Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Authority of Camper

As I was researching a topic the other day, I came across an important concept agencies such as the National Park Service use called "the authority of the resource."  When a park ranger confronts a visitor about a problem, the natural tendency is to use a message that in essence says "you need to do this because it's the rule and I, a person of authority, say so."  While this works with some people, many don't respond to authority of the ranger's position. They also don't do things or not do things just because there is a rule.

The Park Service finds it more effective to train staff to deal with visitor issues using the "authority of the resource." Instead of using the authority of their position and a set of rules, the ranger uses the needs of the particular resource (a river,  a forest, a type of wildlife, etc.) to change visitor behavior. The message is "if you do this, here is the impact it will have on the park's _________." This approach has proven to be far more effective.

This approach of changing the focus of authority is something I think we as camp leaders could learn from. Too often we deal with staff in ways that in essence says "do this because it is the policy/rule and I'm the camp director." How much more effective would we be if we relied on "the authority of the camper?" What if we focused on getting staff to change their behavior based on the needs of campers or the camp community? What if our message to staff was "if you do this, here is the impact it will have on our campers" or "if you do this, here's how it effects the camp community?"