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Systematic Approaches to Leadership Development: What Are YOU Doing?

September 27, 2008

By Ghimire, Nav R Martin, Robert A

To face new challenges and achieve development goals, the value of leadership education and the need for leadership development programs to prepare tomorrow’s leaders has become increasingly important. There is a growing need for diversity in leadership in academic, corporate, and professional organizations. Cox (1991) and Harry (1992) claimed the need for a culturally diverse workforce for the long-term survivability and profitability of organizations. Several authors (Gordon & Bridglall, 2004; Goldberg, 2001; Tapia, Chubin & Lanius, 2000; Harry, 1992) reported that minority populations are continually underrepresented in educational leadership positions and have suggested that institutions do more to promote leadership education. In addition, according to Stepp (2008, p. Al) in a study of more than 4000 children ages 8-17, “young people have little or no interest with achieving leadership roles.” Apparently, “the millennial generation has ambivalent, even negative feelings about formal leadership,” according to Peter Levine, at the University of Maryland (Stepp, 2008, p. A6). Levine concludes that leadership development is not a problem confined to underrepresented populations. Who will lead communities in the future largely depends on the culture of the institutions promoting leadership development programs and individual characteristics, such as talent and achievement over a career (Tapia et al., 2000). The place where the opportunity for leadership development begins is in school. Therefore, schools have an important role to play in promoting and developing educational leadership. Bowen & Bok (1998) reported that the academic achievement gap and inadequacies in high school preparation of minority students were responsible for the underrepresentation of minority groups in educational leadership positions.

Factors that contribute to promoting the development of leadership skills among minority students in schools are associated with the teaching-learning process, the school curriculum, mentoring and advising process, leadership by teachers, and the school environment (Marcoulides, Heck & Papanastasiou, 2005). Researchers (Leithwood & Day, 2008; Robinson, 2007; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005; Hallinger & Heck, 1996) found that school leadership activities have considerable impact on a student’s life and his/her future leadership capabilities.

Educators need to be more systematic in their approach to leadership development. Although some believe that because students are FFA members they automatically learn leadership skills; the assumption is that something is bound to rub-off through FFA experiences. However, leadership skills development does not come to people automatically because they happen to be members of an organization, but by a sustainable and systematic approach to learning. In so doing, teachers will meet the needs of industry as well as business and professional organizations. The question is, what are some steps that lead to a systematic approach to leadership education for all students, especially those from underrepresented groups?

Following are some guidelines for promoting educational leadership among all students in our schools (American Speech- Language- Hearing Association, 2007; Alessandria & Nelson, 2005; Gordon & Bridglall, 2004; Minnesota State University, 2002; Tapia et al. 2000).

* Provide enough support to promote self-efficacy beliefs of students that often develop interest in professional careers and higher education.

* Promote diversity awareness and multicultural sensitivity programs in school to engage students with the larger community.

* Develop awareness among the parents about the consequences of school instability in students’ learning ability because families of many students move often.

* Provide experienced mentors to students to guide their educational careers and academic goals.

* Encourage students to make every opportunity to give presentations and write papers.

* Introduce students to the professional development network with the community through internships and include them in both social and professional situations.

* In the classroom, encourage all students to ask questions and participate in discussion. This is important for self-development and self-promotion.

* Provide a support group of caring individuals (such as peers and teachers) for students new in school.

* Adapt curriculum that can effectively tap a student’s cultural experiences.

* Encourage students to be involved in community service to help them to learn about themselves.

* Provide systematic tutoring and coaching to students to help them learn by doing.

* Include parents of students in social events of the school and keep advised of their child’s progress.

* Carefully monitor the level of courses that students take relative to their prior coursework and level of performance.

* Provide emphasis on actively developing student’s analytical problem-solving capacity, strong study habits and motivation to access available school resources.

* Adopt a knowledge-centered environment in the classroom that can provide the necessary depth of the study and assesses student understanding.

* Offer programs that help students to make the transition from high school to college, such as college readiness skills.

* Provide training to teachers on how to mentor, and advise students effectively.

* Provide afternoon sessions, weekend programs, and summer enrichment programs focused on math and science.

* Develop a coalition with leaders from the community, churches, political arena, corporations, and education centers to develop a base of intellectual and financial power in support of student recruitment, retention and academic achievement.

So what are YOU doing?

Before adopting a leadership program, schools must consider how to develop sustainable educational leadership practices for all students, how such practices contribute to all students’ academic achievement and school improvement, and how all students can productively utilize every opportunity.


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American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2007). Minority student recruitment, retention and career transition practices: A review of the literature. Retrieved March 21, 2008 from: http:// www.asha.org/ about/leadership-projects/ multicultural/recruit/ litreview. htm

Bowen, W. G., & Bok, D. (1998). The shape of the river: Long- term consequences of considering race in college and university admissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Cox, T. (1991). Managing cultural diversity: Implications for organizational competitiveness. Academy of Management Executive, 5(3), 45-56

Gordon, E. W., & Bridglall, B. L. (2004). Creating excellence and increasing ethnicminority leadership in science, engineering, mathematics and technology: A study of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of MarylandBaltimore County. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. Also available online at: http:// www.ncrel.org/gap/studies/ meyerhoff.pdf

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Marcoulides, G. A., Heck, R. H., & Papanastasiou, C. (2005). Student perceptions of school culture and achievement: testing the invariance of a model. International Journal of Educational Management, 19(2), 140-152.

Marzano, R., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. (2005). School Leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Minnesota State University (2002). A summary of best practices for recruitment and retention of students of color. Retrieved March 21,2008 from: http:// www.academicaffairs.mnscu. edu/studentaffairs/ documents/ BestPractices.pdf

Robinson, V. (2007). How school leaders make a difference to their students. Key note Address to the International Confederation of Principals, April, Auckland, NZ.

Stepp, L. S. (2008, March 28). Study finds the young have little interest in leading. The Washington Post, In The Ames Tribune, p. A1

Tapia, R., Chubin, D., & Lanius, C. (1999). Lack of minority leadership: Possible causes and plausible solutions. Proceedings of the 1999 National Science Foundation Summit on Promoting National Minority Leadership in Science and Engineering, Houston, 18-19 October 1999, Rice University.

Nav Raj Ghimire

Graduate Associate

Iowa State University

Robert A. Martin is Professor and Head of Agricultural Education & Studies at Iowa State University

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