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What is great camp leadership?

I am asked all the time to do “leadership” trainings for senior staff, unit heads, head counselors, activity heads, unit leaders, senior leaders, supervisors, directors, and all the other various names we use to describe camp leaders.

When I ask them to describe what makes a great camp leader, what skills, values, or characters do great camp leaders posses?  Everyone inevitably produces the same basic list: responsible, dependable, caring, good listener, empathetic, fair, aware, see big picture, accessible, good communicator, approachable, team player… and as you can imagine, the list goes on.

What is striking to me is that 1) everyone ALWAYS comes up with the same list and it is totally generated by them (with only a few unique ideas at each camp), 2) the list looks the exact same as if I had asked about a great camp counselor or frontline staff, 3) Almost all camp leaders have experience being camp counselors or other frontline staff.

So, I think the better question is HOW not necessarily WHAT when it comes to great camp leadership.  The answer, I believe, is about the skills and signature strengths that each individual posses, that made them really good working with kids.  Of course, if you are a great communicator and excel at listen or expressing yourself clearly with a bunch of kids, you are also great at doing it with adults.  You just have to learn how to express that skill differently.  So think about the areas that you feel really confident in and excel at when working with kids.  Then try to put those same skills into practice as a manager or supervisor of adults.  That is great camp leadership.


Scott “Funsize” Arizala

Camp Director for Camp Kesem, Vice President of Summer Programming for Dragonfly Forest, Summer Camp Consultant & Trainer, and award-winning author of S’more Than Camp.  For more information please visit www.TheCampCounselor.com