Adolescence is a very significant period in a young persons’ life. It is a time when youth are growing and establishing individual identities. It is also a critical time for learning essential life skills. However, we often don’t recognize the importance of teaching ...
Adolescence is a very significant period in a young persons’ life. It is a time when youth are growing and establishing individual identities. It is also a critical time for learning essential life skills. However, we often don’t recognize the importance of teaching leadership to our children. We simply rely on someone else to teach these skills. Parents become preoccupied and concerned about how their children are doing in school or in a sports program, and developing leadership skills fades from our list of “things to do” for our children. Parents make the erroneous assumption that the educational system will fully prepare their children to accept leadership roles later in adult life. The fact of the matter is we often don’t fully understand the developmental process of adolescent leadership. Such as, what are the emotional and behavioral prerequisites required for an adolescent to learn leadership skills, how should leadership be cultivated, and what does the learning environment have to look like for leadership development to take place? Adults have a significant role in cultivating leadership in their children. They not only provide the support system for this learning process, but need to build certain behavioral and emotional competencies to serve as a foundation for growth. Adults enrich and cultivate the adolescent’s self esteem; they provide challenges and build the confidence of the independent self, and act as a safety net providing love, guidance and reflection. A critical part of transitioning from adolescent to adulthood is learning about leadership. How often is this fact overlooked? My research will involve the study of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization. This organization has been in existence for over 93 years, and has graduated over 100 millions boys. Like most youth organizations, leadership training and development is one of the missions of the Boy Scout program. The purpose of my research is to discover how youth leadership development in the BSA is unfolded. What personal competencies does an adolescent need as a prerequisite for leadership to develop? How leadership skills are cultivated, and what is the optimal learning environment? My research will provide illustrations of how essential leadership skills are learned and developed. Furthermore, I want to discover the organizational and/or structural factors in the BSA that create this environment. Leadership is taught at a very basic level in the Boy Scouts, the young boys, between the ages of ten through seventeen learn, responsibility, accountability, organizational skills, the ability to communicate, and how to give direction and delegate. Learning even the very basic skills is important at this age. Research has shown that, “leadership development starts early,” and that, “skills critical for effective leadership, including the capacity to understand and interact with others, develop strikingly in adolescence and especially in young adulthood” (Gardner, J.W., 1987). Yet even with these learned skills many adolescents never get the opportunity to ever use their leadership skills (Linden & Fertman, 1998). My ethnographic research will focus on describing, analyzing, and interpreting the learning and development process of leadership. I want to gain an understanding of how this intriguing and complex process works. I will study the learning and developmental process, and will also make an assessment of the learned leadership skills. My ethnography will incorporate field observations, as well as group and individual interviews of scout leadership, adult volunteers and parents. This will be done primarily at the weekly scheduled scout troop meetings. Tape recorded interviews of scouting leaders, parents and adult volunteers, and data from field observations will be gathered, sorted, categorized, analyzed and interpreted. Participants in the research will include: Boy Scout members (ages 10 to 17), scouting leadership, adult unit leaders, adult committee members, adult volunteers, and parents. The results of my research will help those involved in the Boy Scouts of America organization, other youth leadership organizations, teachers and counselors in schools, and those working with troubled youth. My research will identify the adolescent competencies needed as a precondition to develop leadership skills. Additionally, it will provide the necessary information about constructing the proper learning environment so that development can be optimized.