June 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 3 // Research in Brief // 3RIB1
Leadership Skill Development of Teen Leaders
A mailed questionnaire was used by faculty members of Ohio State University Extension to determine the perceived effectiveness of the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College (TCLC) on participants. The study measured eleven dimensions of leadership including oral communication, leadership, initiative, planning/organizing, decision-making/judgment, behavioral flexibility, assertiveness, objectivity, perception, sensitivity, and collaborativeness. The Ohio 4-H TCLC graduates' perception of their leadership skills after completing the program was significantly higher than their perception before participation. The highest mean scores were on the dimensions of perception and collaborativeness and the lowest mean scores were on the dimensions of initiative, assertiveness and objectivity.
The Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College originated from the Ohio State University's Family Community Leadership Program (FCL) - a program designed to help adults become more effective in representing family concerns in the public decision- making process. Teens had not been offered this learning experience. Those involved in the origination of the Teen Leadership program believed participating teenagers would show higher level changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations than they had shown as a result of existing leadership programs (Hodson, 1992).
The objectives of the program are as follows:
- To train teens in the areas of communication, leadership, conflict management, decision making, time management, and leadership styles
- To teach teens they have the ability to achieve and are responsible for their own lives
- To empower teens by teaching them how to develop their positive attributes, enabling them to be self-confident and independent thinkers
- To allow teens to actively participate in the community and pass their skills and values on to other teens through volunteerism
- To promote the volunteer ethic among teens, which includes serving as ambassadors for furthering 4-H youth development
Since the start of the program in 1989, 130 teens have received extensive training in leadership skills that they are using to teach other youth and adults (Rinehart & Kleon, 1996).
Review of Literature
One of the most pressing issues facing the United States and its youth serving organizations today is how to best facilitate the development of our youth. The future of the nation, and the future of world civilization, will soon rest in the hands of today's youth. To become productive and contributing individuals who can be effective and proactive in determining the course of tomorrow's world, today's youth must develop positive leadership knowledge, attitudes, skills and aspirations. Preparing today's youth for their roles as tomorrow's leaders is a challenge we all face (Cox, 1996).
Leadership means different things to different people. There are numerous definitions. Stodgill (1974, p. 259) concluded that "there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept."
The term "leadership" is often confusing because of imprecise terms used such as power, authority, management, administration, control and supervision to describe the same phenomena (Yukl, 1979). Most definitions of leadership reflect the assumption that it involves an influence process whereby intentional influence is exerted by the leader over followers. It is difficult to determine a single definition and depends on the objective and purpose of the researcher. The purpose of the assessment center is to determine the leadership effectiveness and managerial skills of the participants.
Stodgill (1974) suggested eleven perspectives of leadership. Leadership may be defined as (a) personality or effectiveness of personality, (b) the art of inducing compliance, (c) the exercise of influence, (d) a function of group process, (e) a form of persuasion, (f) a set of acts or behavior, (g) a power of relationship, (h) an instrument of goal achievement, (i) an effective interaction, (j) a differentiated role, and (k) the initiation of structure.
Any one of these meanings may apply to a certain circumstance, but no single definition is universally accepted; however, leadership is clearly a role that leads toward goal achievement, involves interaction of influence, and usually results in some form of changed structure or behavior of groups, organizations or communities (Lassey, 1976).
The expectations of the individuals making the judgment of leadership effectiveness are also highly important. Molding the expectations of those enabled to make such a judgment may be a prime function of leadership. Persons, because of their own concept of leadership, may consider a leader good and effective even when the leader has performed poorly and ineffectively (Herman, Snyder, Cunningham, 1980).
An age old question is "Are successful leaders born or made?" Prior to the 1930s it was believed that leadership was a property of the individual, that a limited number of people were uniquely endowed with abilities and traits which made it possible for them to become leaders. These abilities and traits were believed to be inherited rather than acquired (McGregor, 1974).
Leadership development is a process that extends over many years. The realities of life require selection and training that occur early in the individual's career, but that is only the first step. Leadership development calls for repeated assessments and repeated opportunities for training. All talent develops through interplay - sometimes over many years - between native gifts on the one hand and opportunities and challenges on the other (Gardner, 1990).
Purpose and Objectives
The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College on the participants. Specifically the study measured the participant's perception of their leadership skills before and after participating in the program.
Objectives of the study were (a) to determine perceptions of Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College participants of their leadership skills acquired as a result of participating in the program and (b) to compare perceptions of Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College participants of their leadership skills before and after participating in the program.
This study was ex post facto in nature and was designed to gather data comparing variables prior to respondents' participation in the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College (TCLC) to the same variables after respondents graduation from the college.
The population of this study consisted of 95 teens who participated in the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College. This was a census of all teens who participated in the Ohio 4-H TCLC between 1989 and 1994. The teens were selected to participate by high school administrators, guidance counselors and Extension professionals. Selected teens had already demonstrated higher than normal leadership skill behavior as qualitatively evaluated by the school and Extension professionals who selected them.
Data were collected using a variation of the mailing procedures recommended by Dillman (1978). Non-respondents were mailed a second questionnaire. Usable data were received from 64 of the 95 participants for a response rate of 64%. A comparison of early responses to late responses showed no significant difference in demographics. Also, late responses were not significantly different than early responses. The data were collected between February and April 1996.
Respondents answered questions about their perceived leadership development as a result of their participation in the Teen College. Perception was measured by adapting a questionnaire developed by Rinehart (1992) which measured eleven dimensions of leadership. The dimensions were oral communication, leadership, initiative, planning/organizing, decision making/judgment, behavioral flexibility, assertiveness, objectivity, perception, sensitivity, and collaborativeness.
Participants indicated their perception of their leadership skill as related to the dimensions before participation in the program and after graduating.
By the nature of the program it was expected that teen participants would rate themselves high on the variables prior to their participation in the program since teens were selected to participate based on leadership skills they already possessed. Changes in scores were not expected to be high.
Mean scores of the participant's perceptions of their leadership skills after participating in the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College ranged from 4.2 - 4.5. A t-test analysis revealed that Ohio 4-H TCLC graduates perception of their leadership skills after completing the program were significantly higher than their perception before participation in the program (alpha = .05). Based on the findings, the participants' perception of their leadership skills improved as a result of their participation. As a group, participants' highest mean scores were on the dimensions "perception" and "collaborativeness" (m = 4.5). There lowest mean scores were on the dimensions "initiative," "assertiveness," and "objectivity" (m = 4.2).
Participants were given the opportunity to provide written comments about their Ohio 4-H TCLC experience.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Based on the findings in this study, the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College had a positive impact on participants' perceived leadership skill development. Longitudinal studies should be continued. Ohio 4-H TCLC participants should be given the research instrument prior to their participation in the program and again in one to three years.
The results of this study helped the program leaders understand the impact that the Ohio 4-H TCLC program is having on participants. The overall impact has been positive as is evident in the findings. The lowest mean scores, although high (4.2), were in the areas of initiative, assertiveness and objectivity. This would indicate that perhaps additional emphasis should be placed in these areas for future programming. Further research may also be helpful in identifying the reasons for the lower scores on these dimensions.
Cox, K., (1996). Youth leadership development and implications for non-formal educational programming research and literature update. The Ohio State University, February 1996.
Gardner, J.W. (1990). On leadership. New York: The Free Press.
Herman, Snyder & Cunningham,(1980, Spring). Leadership: some trends, challenges, and opportunities. Quarterly Report, The Ohio State University.
Hodson, S. H., "Teen community leadership college", Journal of Extension, Winter, 1992.
Lassey, W. (1976). Leadership and social change. California: University Associates.
Rinehart S. (1992). Leadership and managerial skills of county commissioners as perceived by county commissioners, Ohio State University Extension chairs and Assessment Center assessors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University. Columbus.
Rinehart, S, H., Kleon, S. "Ohio 4-H teen community leadership college: teaching youth and adults" Journal of Extension, Winter, 1996.
Stodgill, R.M. (1974). Handbook of leadership; a survey of theory and research. New York: The Free Press.
Yukl G. (1979). Managerial traits and skills. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.