Leadership Notes #62 – Youth Leadership

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

In researching leadership, most will come across books aimed at “youth leadership” or “student leadership”. (for brevity sake, we will use the term “youth leadership” in this Note). The general focus of these works are high school & college age groups (usually high school), rarely younger ages. These may be groups within schools (hence “student leadership”) or church youth groups or other youth groups within the community (which could include Scouting). Some of these works are aimed at the youth themselves, to be used by them in becoming better leaders. Some, in fact most, of the works are aimed at the adults overseeing these youth (the teachers or instructors, or youth group advisors). So sometimes you have to be careful when you see the term “youth leader”, does it refer to the youth who are leaders, or adults who are “leaders” of youth? In the past I have noted a few works in this area. In this Note, we will look at a handful of these works that seem the most popular. I will say that my interest is more on works that Venturers may use then adults. So we will put the works in one of 3 groups: those aimed at adults, those aimed at youth, and those aimed at both.

Target Audience: both youth and adults.

“Everyday Leadership” and “Building Everyday Leadership in All Teens” are a pair of works by Mariam MacGregor intended to be used to teach leadership in youth. “Everyday Leadership” is to be used by the teacher or youth worker, whereas the “Building Everyday Leadership” work is meant as a guidebook (actually more of a work book) for the youth to use. The program consists of 21 sessions of about 45 minutes. The sessions have some lecture materials, but also a lot of interaction and feedback for the youth. The guidebook is mainly for them to take notes and answer open-ended questions. The topics covered are pretty good. These include what is leadership, leadership qualities and styles, communication, conflict management, decision making and more.

What I was bothered by was the lack of several topics covered in this work. No mention of servant leadership. Leadership styles or situational leadership was also not covered. In looking over the list of references and recommended resources, I was struck by how few leadership works were included. A great many that I would have expected were not included. Too many resources were various teacher groups, which I think would limit the value of this group to non-school groups. I would be interested in feedback as to how others have tried to use this work in their crews.

The author has a work on “Teambuilding with Teams”. Have not seen it.

Target Audience: adults

“Developing Teen Leadership” (2011) by Dan Appleman is one I have seen recommended a lot of late, so I figured I should check it out. I found that overall the work is less about how we as adults can develop leadership in the youth, but more of how we as adults should conduct ourselves with the youth. So don’t expect lesson plans and the like, tho there is a section of programs that is useful. That’s not to say the work isn’t useful. I think it is. There is stuff here on how we can help the youth in making decisions and the like, but I would have liked to have seen more formal programs then what I see here. The first half of the work is taken up by two sections. One is on ‘guiding principles’, the other is ‘techniques’. These are all things that we as advisors should keep in mind as we work with the youth. I think these are the most valuable sections. There is also a section that deals with topics that I think are important that too often works within scouting overlook. Some are on topics we may be uncomfortable dealing with, but may well face. So, for some, this section may be the most valuable.

There are a few negatives. I was bothered by the fact that there is NO section of recommended reading or resources. Where should the reader turn to to get further information or the like? Nothing. Again, I do think there is a lot of value in this book. I see it as something we should be using in addition to other resources available to us.

There is a website for the book, http://teenleadershipbook.com/ and there are further resources there, along with a blog.

Target Audience: youth

“Leadership for Students, 2nd ed” (2009) by Karnes and Bean, is similar in many ways to the “Everyday Leadership” works. This book is mainly aimed at the youth, but could be used by adults. The first half of the work goes over the concepts of leadership. It does it in a unique way. First the ideas are put forth in the words of several youth, and then there is an action section, asking the reader to think about it the ideas put forth, write about them, and then do it. In the middle of the book is a section of leadership successes. The final half of the book is a journal for students to make notes about leadership. While I thought the book had an interesting concept, I wonder how well it works. It really didn’t get in the meat of things. Like the “Everyday Leadership” works, a lot of important leadership concepts are ignored, which was also clear when I checked the list of references (very skimpy). I would be interested in feedback on this work from Venturers, as I wondered at the target age group for this work (it’s not clear).

“The Student Leadership Guide” 4th ed (2009) by Brendon Burchard is a work I would recommend that Venturers obtain and read. The author builds it around six leadership practices: Envision, Enlist, Embody, Empower, Evaluate, and Encourage. This practices tie in with many of the concepts we’ve covered in the past. Envision is about having a vision. Enlist is about communicating that vision to others and getting them engaged. Embody is about yourself, and how you a leader. This is about knowing yourself, gaining experience as a leader, being a role model, and being a servant leader. Empower is about empowering the people you lead. Inform and educate them, and reward and recognize them and all the other things we should do. Evaluate is about evaluating your vision, the progress toward it, and yourself. And Encourage is about inspiring others.

Each chapter of the book has several self-check questions. I thought the reference list (as compared to several of the other works mentioned) was extensive and very good.

“The Student Leadership Challenge: Five Practices for Exemplary Leaders” by Kouzes and Posner is a version of their bestselling “Leadership Challenge”, but written for students. I had covered this in a previous Notes, and think it a very good work.

“Student Organization Leadership” 2nd ed (2010) by Cyrus Fakharzadeh and Mark Todd. In looking for youth leadership works, I came across this work and got it. It sounded interesting, as it gets into the organizational side of student groups: running meetings, bylaws, finances, etc. The authors are experienced group leaders who have taught others, so I had high hopes. However, when I got this work, I was very disappointed. Much of what they say about group organization is incorrect. They model meeting agenda has problems. They don’t understand that in most groups, the members have the power, and the like. With there is much good information in this work, the incorrect information prevents me from really recommending it, as it just perpetuates wrong practices.

The topic of “youth leadership” is important. To a degree, it’s a major reason this series exists. We looked at 6 works in this Note. There are many other works out there on this topic, and we will probably revisit it. Hopefully the work that I do recommend here (“The Student Leadership Guide” and “The Student Leadership Challenge” for Venturers, and “Developing Teen Leadership” for adults) will be of value to others.