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.