BADEN-POWELL ( 1857- 1941 )
« An officer can only be a good leader if he loves his men »
Baden- Powell, although he had a brilliant and dazzling career in the British army, is known not so much for his military achievements as for founding the Scout movement.
He spent much of his childhood in the wild, watching animals in the woods, exploring With his brothers, he camps and sails, learning discipline, team spirit, self-control.
An officer in the army, the first superior to whom he deals is a simple man, for whom the initiative is more important than the knowledge of the drill. Little by little, he learns the art of driving men.
The virtues he enjoys most in his job are courage, resourcefulness, prudence combined with taking useful risk. In the execution of his many missions, he thinks in the first place of his men. Behind every soldier there is a man who must be respected and loved.
In his command practice, he is committed to educating rather than directing. This is how he applies principles such as responsibility and internal discipline. “The soldier who is only” drilled “is perfect for the parade; for the war he is worthless. So my first concern was to give character to each of my young soldiers; that is to say, to teach them initiative, self-control, the feeling of honor and duty, responsibility, self-confidence, the spirit of observation, reasoning “. The power of the officer, according to him, makes it possible to develop in his men the virtues and qualities which will make of them good citizens: “A nation owes successes less to the force of the armaments than to the character of its citizens. For a man’s success in life, character is more essential than erudition. So character is of paramount importance to a nation and to an individual.
The seat of Mafeking in South Africa, late 1899, made him famous. He was besieged by the Boers in that city for 217 days, with his regiment and 1600 men, women and children. This resistance allowed the British army to disembark and liberate everyone. How was he able to achieve this feat in a city without natural defense?
To deceive the besiegers over the forces he had at his disposal, he was imaginative in organizing stagings. By his tricks, he arranged for the Boers to spend very restless nights, while the British were resting. He tried to make the life of the besieged fun.
When food began to fail, Baden-Powell used rations inferior to those of the soldiers. With creativity, he made sure nothing was lost.
It was also at Mafeking, because he had very few soldiers, he began to assign missions to young boys.
At the end of the war, he was instructed to train the South African police. He then appeals to young, intelligent, capable men of initiative, rather than to the old ones who had too much used to act only on order. He applies personal accountability.
Many boys write to him asking for life advice, he encourages them first to try to do a good deed every day. But in view of the multiplication of requests and the interest it arouses, he will spend more and more time, taking these young people very seriously. Little by little, he organizes camps, he writes books, he structures what will become the Scout movement. Finally, he will resign from the army to devote himself entirely to it.
For Baden-Powell, the aim of Scouting is to raise the general level of young people on several levels: development of the personality, love of God, sense of service, health, sense of the concrete. “We aim for them to reach from within rather than inculcate them from outside.” The line of conduct proposed to Scouts was embodied in the Scout law, which includes only positive points and no prohibition.
Baden-Powell was truly a leader, magnanimous and humble, in his desire to grow young people and men entrusted to him, to advance, so that they can then serve society.As the Duke of Connaught said, “Few men have done a greater service to humanity than Robert Baden-Powell.”