The cabin was no bigger than a two-car garage, with a concrete floor, rows of old metal army bunkbeds and a cast-iron wood stove.
Outside, the rain poured in the darkness. Inside, we were forcing a group of gangly, rambunctious Cub Scouts to co-habitate for a weekend with a cast of Boy Scouts who were bigger, stronger and whose voices had already changed.
This weekend represented a major milestone, a maturing transition, for the Cub Scouts, or at least it was supposed to. These boys were expected to bond with their older counterparts in final preparation for The Big Day, only weeks away, when they would cross over into Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, were expected to serve as mentors, guides and motivators. They were the leaders in this experiment of maturity.
The young boys grabbed their sleeping bags and pillows and quickly claimed one corner of bunks, jabbing one another, joking and bouncing on the bed springs. The older boys took the rest of the bunks, glaring at the younger boys the whole time. And then the two seeming adversaries squared off.
What transpired over the rest of the February weekend is what I would reluctantly describe as a hard lesson in leadership and its perilous course. And it wasnt pretty.
As I witnessed the birth of these so-called leaders, I thought about management guru and best-selling author William Byhams contention that corporate America faces a tempestuous crisis in leadership. He calls it the Millennium Elephant, and hes right.
Todays leaders are aging and retiring without training the next generation adequately. Meanwhile, theyre breaking down the traditional corporate structure, forcing the younger generations to fend for themselves then wondering why theres no loyalty today.
Then again, do many of todays so-called leaders even have the right stuff to pass on to their corporate heirs? I would contend that good truly good leadership remains scarce.
Where does it all begin? In cabins like the one at Camp Anawanna. Thats where the boys experimented with their own misguided styles which I see making it into the ranks of adulthood and business.
Throughout that weekend, I identified at least six forms of leadership emerging. Sure, theyre just kids, but their styles may seem more familiar to you than youd care to admit. Heres what I saw:
The Im-Bigger-Than-You-So-Im-In-Charge style This leadership by girth didnt bode well for the lanky, wily dispositions of the Cub Scouts, who simply used speed and innocence to escape wrath.
The Im-Older-Than-You approach These scouts led by virtue of age. They figured their age gave them seniority, which gave them the God-given authority to rule over the young and weak. No skill or ability to motivate needed here.
The I-Cant-Be-Bothered approach These scouts were too busy leading to be bothered with mentoring or guiding the little guys, who did all the work. They wanted the perks without the responsibility. They just wanted the Cub Scouts out of their way.
The Shut-Your-Mouth-And-Do-As-I-Say style This group led by intimidation and bodily pushing the Cub Scouts toward the dish pan or the cook stove or the wood pile. I call them bullies. The result? The young boys became angry and hostile. One wanted to go home. Another pushed back. That was my son.
The Im-The-Most-Popular approach Hes the one the younger kids follow and try to emulate because hes cool and the girls think hes cute. The trouble is, he creates a following of boys who simply try to appear cool and cute. Achieving rank becomes a popularity contest. No leadership there.
The Lead-By-Default form of leadership I didnt actually witness this, but its the one I saw most as a kid and continue to see today. It seems few people even want the responsibility of leadership. That means taking risks, sticking your neck out, spending the time looking out over the horizon, then making some tough decisions to get your organization there.
Theyd rather play it safe and blindly follow someone else. Thats how I became president of my high school student council, president of the high school chorus program, a church board member and a scout leader. But thats also why we wind up with leaders like the kids in that cabin.
Perhaps its time the truly good leaders those visionaries willing to guide and nurture and mentor and motivate step out and raise up a new generation of leaders.
Otherwise, youll wind up with a bunch of cold, angry Cub Scouts wanting to simply roll up their sleeping bags and, well, go home.
Daniel Bates (email@example.com) is editor of SBN magazine.