly assist others before leading them to achieve a common goal.
This definition, while comprehensive, has a different meaning for everyone, especially depending on their role in their lodge. For example, Nathan K., former Section E5 chief, understands servant leadership as “putting others’ needs before your own so the team can be better than you.” While serving as section chief and planning their annual Conclave, Nathan recognized the importance of fulfilling his section’s needs and organizing events that would cater to the 600 Arrowmen from diverse backgrounds. For Nathan, seeing the success of his efforts made him realize the impact his actions as a leader can have on others.
While servant leadership is especially vital for those, like Nathan, with leadership roles in their lodges or sections, it is equally important for every member to grasp its importance. Jeffrey H., a member of Section E9, believes that servant leadership is “doing, as a leader, the tasks that you’ve assigned to people with them and helping them through it.”
Specifically for Jeffrey, he sees the importance of this when completing service projects for his lodge. While all members should be encouraged to participate, it is essential that the leaders take an active role in the project and guide others through the process. Even though these two definitions of servant leadership vary, they both highlight the same idea: a Scout must be willing to lead by example and work for and with others to achieve a common goal.
Beyond regular service projects and community events, however, servant leadership is present in the OA’s core values and traditions. Elangomats and Nimats at lodge events are a great example of offering servant leadership. Elangomats spend the night under the stars, take vows of silence, eat scant food, and participate in selfless labor for the day. Not only do these noble acts make incoming members feel more welcome, they can inspire Arrowmen to volunteer their time for the next class of Ordeal candidates. Once the Ordeal candidates become members and continue their journey in the OA, Nimats guide them to Brotherhood and ensure these members remain active in the lodge. Both Elangomats and Nimats show incoming members the importance of selfless leadership and sacrifice. These members, by volunteering their time and temporarily dispensing some of their privileges, instill the values of the OA into new Arrowmen and strengthen the very ideals that founded this organization. These ideals, then, transfer into the general lodge membership and are prevalent for those with leadership roles.
For 2023 Eastern Region Chief Matthew Carlson, the values of servant leadership “help those at every level as they serve their lodge.” Having held committee chair and section positions in the past, he points out the importance of “being able to lead work projects, learn from people around you, and lead at a young age.”
Indeed, servant leadership applies to everyone regardless of their age or position and can only improve with time. It is a quality that, when instilled early on, can make a significant impact in the future.
These fundamental values, according to Matthew, are what enable youth to “have the opportunity to run a national program and lead the right way.”
Fostering the ideas of servant leadership is vital to the longevity of our organization . Whether an Arrowman serves as a lodge chief or is active as a general member, cheerful and selfless service is the backbone of the organization. Instilling the values of servant leadership not only strengthens the bonds of brotherhood in the OA but prepares members for life outside of Scouting. Thus, it is important that we “remain unselfish in service and devotion to the welfare of others” throughout our lives.