ERIC Identifier: ED262511
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Addison, Linda
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Leadership Skills Among the Gifted and Talented. 1985 Digest.
Interest in identifying and nurturing leadership potential dates back to the
time of Aristotle and Plato. Continuing interest in leadership has been evident
in federal and state legislation for the gifted and talented. Leadership has
been a desginated talent area in the definition of gifted students who require a
In addition, one aim of differentiated instruction for students gifted in
areas other than leadership is to help these students assume leadership roles in
their chosen fields. Thus, development of leadership abilities of gifted
students can take a two-prong approach -- nurturance of students identified as
gifted leaders and the development of leadership abilities of students gifted in
any of the other talent areas.
WHAT IS MEANT BY LEADERSHIP?
Leadership is the ability to influence the activities of an individual or
group toward the achievement of a goal. The definition has evolved from the idea
of a leader being a born leader or simply "one who leads" to a more complex view
of how a person exerts influence.
For example, leaders can be influential as task-oriented leaders or
relationship-oriented leaders. The task-oriented leader excels at establishing
well-defined patterns of organization, channels of communication, and ways of
getting tasks accomplished. The relationship-oriented leader, on the other hand,
leads by maintaining personal relationships between members of the group by
opening up communication, providing emotional support and using facilitating
Both task-oriented and relationship-oriented leaders are necessary for
effective group functioning, but the leadership abilities of either one of these
leaders may go unnoticed if the definition of leadership used by the schools is
Another helpful dichotomy for identifying and nurturing leadership abilities
of gifted and talented students is that of the active versus the reflective
leader. The active leader exerts influence over the group through the force of
his or her personality. Political, community, or student council leaders are
examples of active leaders.
The reflective leader, on the other hand, is influential through the force of
his or her ideas. Thus, while Einstein may never have campaigned for office, he
is a leader because of the influence of his ideas. Students gifted in any of the
talent areas have the potential to lead by contributing influential ideas to
their chosen fields.
While no single best definition of leadership exists, teachers working with
gifted and talented students may use these broadened notions of leadership to
identify the strengths and weaknesses of students as the framework for an
intervention program. As with creativity and thinking abilities, leadership
skills can be developed and honed through training programs.
HOW CAN TEACHERS IDENTIFY THE LEADERSHIP ABILITIES OF GIFTED AND TALENTED
No standardized test of leadership will identify the leadership potential of
gifted and talented students. As with other areas of giftedness, a combination
of methods will aid the teacher in identifying those who excel in this area and
in determining individual strengths and weaknesses. Some of the methods found to
be useful include:
--Nomination and/or rating by peers, teachers, self, or community group
members (for example, scout, church or 4-H group leaders)
--Observation of simulation activities
--Biographical information on past leadership experiences
--Personality tests (such as the Myers-Briggs Type indicator)
--Leadership styles instruments (such as the Leader Effectiveness and
Adaptability Description) which may be interpreted to give leadership profiles
Many group dynamics and human relations textbooks contain checklists that
further pinpoint leadership abilities. The information gathered in this process
should give direction to the intervention program and should be collected on a
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF A LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM?
A comprehensive leadership development program can be developed around the
--Knowledge: historical study of leaders, qualities of leaders, theories of
leadership, leadership styles
--Skills: organization and delegation, problem solving, shared leadership,
communication, futuristic thinking, decision making, conflict resolution, goal
setting, group dynamics, divergent thinking, time management
--Attitudes: self-confidence as a leader, flexibility, social and moral
responsibility, sensitivity to others, enthusiasm, sense of commitment
Profiles of individual student strengths and weaknesses in these areas can
help the teacher in refining the focus of the intervention program. Leadership
training typically occurs in a group context, but gifted and talented students
benefit from setting and developing individual goals related to leadership
knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
WHAT ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS FACILITATE DEVELOPMENT OF LEADERSHIP
There are many possible administrative arrangements to deliver leadership
training, ranging from one-day to year-long efforts. One day convocations or
colloquia on leadership may involve one school district or may be a regional
effort. These often offer the opportunity to involve community members who have
leadership positions or are connected with leadership training programs in their
Short-term offerings on leadership may be arranged for in-class time or may
occur before or after school or during summers. Options might include:
--Learning centers designed to teach knowledge or skills
--Thematic units in social studies, language arts, or science
--Seminars or mini-courses, perhaps conducted by community resources
--Elective courses specifically on leadership.
Year-long leadership programs may involve integrating leadership skills
training into subject areas such as social studies or into co-curricular
activities. They also may entail setting up mentorships or internships with
persons in the community who are in leadership positions. A school district
seeking to implement a leadership program should survey the needs of their
students and the resources available in the area to facilitate the choice of
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Addison, L. B. INVESTIGATION OF THE LEADERSHIP ABILITIES OF INTELLECTUALLY
GIFTED STUDENTS. Unpublished dissertation. Tampa, FL: University of South
Briggs, K. C., and I. B. Myers. MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR. Palo Alto, CA:
Consulting Psychologist Press, 1976.
Cooper, Carolyn R., editor. DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL IN GIFTED
CHILDREN AND YOUTH. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children, 1985.
Foster, W. "Leadership: A Conceptual Framework for Recognizing and
Educating." GIFTED CHILD QUARTERLY 25 (1981):17-25.
Gallagher, J. J., and others. LEADERSHIP UNIT: THE USE OF TEACHER-SCHOLAR
TEAMS TO DEVELOP UNITS FOR THE GIFTED. New York: Trillium Press, 1982.
Hersey, P., and K. H. Blanchard. LEADER EFFECTIVENESS AND ADAPTABILITY
DESCRIPTION. LaJolla, CA: University Associates Press, 1976.
Johnson, D. W., and F. P. Johnson. JOINING TOGETHER: GROUP THEORY AND GROUP
SKILLS. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.
Kitano, M. K., and N. Tofoya. "Preschool Leadership: A Review and Critique."
JOURNAL FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE GIFTED 5 (1982):78-89.
Lindsay, B. "Leadership and Giftedness: Developing a Profile." JOURNAL FOR
THE EDUCATION OF THE GIFTED 1 (1978):63-69.
Magoon, R. A., and H. G. Jellen. DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP SKILLS IN CHILDREN AND
YOUTH. Poquoson, VA: Human Development Press, 1980.
Parker, J. P. ACTIVITIES FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT BASED ON THE LEADERSHIP
TRAINING MODEL. Lafayette, LA: University of Southwest Louisiana, 1982.
Passow, A. H., editor. A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP. Ventura, CA: Ventura
County Superintendent of Schools, 1977.
Pfeiffer, J. W., and J. E. Jones. A HANDBOOK OF STRUCTURED EXPERIENCES FOR
HUMAN RELATIONS TRAINING. LaJolla, CA: University Associates Press, 1980.
Stogdill, R. M. A HANDBOOK OF LEADERSHIP: A SURVEY OF THEORY AND RESEARCH.
New York: The Free Press, 1974.