ERIC Identifier: ED321490
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Karnes, Frances A. - Bean, Suzanne M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children
Developing Leadership in Gifted Youth. ERIC Digest
All cultures need role models and leaders. Most of us agree that professions
such as medicine, technology, education, business and industry, politics,
and the arts need people who can use intelligence, creativity, and critical
judgment. The role of parents and educators is critical in assisting with
the development of leadership attitudes and skills in gifted youth.
Leadership has been designated a talent area in federal and state definitions
of gifted students who require differentiated programs, yet it remains
the least discussed of the curricular areas for these students in the literature,
and it is not well defined.
CHARACTERISTICS OF LEADERSHIP IN GIFTED YOUTH
Few gifted programs identify students with high leadership potential
or incorporate leadership education into their curricula. However, many
characteristics of gifted youth enable them to profit from leadership development.
Those characteristics include the following:
*The desire to be challenged.
*The ability to solve problems creatively.
*The ability to reason critically.
*The ability to see new relationships.
*Facility of verbal expression.
*Flexibility in thought and action.
*The ability to tolerate ambiguity.
*The ability to motivate others.
PARENTS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF LEADERSHIP
Preparing young people for leadership responsibility begins in the home
with an enriched environment that offers opportunities for children to
acquire broad interests, self-esteem, and the insights and skills that
characterize leaders. Parents can provide their children with support and
encouragement as they participate in a wide variety of home and community
activities. Parents should encourage their children to be involved in the
selection, planning, execution, and evaluation of family activities ranging
from a day at the zoo to a vacation overseas. Youngsters should also be
encouraged to plan, initiate, and complete a variety of self-evaluated
individual projects, but these skills are not learned automatically. They
must be patiently taught and modeled by parents in the home.
Discussion and debate about current events and other topics foster independent
thinking and nurture leadership potential. Parents who listen openly and
thoughtfully without expecting children to embrace their social, political,
and economic views are demonstrating leadership characteristics. Mutual
respect, objectivity, empathy, and understanding are highly valued by gifted
young people, particularly those who need a safe place to test their ideas.
Opportunities for decision making at an early age will help to foster
the critical reasoning skills necessary to be an effective leader. Inappropriate
decisions by children and youth, although difficult for parents to accept,
may enhance future decision-making skills when self-evaluated.
INFUSING LEADERSHIP CONCEPTS AND SKILLS INTO THE CURRICULUM
Major emphasis should be placed on leadership development in all academic
areas, including the fine and performing arts. Thematic curriculum units
and reading lists should include biographies and autobiographies of outstanding
leaders. Students should be encouraged to analyze and evaluate the motivation,
contributions, and influences of each leader and assess the leadership
styles employed. Major events and family and other influences important
in the life of each leader should be emphasized.
SCIENCES. Physical and biological sciences, mathematics, and
social sciences provide unique opportunities for projects in which initiating,
planning, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and decision making
can be developed. They are rich with opportunities to learn about leaders
who have influenced such areas as government and politics, science and
technology, humanities and the arts, business and industry, philosophy
and religion, and health science and medicine. Students can learn how their
interests, passions, and abilities can develop into careers. They can compare
the contributions of others with their own value systems. For example,
many leaders have been concerned about poverty and the human condition.
HUMANITIES. Language arts, speech, English, and other courses
that emphasize oral and written communication provide opportunities for
potential leaders to learn how to present ideas clearly and persuasively.
Preparing and presenting speeches, listening to and critiquing presentations,
writing news reports and editorials for school and other local publications,
preparing for and engaging in debates, leading conference and discussion
sessions, and participating in school and other election campaigns are
only a few of the many options available. Group activities provide opportunities
for young people to learn how to help others feel important and valued,
accept their contributions, keep discussions relevant, and occasionally
follow rather than lead.
ARTS. Students can learn leadership skills and gain inspiration
from talented people of the past and present who have enriched all of us
through their contributions in the fine and performing arts. Their creative
works, the trends they initiated, and the enduring results of their efforts
are worthy of study, as are their lives and the circumstances under which
their work came to fruition.
OTHER SCHOOL OPTIONS FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Several strategies strengthen and broaden educational experiences for
gifted youth. Instructional units on leadership development should be provided
at each grade level in a resource room or pullout administrative arrangement.
Some secondary schools offer structured credit courses on leadership. Having
students prepare and periodically update personal plans for leadership
development, including provisions for obtaining the experiences set forth
in their plans, is another promising activity. The value of this experience
is enhanced when students share individual plans in group sessions, brief
the group on their purpose, revise plans if the critique brings forth acceptable
suggestions, report to peers on progress made after following the plans
for a period of time, and evaluate the plans using self-designed criteria.
Mentorships and internship programs provide opportunities for youth
to work with adult community leaders who are willing to help identify,
develop, and nurture future leaders.
LEADERSHIP THROUGH EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Since leadership is learned over time through involvement with others,
extracurricular activities provide fertile ground for nurturing future
leaders. Group participation offers unique opportunities for young people
to belong, support others, and learn a variety of leadership styles. Students
learn how to encourage others, create group spirit, and resolve conflict.
They begin to understand diverse attitudes, skills, and talents and how
to interact effectively with a diversity of people while working toward
a common goal.
Leadership in extracurricular activities has been found to be more
highly correlated with adult leadership than with academic achievement.
A 10-year study conducted with 515 high school student leaders revealed
that almost two-thirds of them participated in out-of-school organizations
and athletics and more than half participated in fine arts activities.
Although there are many organized extracurricular activities for youth,
those who want to develop their leadership potential can do so through
less formal methods. Individuals or groups can plan special projects or
a leadership plan by setting goals, objectives, and timelines toward a
mission of improving some area of the school or community. Skills such
as seeking all available information, defining a group task, and devising
a workable plan may be developed through any community project. No matter
how small or large the goal, the process involved in devising and implementing
the plan develops leadership potential.
Leadership is much more than being elected or appointed to a position,
and it is acquired most effectively through practice. Educators, parents,
and other concerned adults who are interested in the development of leadership
in gifted youth can make a difference in the lives of these students by
providing them with opportunities to realize their leadership potential.
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