Keys to a Great Year – Advice for a Chief –

Recently I was asked by two future Order of the Arrow Lodge Chiefs for advice  on having a great year.

First thing, just to get it out of the way,  much of how a year as Chief goes is out of the Chiefs’ hand. The role of Chief is like a CEO of a major non-profit with a rich history and so much momentum that the impact of the Chief is like many other positions in the world:

  • Quarterbacks get all the praise when the team wins, and blame for losses.
  • President of the USA gets credit for a good economy and blame for high unemployment.

Where in those positions, like being a Chief at any level of the Order of the Arrow, in reality the individual did have an effect, but others give too much credit in good times and blame in bad.

So, what should be the role of a Chief?

I see the Chief as the CEO. Fred Willson had a great post about the keys of a good CEO – I also commented on it in the past. Here are the three keys from Fred:

“A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”

What does that look like? Lets look at it in the three parts.

“Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders.”

The Chiefs should pick one or two elements of a vision they really want to have happen & promote it every chance they get.

Might be “communication” or “chapters” or “service” or “better Boy Scout Troops” or “great camporees” or “cool things to do in Scout meetings” or “leadership” or a whole list of things that fall within the major goals and purpose of the OA. Make sure one is a core or basic element of the OA.

“Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company.”

The single most important job of the Chief is to help multiple other Scouts get ready to be able to be Chief.

The obvious choice is to pour yourself into your officers, however, the really good Chiefs … the ones that leave a lasting impact and cause the unit ( chapter, lodge, section, region) to be better long term & be mentioned for years to come — those great chiefs go beyond the officers.

Here is an idea for you, for each week end long event your unit does (training weekend, ordeals, fellowships, camporees,  conclave, etc):
– find one youth you like & see potential in
– have that one youth be your “assistant” for the weekend

What does being the assistant to the Chief mean? Most of the time just being there. They are there to watch and listen. Let him keep your schedule, to do list, and clock (his job is to make sure you eat). The one thing I would discourage this position from turning into is “messenger boy” … the point is for this youth that you like & want to grow in the OA to spend time with you. Sending him off on errands could be involved, but most of the time should be spent seeing what is going on & talking about what is going on.

One more thought on “Special Assistant to the Chief” – pick a different person for each event.

If you are having a hard time finding leaders today, think how much better your year would be if the past one or two chiefs had developed 6 to 10 Arrowman each, as opposed to the more typical one to three.

“Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”

Accounting sucks.

I am generally not a fan of accounting & would rather pay people to do the day to day accounting.

However, there are times in ever business and non-profit I am involved with that I have to deal with the accounting or financials.

A Chief does too.

Financial documents help us know what the health of your unit is. Money is not the only measure of health,  man hours & brand (dealt within the other two parts) are also important and measurable.

Get someone to teach you enough to be able to decipher parts if not all of it.

Another way to look at the keys:

  • promote where we are going – general direction or key emphasis
  • get the right people on the bus & help them grow
  • make sure the bus does not run out of gas (three types of gas — man hours, brand & money)

Focus on those three things & you should feel great about your year.


  1. says

    Great points and suggestions.

    I want to add a thought on the matter of perspective. Successful Lodges, like any other organization, work because most of those involve focus on the areas they are strongest with and therefore contribute. Naturally, leadership in these given areas can get a little isolated. The extensive Committee structure of a Lodge enables fostering of leadership opportunities, but there are those instances where members whose primary involvement is through the committee (for instance, ceremonies) can become unaware of everything else going on.

    The Chief has a responsibility to make sure that everyone is aware of what is going on and enabling them to understand how each component or activity “fits in” not only with the group as a whole, but them as individual members. This is probably one of the biggest challenges a leader faces, especially when you are involved in a large organization with multiple activities or opportunities for focused involvement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *