Everyday Leadership: Leadership experience wasn’t easy, but worth it

In my youth, when the school year ended, 4-H camp was not far away. I dropped my 4-H club membership in The Malaga Guys after my first meeting when I was 9. The next year, I tried 4-H again. A number of other 4-H’ers of my age planned on going to camp and convinced me to go also. A week away from my family to attend 4-H camp sounded scary to me but I stayed with my decision.

So off we went to the 4-H camp at Piedmont Lake, a beautiful facility. A huge building housed the dining hall on the top floor and rooms for crafts on the bottom. Here we punctually lined up three times a day for all the food we could eat. Each table of campers competed to begin their favorite songs. The sound boomed throughout the hall and could be heard as far as the cabins.

The boys’ cabins were on one side of the camp and the girls’ in a distance on the other. One night in my latter years of camp attendance when I was a counselor, the other male counselors planned a midnight visit to the girls’ cabin. There were two counselors in each cabin and I sought and received a promise from my partner to wake me up before he went on the excursion. Either he did not try very hard or decided against it, but in any case I missed whatever festivities that occurred on the visit. I remember being pretty disappointed.

Each year I was a counselor, I attended camp twice, once to be trained and once to serve. During the yearly talent show, the counselors were expected to plan and act out a skit. The other males and I decided we would dress up in bikinis borrowed from the female counselors. We stuffed the bras with tissues and paraded around as though in a beauty contest while throwing witty lines about the appearance of one another. At one point we professed our desire to give a kiss and leave some lipstick on the County Extension Agent, Don Pollack. He wasn’t so keen on our intent and we chased him across the pavilion. The skit was a huge success with the campers who roared with laughter.

The whole experience of 4-H camp was good-natured fun and fellowship. I learned a lot about leadership as a counselor. Being responsible for more than a dozen boys who were full of energy was challenging. Sometimes we would sense conflict brewing and had to bring the parties together to hash out the issue. We were also responsible for making sure the campers were out of their bunks on time, showered regularly and made it to the various events unless they had a solid excuse. I liked the leadership role and worked hard to fulfill my responsibilities. This experience led me to seeking other leadership roles in high school and my various work positions. Leadership was never easy but it was exciting and memorable.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.