Oh yes, I know. The term “Guider” was dropped several years ago, and replaced with “Leader” as it was thought it would be better understood by the public. Nevertheless . . .
A while back, my Assistant Leader being unavailable, I asked my Commissioner to help out with Guides one night. This wasn’t so onerous as it sounds – although she is a Brownie Leader to trade, her daughter was one of the Guides, so she would have been dropping off and collecting anyway. She has many years of Guiding experience, so I was surprised at the thing that surprised her most about what to me seemed like an ordinary Guide meeting, as average as they get – how much of the meeting I spent sitting in a chair sorting out the paperwork, or chatting to her, or preparing resources for a forthcoming meeting, or sorting out unit equipment – or doing all sorts of things which weren’t actually Leading (or didn’t seem to be) – that I wasn’t giving out instructions, or teaching skills, or directly interacting with the Guides, or taking them step by step through what was to be done.
This despite the fact that actually, I didn’t need to do that – I had given the Guides the initial instructions for the evening’s main activity, and the Patrols were then each working on the activity harmoniously and productively under the supervision of their Patrol Leaders. So I was happy to leave it to the Patrol Leaders to do the leading, and bar wandering round a few times to see how they were getting on, and dropping any pearls of wisdom or encouragement which might be beneficial to the PLs, they needed no input from me.
This, after all, is girl-led Guiding, which is meant to be what we provide. That they are provided with the means, and they then carry out the activity in their way, using their own ideas and techniques as far as possible. Current recommendations are that Rainbow programmes should be 10% girl led – and doubtless that will mainly be either collecting their suggestions in general, or offering either/or choices regarding games and activities. Brownie programmes should be 25% girl led – they are much more capable of choosing, and have a wider range of experiences to draw ideas from. The older Brownies are capable of planning and running simple activities unaided if given sufficient encouragement to try it, and Sixers should be capable of organising their Sixes to carry out activities as a team, with minimal adult input, once they have the initial instructions. By the Guide stage, the idea is 50% girl led – so twice as much as in the Brownie section, again a reflection of growing capabilities, and of the scope offered by things like GFIs, BP and Camp Permit. Nevertheless, it still recognises that the only ideas the Guides can suggest fall into two categories – 1) things they have heard of and fancy trying; 2) things they have done before but would like to do again. They can’t suggest anything else - because they don’t know it exists. Senior Section, of course, is 75% girl led – it should be the direct opposite of Brownies, with the Leaders providing information, resources, advising on how the unit members can get their ideas down to brass tacks. And all this I agree with. To my mind, my job as a Leader in the Guide section is - to gradually work myself out of a job, at least 50% of the time!
That, however, brings me to my initial question. You see, in my mind, one of the things which is an automatic part of the definition of a ‘Leader’, is someone who has followers. To me, it’s a fundamental that unless you have followers (at least one of them), then you cannot possibly be a Leader, no matter how many of the personality traits you might care to show. But, if my unit is girl-led, and my colleague and I are both Leaders too – then every single one of us in the unit is a Leader, so who, I have to ask, are the followers? Answer – there aren’t any.
I would suggest that actually, “Leader” is a fairly inaccurate description of my job. My job in the unit isn’t and shouldn’t be to be the one out in the front saying “follow me”. No, my job is not to say ‘do it my way’, my job is to advise, to suggest, to provide ideas and resources, to facilitate, in order to enable the Guides to take the lead and find their own way of doing it – in other words, to be a “Guider”.
So, although the book says I have to call myself “Leader”, it’s one of the few areas where I really am inclined to disagree. If I were a Leader at my unit, I’d be a failure, because I’d be failing to let the girls take the lead at every opportunity they could do. No, if I want to be a successful leader in Guiding, I should not be a leader. I should be a Guider.