John May

Let me share with you a simple story of a typical Award journey. There was once a young man who pretty much wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Let’s call him Johnnie. He was good at lessons, but when it came to sport and things outside the classroom he was useless. He had two left feet and couldn’t kick or catch a rugby ball. He tried learning the guitar, but couldn’t develop the patience to practise. But he did enjoy working towards his Award.

One afternoon, in preparation for the Award adventurous journey (or expedition as it was known at the time) Johnnie’s Scout Patrol were sent on a practice map reading exercise in the fields around his school. Each member of the Patrol took turns in taking the lead and using the map and compass to navigate. When it was Johnnie’s turn, he managed to get completely and utterly lost. He knew that he was about to lose face in front of his friends. He was close to tears. His Patrol Leader recognised very quickly what had happened. Instead of bawling Johnnie out, when no-one else was looking, he reached over and, very gently, oriented the map correctly, righted the compass and pointed at the proper place on the map. And so Johnnie was able to lead the Patrol to the next checkpoint without any of his friends noticing the hideous, embarrassing, appalling mistake he had made.

And Johnnie has remembered his Patrol Leader’s little selfless act of leadership ever since. It was an important milestone, probably for both of them. I know, because I am, of course, Johnnie. And I’m still pretty rubbish at map reading.

Now, you and I could draw any number of lessons from that milestone moment and apply them to life’s journey. Getting back on track after getting lost. The need to develop new skills, resilience, the right attitudes and positive behaviours.

For me, that afternoon taught me about true leadership, selflessness and compassion. It confirmed in my 14-year-old mind why I loved the Award. And I still do.