From Leader to Advisor

Progression of Leadership for Volunteers

The progression of skills and abilities is a guiding principle in Girl Scouts at every grade level and it applies to volunteer leadership, too! Adult volunteers slowly transition from leader to advisor as girls develop their own leadership skills. Focus on mentoring and fostering girl independence and help them plan the ways they will discover, connect, and take action to make their world a better place.

For example, younger girls obviously need lots of direction from adults, but remember to let them lead with small tasks and small decisions; watch that you don’t make all their decisions for them. Motivating older girls and their diverging interests is so rewarding; find the balance point between being a leader and an advisor. As girls grow, they don’t always want to be told what to do, yet they still need your direction and oversight. Ask them questions, support them, and encourage them to set the course for their troop.

Foster girl/adult planning in all grade levels by:

  • Asking questions, rather than providing answers
  • Guiding, rather than directing
  • Advising, rather than judging
  • Helping a girl think through a decision, rather than deciding for her

The balance of adult responsibility and girl responsibility will be changing constantly. You’ll feel it in the short-term for each activity you organize. You’ll see it in the long-term for each year you are together. Be inspired by thinking about how volunteer leaders everywhere are trying to build skills in younger troops that will foster confidence and ability in older girl troops. Let that idea influence your choices in offering age-appropriate decision-making opportunities. Take the long view! Enjoy the journey of getting to know your girls and the emerging strengths they will share with one another and the world!

Progression of Leadership for Girls

Girls’ definitions of leadership also differ with age (see the chart below). The Girl Scout Research Institute focus groups reveal that as girls grow and develop new skills and ideas about the world, leading moves from a more singular approach with elementary school age girls (girls lead with action—what I can do) to influencing others at the middle school level (girls lead with voice—how I can impact others). As girls enter high school their ideas about leadership become inner-directed again with an emphasis on confidence (girls lead with vision–who I am as a leader) as they seek to validate their own ideas and become comfortable acting on them.