The Scout Association has announced that Matt Hyde will take over as its new chief executive in April.
Hyde, chief executive of the National Union of Students, will replace Derek Twine, who is retiring after 16 years in the role.
The Scout Association said that one of the first challenges for Hyde, who is himself a former scout, would be to address a lack of volunteers. There are more than 35,000 young people on waiting lists to join scout groups, it said.
Hyde, who has been in charge of the NUS since 2006, said: "I am passionate about the power of informal learning and I am planning to build on the great work of my predecessor, Derek Twine."
Bear Grylls, the chief scout, said: "I'm so excited to welcome Matt back into the scouting family, which has become a true worldwide force for good, some 525,000 strong and growing. I so look forward to working with him and know he will thrive."