Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leading Change

The word change is certainly being batted about in the news and was a central theme in our recent elections. It will also be a topic presented at Wood Badge this fall – but with a decidedly Scouting flavor.

Think about how many things have changed in your lifetime. There have been incredible advances in technology, medicine, and communication. The map of the world is quite different than it was 20 years ago and with the changes in communication, that world continues to shrink. To personalize the speed of change and how one can lead it, I think of my grandfathers and their personal stories.

My mother’s father was born in Germany in 1901 – when Wilhelm II was Kaiser; before cars were on the road; before the Wright brothers flew their plane at Kitty Hawk. He came to the US in 1921 by himself and over the next 10 years gained his citizenship and saved enough money to bring his fiancĂ© and the rest of his family too. During his life of 95 years, he witnessed incredible change around him. I look up to him because he was more than an observer – he ventured into the unknown and created his own future.

My father’s father was born in the 19th century to Swedish immigrants. He was commissioned as a missionary and in 1921 (only six weeks after getting married) journeyed with his new bride from Minnesota to a small Chinese city 1000 miles inland on the Yangtze River. The travel took well over a month by nearly every mode of transportation that existed. My grandparents stayed there for most of the decade - until a revolution forced them out. The courage and faith to embrace this adventure and the changes it brought to them are unimaginable to me.

At various times in our lives, we are confronted with changes that we cannot control. Our values are tested by how we deal with this change. There are other times when we can take control of circumstances and lead meaningful change. To do this, you must look beyond the present and have an insight (vision) of what that change might mean.

As recent history has shown, our world will continue to change at a tremendous pace. Scouting must adapt to these changes or lose its relevance. As scout leaders, we should hold to our values but have the vision to get out in front and lead change.

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