Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

The Quest for Holistic Youth Leadership Development: What Should Be the Desired Attributes of Youth Leaders?

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

The Quest for Holistic Youth Leadership Development: What Should Be the Desired Attributes of Youth Leaders?

Article excerpt

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Leadership is an important dimension in organizations. Without a good leader, organizations do not thrive and the directions of development are blurred. Hence, leadership development forms an important dimension in organizational behavior, particularly in the business field. Conceptually speaking, many leadership models focusing on the competencies of leaders (particularly management skills) have been proposed. In the management field, most of the leadership skills focus on management skills and efficiency enhancement. Practically speaking, many leadership programs have been developed by many management consulting companies which pledge to nurture leaders who will promote efficiency and profit maximization in organizations. For some famous programs, the fee is enormously high.

Unfortunately, there are two basic problems of the existing models on leadership, particularly those evolved from the business sector. First, most of the existing leadership models are developed for adults (1). As the developmental tasks of adults are different from those of adolescents, there is a need to develop leadership models with particular reference to the developmental needs and challenges of young people. Second, youth leadership programs commonly lack developmental focus (2), focusing too much on competence but not values (3). Besides, evaluation studies on youth leadership programs are severely lacking in the field (4). Against this background, there is a need to highlight the desired leadership qualities in young people which will guide leadership programs.

The positive youth development approach forms an important anchor for the development of youth leadership program. According to the positive youth development approach, there are strengths and talents in every young person (5). Hence, it is maintained that every young person can be (and is) a leader (6). This view is in sharp contrast to the notion of "elitist leadership" which upholds that only the "cream of the cream" can be leaders. Consistent with such views, there are views asserting that leadership knowledge, attitude, values and behavior can be trained through well-designed leadership programs (7). In other words, given appropriate opportunities, young people can develop leadership qualities. This view is in sharp contrast to the view that leaders are inborn and there is little room for the nurturance of leadership development. Furthermore, developmental psychologists and youth workers also argue that we should expect young people to strive for excellence in different domains (i.e., aiming high and trying to excel) so that they can have self-actualization (8).

There are several points we have to consider when we design leadership models for young people. First, many theorists suggest that training of management skills is fundamental to leadership training programs (7). However, there are also views arguing that while leadership skills (i.e., "doing") such as resilience (adversity quotient, AQ) and emotional competence (emotional quotient, EQ) are necessary for leadership effectiveness, development of intrapersonal qualities (i.e., "being"), such as spirituality (spiritual quotient, SQ) and moral character are equally important (9-11). Besides, there are also views maintaining that reflection and selfleadership (12) are important attributes of successful leadership.

Regarding intrapersonal qualities, two attributes deserve particular attention. The first is reflection. Reflection basically means stepping back and pondering about the reality. For a mature leader, he/she will think about whether his/her leadership is desirable or not and how the related leadership can be improved. Another attribute that is very important for successful leadership is ethical leadership. A mature leader cherishes moral values such as fairness, justice, and concern about other people. It can be argued that without ethics, a leader with excellent skills would do more harms than good. …

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