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Why Leadership in the OA? A Firsthand Testimonial

  Rachel Alexander             OA Today

Why Leadership in the OA

So, you’ve become a member of Scouting’s National Honor Society and are one of thousands of youth nationwide who represent the best of the Scouting program. In an organization designed to test and develop leaders, finding your leadership role might be initially intimidating. Where do I start? How do I get involved? As someone who found myself asking these same questions, here’s my story.

My path began in the spring of 2021 with my induction into Caddo Lodge of Norwela Council in Louisiana. To be honest, I was actually kind of terrified during my Ordeal. My biggest motivation was that we had a female lodge chief at the time, our first ever. I was a patrol leader then and didn’t know anything about leadership other than that I wanted to be a lodge officer someday. Inspired by other motivated young women in Scouting and a desire to be a part of something bigger than myself and my unit, I pursued a leadership role.

A few months after I completed my Ordeal, my lodge chief asked me if I would take over the role of our lodge communications chair, with a focus on maintaining our Lodge Website. As I was the only Arrowman in my lodge at the time with a passion for communications-based work, I said, “Sure!” without any idea that this was my first true step into lodge leadership. Before I knew it, I attended every event, took photos, uploaded them to our website, and built relationships with many fellow Arrowmen. One of the best ways to develop your leadership skills is to find something you are passionate about and figure out how to do it so that you’re constantly testing yourself and working towards higher goals. For me, website design and photography were my gateway into everything I have experienced as a leader. 

Arrowman with camera taking pictures
Taking photos at my lodge fellowship as the communications chair. This was my first leadership role in my lodge and helped me learn the importance of communication and teamwork.

In the fall, I attended the National Leadership Seminar in Texas, an experience that effectively changed my view of leadership and the Order of the Arrow as a whole. Before NLS, I didn’t have much of a grasp on what leadership was, much less my leadership style. I was the youngest member of my crew and consequently had the least practical experience. Throughout the entire weekend, I interacted with upcoming leaders who all had their own leadership stories and backgrounds. Seeing the impact that leadership had on so many people from across my section and surrounding sections, I discovered my leadership style. Then, I laid the groundwork for my journey to leadership within my lodge. 

7 Arrowmen taking group picture
Crew 7 and I at the National Leadership Seminar. Here, I learned the true meaning of leadership and how to become a better lodge leader.

In January of 2022, I attended my section’s Adapt, Collaborate, Thrive (ACT) Conference since my lodge was hosting conclave that year. During the training, I helped fellow lodge members structure a plan for our lodge over the next year. By doing this, I saw how my lodge functioned within itself and our section. I built relationships with youth from the lodges around me and was fortunate enough to be selected as the publications lead for our conclave, held at my home camp in April of that year. While at conclave, I learned how the section worked, saw section staff and officers in action, and continued to build relationships with others around me. I also decided I wanted to be on conclave staff again the following year and submitted an application as soon as possible. By August, I was selected as the communications conclave vice chief and started building a team of people to work with during the planning process.

Being a member of the conclave staff is probably one of the most pivotal points in my journey, not just because of the skills I developed and the connections I built but because I finally became confident in myself as a leader. I realized my potential and became interested in pursuing leadership roles at the section level and beyond. I was strong enough in my leadership skills to run for section office.

At my lodge’s fall fellowship, I ran for lodge secretary, having now established a background in working with communications, and I won. Now, as a conclave staff member and lodge officer, I could practice the leadership skills I had accumulated over the last year and continue working on myself and my skills. 

As someone who is scared of failure, it took me a couple of mistakes to realize that the Order of the Arrow is a safe space to fail and learn from failure. I hit a couple (a lot) of roadblocks on the way but was consistently supported by those around me, especially by my lodge chief and section secretary at the time. Failure, as I eventually learned, isn’t something to be afraid of. The only way that you learn is by making mistakes, and the more mistakes you make, the closer you get to achieving the goals you envision for yourself. 

Arrowman on stand giving speech
Delivering my section vice chief election speech at conclave. Through this role, I can meet leaders from various sections and work efficiently with fellow officers to plan section events.

Through some of the people I met along my path to the section office, I learned about all the opportunities offered for youth at the regional and national levels. Several subcommittees make up the national level, each focusing on a different part of the OA program as a whole. Through the OA volunteer board, I applied to be a member of the written content team, and since becoming a part of it, I have had the opportunity to write articles about the OA for thousands of Arrowmen to read. By serving on a national subcommittee, I have further developed my understanding of the Order of the Arrow and picked up numerous skills from people across the country.

To say that leadership in the Order of the Arrow has changed me would be an understatement. I have learned much about myself and my leadership style throughout my journey as a lodge and section officer and a national team member. I plan to continue learning more as I grow as a leader. Every leadership role that I have taken up over these last two and a half years has gotten me one step closer to reaching the summit of my leadership journey. Every skill I have learned has helped me achieve that goal faster, more efficiently, and more ambitiously. As I continue to climb this mountain of leadership, I take with me every experience, training, and person that has helped me become the person I am today.

So, I encourage you to take the next step on your leadership path. Get involved with your chapter, lodge, section, and nation in any way you can, and work to encourage others to do the same. Everyone has their leadership path, so why not go ahead and take your first step through leadership in the Order of the Arrow?