Identifying, Defining, Applying, Analyzing & Synthesizing Leadership Opportunities with Adolescents

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

A leadership program was developed by the authors and utilized at the State 4-H Leadership Camp in Ohio during July, 1998 and 1999. The purpose of this workshop was to obtain qualitative data from two groups, Leadership Counselors and Leadership Campers, regarding their perceptions and definitions of

leadership. Specifically, workshop participants were asked to identify current and former leaders, define "leadership," apply leadership principles to the camp situation, analyze their abilities and opportunities as youth leaders and synthesize leadership opportunities which could be performed when they returned to their families, clubs and communities. Comparisons between the two groups were made with camp counselors tending to believe that leadership was learned through teaching and observation, while campers tended to believe that leadership skills were learned through active participation.

Introduction

The "family" has traditionally been the place in which leadership skills are first introduced and taught. Children first learn responsibility at home by cleaning their rooms, setting the table, taking out trash, etc. However, during the twentieth century, this responsibility has increasingly fallen upon societal institutions and organizations as well (Wade, 1997).

Leaders are developed. It takes certain skills to become an effective leader and these skills can be taught, learned, and developed. Leadership skills can be strengthened over the life span. Realizing one's own leadership potential is often the result of a significant influence, or through participation in a meaningful event or activity. Ohio 4-H Leadership Camp is an annual, ongoing, week-long event, which has been held for 53 consecutive years. The purpose of Leadership Camp is to build and develop youth leaders through teaching leadership skills, creating opportunities for youth to exert and practice leadership in their own clubs and communities, as well as awakening the realization of the limitless potential for leadership which each person possesses.

The authors developed a leadership workshop which was taught independently to two different groups in the same setting. It was first taught as an orientation workshop to Leadership Camp Counselors and later in the week to Leadership Campers. The purpose of this workshop was to obtain qualitative data regarding the perceptions of these two groups regarding their perceptions of leadership. Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956) was utilized as the theoretical framework for this inquiry.

Demographics were self-reported. With the exception of age, educational level and employment status, the demographic profiles of these two groups (counselors and campers) were similar. The mean age of leadership counselors was 20.0 years, with leadership campers being 16.6 years. All of the leadership counselors were employed, as were 75.5% of the leadership campers. While all of the leadership campers were high school students, the majority of leadership counselors were college students (two were high school seniors and one was a college graduate). Other characteristics were as follows: 70% female, 97.2% white, 36.6% farm residence, 32.3% rural, non-farm residence, 87.8% live with both parents, 52.2% are from well-to-do families (with money left over after meeting expenses,) 38.2% from moderate income families (usually enough money left over after expenses with extra sometimes available,) 75.5% were employed with the most popular types of employment including farming (13.5%), sales (13.5%), food service (13%), child-care (9%) and laborer (9%).

Methods

Participants were asked to participate in four different activities, designed to stimulate their thought processes regarding leadership. Individual, then group processes were employed for each activity. Specific activities involved included developing a definition of leadership, identifying current and former leaders, identifying the characteristics, skills or personality traits of an effective leader, applying leadership principles to the camp situation, analyzing their abilities and qualifications as youth leaders and synthesizing leadership opportunities which could be performed when they return to their families, clubs and communities. …