Dum ta da daaaa, Here I am to save the day!
Okay, a little over the top, but it's Friday.
With one patrol, the PL is the de facto SPL for any meetings requiring one. Having the PL wear the SPL patch is about as over the top as my introduction at the beginning of this post. Looks pretentious.
With two patrols, the SPL is still not all that necessary unless you set up your patrol structure in the traditional/formal management style. In the case described by @KenD500 he already sees the problem where there really is in fact only one patrol. The "split" is meaningless because of the numbers he's dealing with. He's trying to make two patrols function in the place of one. If people need POR's or whatever, the temptation to do this is strong. However, it is totally unnecessary.
With three patrols, maybe, and a strong maybe only, is an SPL advantageous, not necessary but advantageous.
However, I run my troops differently. I run the servant leadership format rather than management format. This means the PL is the top officer in the troop. Each patrol is an entity in and of itself. When there gets to be enough PL's that an SPL is necessary to coordinate between the different PL's then it's time for the PL's to designate someone to do that and then give that person the SPL responsibilities.
With one patrol (6-8 scouts) what does the SPL do? Absolutely nothing except attend SPL meetings so he can come back and tell the PL what is necessary for the troop (duh, the one patrol) to be doing. The APL could do that just as easily. This is how my one patrol troop is set up. In actuality, my strongest leader is the APL who is mentoring the new PL in his position. The new PL is the Webelos cross-over from last spring. He's mature and was elected by the members of his patrol and the old PL offered to support him as APL. It's working very well. As APL it's his job to make the PL look good and he's doing it very well.
With two patrols (12-16 scouts) what does the SPL do? Not a whole lot more, now he has to notify two PL's of the information gathered at the SPL meetings. He is also responsible for the PLC which will consist of him and two PL's. Those two PLs will discuss what is necessary to coordinate between the two patrols. Well, they could have done that just as easily over the phone as at a PLC meeting. So the SPL is convening useless meetings.
With 3 patrols (16-24 scouts) now maybe the SPL can actually be a bit useful in helping the three PL's coordinate their activities so there is no duplication of effort and everyone has a chance to know what the other patrols are planning on doing. It also helps with the 2 on 1 voting that could occur on a regular basis in the PLC. As the scout best qualified in the opinion of the PL's to help them, he can assist and mentor the PL's work through difficult inter-patrol issues and at time specifically support a PL, when asked, if he's having trouble in his patrol.
With 4 patrols (24-32), it is definitely time for the 4 PL's to have someone they trust to guide them with their inter-patrol issues. It is at this point that many of the other POR's become troop level leadership rather than just patrol level. Out of the 4 patrol QM's the QM's select someone to coordinate the equipment of all the patrols, because the inventory is getting too large for the 4 of them to handle. Troop scribe is necessary because troop communications have gotten to the point where the individual patrols have enough to worry about just themselves.
Now, with the traditional management SPL who "runs the troop", there is basically no need for anything other than figure-head PL's They just do what the SPL tells them to do and they relay the information on to their members. It take no leadership skills to be a PL in this case. Management skills on the part of the SPL are extremely important and this is where a lot of troops begin to fall apart at that level. Most boys do not have such skills and must be trained and given time to develop them. Unfortunately most troops aren't set up to do that so they rely on such things as NYLT and hope that the boy pays enough attention to be able to do an adequate job.
So, with the servant leadership style, the PL works with 5-7 other boys, max! He actually must lead (serve) those boys. My training program consists of telling the PL when he gets selected, to "Take care of your boys." When they do that the patrols run very well. With the PL's being the top position in the troop, when it gets to the point where communication between patrols is strained, a person is selected by the PL's to be their #1 go to help desk person when they need to work with the other patrols. Someone who has shown they can take care of PL's. In my former troop, this person was most often selected from the pool of APL's. This person was identified as the SPL, the one who was functionally capable to helping the PL's. When that person needed help, he would be able to tap directly into the SM and his staff. The SPL did not "run the troop", he only coordinated, and facilitated the PL's through the PLC function.
In reality NO ONE IN THE TROOP was responsible for more than 7 other people. Boys at this age can handle that without any hassles. Trying to "run the troop" with 40-80 scouts is impossible and any SPL who takes on such responsibility will quickly find out what abject failure is. I will never do that to a boy.
It is under this dynamic that the parents of slacker boys will eventually ask you to move on because "the boys are all expected to do too much leadership." With a boy-led, patrol-method troop, that's the best way to get kicked out of a troop!
I hope this helps. I have worked with the more traditional management style of troop organization and found that the tendency is to have a strong adult-led process where the SPL and PL's are pretty much figure-head anyway, but seem to garner a lot of flack for not performing up to the adult expectations along the way. Morale is kept at a very low level, but if the adults generate enough programming, the boys will all just follow along and be entertained.
Oh, by the way, my current PL hasn't gotten to TF yet, but his APL has. None of my boys has ever attended NYLT on my watch and never felt the need to do so. I've also seen some really competent Eagles pass through my program of which about half of them have gone on to WB and SM positions in BSA.
Edited by Stosh, 06 August 2015 - 10:32 AM.