Monday, December 16, 2013

Leadership Development for 5 Year Olds?


Irecently asked readers to submit their burning leadership development questions. Those that get picked for a post will receive a free copy of my eBook.

This question from Jason Ewing, from www.followthatleader.com:

“In your opinion, at what age do people truly begin to develop leadership skills? I coached young children in a summer track and field league for about 6 years. The youngest age group was 5-6 years old. As coaches, we always tried to incorporate leadership development (on the track) for ALL age groups. Do you think this could have made an impact on the younger children?”
I’m certainly no expert in youth leadership development, but I love the question, and it gave me an excuse to dig into the area a little.

After doing some searching and browsing, I went over to one of my favorite sources for leadership development research, the Center for Creative Leadership. I remember talking to one of their experts during a visit there a few years ago that was involved in their early leadership development research.
I found a good 2012 white paper from CCL based on some research (a survey) that they did called Expanding the Leadership Equation: Developing Next-Generation Leaders.

I think the findings may help answer the question, maybe not scientifically, but at least in terms of the perceptions of those 462 experts that were surveyed.
Here are some of the key findings:

At what age do you think leadership development should begin?
5 Years old or younger .................................... 21%
Ages 6-10 ............................................................ 29%
Ages 11-17 ............................................................. 40%
Ages 18-21 .......................................................... 7%
Over 21 ................................................................. 4%

Over 95% of respondents believed leadership development should have begun by age 21!
“Contrast this with the fact that many people never participate in formal leadership development and most don’t have the opportunity until after they are promoted into management.
Yet there are many high-quality youth leadership development programs available today for high school and college students, but only a minority of youth participate in those programs at the time when they could obtain the most benefit from them.
And finally, the vast majority of respondents (84%) believe leadership development opportunities should be offered to all youth, and an even higher number (90%) feel it should be part of every student’s educational experience.
Despite the widespread agreement reflected in the above, leadership development for all and a part of every student’s educational experience is clearly not happening in the lives of most youth today.” 

Survey respondents were also asked to choose from a list of 24 competencies the top three leadership qualities important for youth entering the workforce 10 years from now. They chose:
Most Important Competencies 10 Years from Now:
Adaptability/Versatility .............................. 29%
Communicate Effectively............................. 26%
Learning Agility ............................................. 24%
Multi-cultural Awareness ............................. 22%
Self-motivation/Discipline.......................... 20%
Collaboration................................................. 20%

Again, at the risk of providing a definitive answer to a question that I know absolutely nothing about (not that that has stopped me before), I’d have to say the answer is YES, leadership can and should be developed at an early age.
I was impressed with some of the practical tools that are available to educators that are involved in this kind of work. CCL has neat Early Leadership Toolkit that they developed, a complete leadership development in-a-box for those involved in youth leadership. Franklin Covey offers a similar product called The Leader in Me, developed from the late Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. CCL has also used that program in some of the work they have done in schools. These toolkits seem to be as well designed or better than many of the “adult” leadership development programs I’ve seen.

Kudos to all of the volunteer coaches like Jason that not only invest their time and talents in helping kids learn to play soccer, basketball, track and field, and other sports, but they strive to develop important leadership competencies in their kids. They understand that while the more immediate, tangible, and rewarding payoff may be scoring points and winning games, the longer-term, more important payoff is preparing our next generation of leaders! You may never see the results (unless you're George Bailey), but yes, you're making a difference in the lives of these kids and those that they end up leading 20-30 years later.
I invite others that have more knowledge and experience with youth leadership development to leave a comment.

4 comments:

Karin Hurt said...

Dan, I have been thinking about this quite a lot. I have written a post which will go live on December 27th called 9 Ways to inspre Leadersship in Young Children. I am a strong believer in starting early and I have done so with both of my children (one whom is now 19 and the other 8). It's fun to see them learn and grow as leaders.

Dan McCarthy said...

Karin -
Thanks, I look forward to seeing your post.

Jennifer V. Miller said...

Dan,

I agree with Karin - for anyone who has been a parent, there are many opportunities to teach leadership, although we might not call it "leadership" at that point. My kids are 10 and 13 and we have had numerous opportunities to discuss being a positive role model, stepping up and doing what nobody else wants to do and encouraging people who are less skilled than we are to contribute.

Loved this post!

Dan McCarthy said...

Jennifer -
How very true! While I may have focused on coaching (given the reader's question), there are even more opportunities to development leadership in our own children.
Thanks!