More research on adolescent leadership development required: Scientists

More research on adolescent leadership development required: Scientists
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Illinois, US: Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, and David Hogg were all teenagers when their activism captured the attention of the world, demonstrating that leadership skills may be developed well before adulthood.

As essential as they are, and as complex the challenges they face as tomorrow's leaders, scientists do not understand the traits and experience that define young leaders. Although it is undeniable that leaders emerge early, little is known about leadership development during adolescence.

The article "Understanding the Leaders of Tomorrow: The Need to Study Leadership in Adolescence" argues that leadership study should incorporate a multidisciplinary developmental perspective. The study has been published by 'Perspectives in Psychological Science'.

"The rapid development of personality, peer relationships, values and vocational identity during this period, make adolescence an optimal time for developing leadership potential," said Jennifer Tackett, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University and the paper's corresponding author.

Tackett is a professor of psychology at Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the director of the Personality Across Development (PAD) lab.

The authors propose bringing together experts from various fields of psychological science to study early leadership, and how it emerges, develops, and influences leadership ability as adults, arguing that knowledge of youth leadership would have immediate application for educators, parents, policymakers, and employers.

They highlight opportunities for extending concepts from the study of leadership in adults to adolescents while also utilising current research on peer influence and cognitive and behavioural development specifically geared toward adolescents to create a more nuanced model of how leadership evolves over the course of a person's life.

In order to better understand how early leadership develops, they also propose new lines of inquiry, such as examining the contexts that adolescent leaders occupy, such as extracurricular activities, social justice initiatives, athletics, and social media.

According to the authors, in addition to the research on the positive effects on youth leadership development may have on society, it may also benefit the particular youth by fostering a more expansive sense of their own leadership identity and a better understanding of their own unique skills and potential.

The research also seeks to create leadership interventions that will optimise potential and promote a more diverse leadership pipeline.

"We think that a lot of great leadership potential is getting lost as youth develop in the context of cumulative, multilayered systemic barriers and that looking earlier in life may be a key to harnessing and fostering this potential well ahead of these later outcomes," Tackett said. "Everyone stands to benefit from improving leadership skills and effectiveness in the leaders of tomorrow."