THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
JOHN GLENN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Leadership for the New Millennials
A qualitative assessment of essential elements of youth leadership
development programming and evaluation practices
By Jacqui Buschor
A policy/management paper submitted in partial fulfillment for the Masters in Public Administration Degree
Executive Summary....................................................................................................................................... 3
Introduction .................................................................................................................................................. 4
A New Definition of Leadership ................................................................................................................ 4
Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Transforming Leadership Program .................................................................... 6
Beyond Programming ............................................................................................................................... 7
Literature Review .......................................................................................................................................... 7
Essential Concepts .................................................................................................................................... 8
Transforming Leadership ........................................................................................................................ 10
Generalizability ....................................................................................................................................... 12
Findings ....................................................................................................................................................... 13
Integral Elements to a Successful Program............................................................................................. 13
Service-Learning as a Solution ............................................................................................................ 15
Determining Success in Leadership Development Programs ................................................................. 15
Barriers to Implementation .................................................................................................................... 18
Conclusions ................................................................................................................................................. 18
Implications for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A and Similar Organizations ....................................................... 19
The Need for Youth Leadership Development Research ........................................................................ 21
Further Research..................................................................................................................................... 21
Contemporary youth are moving away from a definition of leadership that focuses on a
command-and-control managerial process towards a definition of leadership that focuses on group
collaboration for the purpose of social change (Girl Scout Research Institute, 2008). To effectively
address this paradigm shift, youth leadership development programs must also make changes.
What are the essential elements of a successful youth leadership development program under
this new paradigm? Furthermore, what is the proper process for determining that success?
This paper presents that a successful youth leadership development program must include:
deciding on a clearly defined concept of leadership; self-confidence building techniques; realistic and
age-appropriate leadership challenge scenarios; and service-learning opportunities. These essential
elements are determined based on a comprehensive critical review of existing literature and research on
youth leadership development under the new leadership paradigm. Some leadership development
programs use ice-breaker type games and activities to build leadership skills (Boyd, 2000)and while
these can be helpful to some ends, they do not fully meet the demands of youth aspiring to the new
definition of leadership.
The activities associated with service-learning offer a more appropriate avenue for teaching
leadership under the new paradigm. First, service-learning meets the desires of youth to create social
change. Service-learning, by definition offers benefits to both the recipient of the service and those who
are serving. Secondly, service-learning offers an opportunity for hands-on leadership learning. By
allowing the youth to be actively involved in every step of the process, they gain leadership skills that
are applicable to real-world leadership challenges. Furthermore and finally, allowing youth involvement
through the planning, implementation and follow-up of the event each group member can participate in
the process that best meets their leadership skill set, promoting the tenet that each person has
something they can add to the leadership experience.
Beyond programming, youth leadership development organizations must also plan for
evaluation of their programs to determine whether or not they’ve been successful. The process for
determining success of the program first requires setting objectives and subsequent activities that
match the organization’s accepted definition of leadership. These objectives are best determined
through the construction of a logic model to ensure a clear flow from inputs to activities to desired
outcomes (United Way of America, 1996). From the outcomes determined in the logic model, the
organization must then develop a system of measureable and quantitative outcome indicators and a
system for collecting and analyzing the data (Hatry, 1999). Only then can an organization definitively
prove to program participants, grant makers and other stakeholders that the program is truly making its
“Supervisors were to be regarded like officers in the military; You obeyed them because you
learned you had to as part of military discipline and because you hoped they had your best interests in
mind” (Bennis, 2002; p. 48). Warren Bennis, a leading scholar of generational differences describes the
way many Baby Boomer Americans view leadership.
Young people are acutely aware of the disconnect between those traditionally heralded as
leaders and the type of leaders they want to be. Traditionally, leaders have been characterized by a
commanding presence, a sense of authority and the power and influence they had over their
subordinates. This “command-and-control” idea of leadership is of no interest to contemporary youth.
Instead, young Americans prefer definitions of leadership that imply standing up for personal principles,
exhibiting ethical behavior, and the ability to affect social change (GSRI, 2008).
With such a striking change in the definition of leadership, it is not unreasonable to expect the
methods by which leadership skills are taught to require a similar overhaul. The new leadership
paradigm calls for an active process of learning through which all students can progressively hone
leadership skills along age appropriate developmental stages (Terry, 2007), as opposed to traditional
youth leadership development programs that employ activities that allow for only natural-born leaders
to emerge. There are numerous organizations dedicated to youth leadership development, but are
their methods reflecting the new leadership paradigm? Does the style and purpose of the leadership
programming resonate with youth seeking an opportunity to change the world in which they live?
This paper seeks to answer the following questions: Under the new leadership paradigm, what
are the integral elements of a successful youth leadership development program and what is the
process by which organizations can measure that success?
A New Definition of Leadership
Before any plans can be made to design a new youth leadership program, it is imperative that
the organization decide on a definition of leadership. For example, does the program desire to create
leaders who can manage groups or foster group collaboration? A leader who can command respect or
inspire leadership in others? With thousands of possible definitions of the concept, failing to define
what the concept means for the organization could result not only in failure to develop the desired type
of leaders, but could actually result in designed activities working in contradiction to the desired result
When deciding on the desired definition of leadership, it is important to recognize that the idea
of leadership held by contemporary youth is quite different from traditionally held leadership ideals.
Leadership, to those of the Baby Boomer generation, is centered on those in formal positions of
authority such as CEOs, military personnel and those in political office (Bennis, 2002). Contemporary
youth have no interest in becoming this type of leader. In fact, when asked what kind of leader they
wanted to be, only 33% were interested in “being in charge of other people and making decisions that
affect them” while nearly two-thirds of youth prefer aspire to be leaders who “stand up for their beliefs
and values.” Furthermore, when asked to define leadership, nearly 70% of youth cite “one who brings
people together to get things done” as the ideal example (Girl Scout Research Institute, 2008).
The focus on the group is one of the most crucial aspects of the new definition of leadership.
Youth are much more concerned with developing a culture of leadership within a group as opposed to
encouraging one leader to step up and take charge (Girl Scout Research Institute, 2008). Within the
study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI), youth frequently mentioned that the group
leadership style allows adaptation to changing situations (Girl Scout Research Institute, 2008). Each
group member, in this style of leadership, possesses a certain set of skills. For example, some may be
strong in taking initiative and getting the work started while others are more skilled at encouraging team
members and pushing the group through difficult barriers. The youth do not deny the need for an
executive decision-making type of leadership. They simply acknowledge that others in the group also
have talents to offer (Girl Scout Research Institute, 2008).
These youth are, in fact, possibly reacting rationally to the changing environment in which they
live. As the marketplace becomes increasingly global and fast-paced, only the organizations which can
remain flexible and agile will survive and thrive (Bennis, 2002). Baby Boomer ideas of leadership rest on
the abilities of one or a few, which locks the group into one set of primary skills, will serve the group
well in a stable environment. However, a stable environment is no longer the reality in which these
groups live. The ability to practice this adaptive leadership is imperative to their success (Roach, 1999).
Given the lack of concern for an individual leadership position, it seems natural that youth
would be less concerned with the “who” of leadership and more to do with the “what” (Roach, 1999).
The youth have little interest in leadership as way to gain respect and fame. In fact, they grow
increasingly weary as those held up as role models are continually marred with scandal. Instead,
contemporary youth seek to bring about social change as their main aim of leadership (Girl Scout
Research Institute, 2008)
As organizations work to establish a clear definition of the type of leadership they wish to teach,
each would be well-advised to consider the ideas of the youth they will serve. Feeding the desire to
make social change will engage youth and compel them to learn more, but locking them into a more
traditional view of leadership training will not resonate and may dissuade them from aspiring to
leadership at all (Morgan, 2001; Girl Scout Research Institute, 2008).
Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Transforming Leadership Program
Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. (GSUSA) is one example of a youth leadership development program
that has recently recognized the need for a shift in their approach to leadership training. In its nearly
century-long history has a premier leadership development organization, the approach to leadership
training has changed frequently in accordance with changing social demands (Girl Scouts of the USA,
2008), with the most recent changes precipitating from the results of a survey conducting by its own
research and development department, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI).
The GSRI study was prompted by reports to GSUSA that the programming the organization
offered was increasingly viewed as irrelevant and outdated to the its target audience (A Girl Scout
Pledge: Relevance, 2006). In response, the organization commissioned a study to determine how
American youth (between the ages of 8 and 17) view leadership and what kinds of leaders they aspire to
become. The results, as presented in the report Change It Up! What Girls Say About Redefining
Leadership, indicated that confirmed that the organization’s current programming, designed to develop
independent young women, focused on more traditional views of leadership was failing to meet the
demands of its clients, who now sought a more group oriented approach (Girl Scout Research Institute,
Consequently, GSUSA began an intensive strategic planning and restructuring process that
included an overhaul of the Girl Scout leadership experience (Girl Scouts of the USA, 2008). The new
leadership program seeks to address the new paradigm by focusing on collaborative leadership and
achieving social change and is based on a set of Journeys books. The books are published by GSUSA and
are designed to guide the girls through meeting several of the 15 outcomes the organization has
established. Ultimately, Transforming Leadership seeks to foster in the girls confidence and self-efficacy
and inspire them to create social change in their communities and in the world (Girl Scouts of the USA,
Clearly, GSUSA has recognized the shift in leadership paradigms and has attempted to
restructure its programming accordingly, but are changes in programming enough to ensure that the
organization will successfully meet its objective to build self-confident agents of social change? How will
GSUSA know when it has reached its goal? In fact, programming alone cannot ensure success or
indicate levels of success for a program. The United Way, a leading resource on non-profit
management, strongly recommends constructing a logic model and performance measurement system
as part of the strategic planning process (United Way, 1996). Designing a performance measurement
system allows an organization to determine the actual impact a program has made in the lives of people
who complete it. This information is far more valuable to grant makers and other funders and the mere
total of people who have moved through the program (Hatry, 1999). Especially in times of economic
downturn, when competition for funding is higher, the demand from grant makers for this level of
information increases drastically (United Way, 1996). Subsequently, an organization’s ability to
accurately and efficiently produce this information could prove vital to the program’s financial
Constructing a logic model provides a structured process through which an organization can
create the outcomes to be included in the performance measurement system. The construction process
includes identifying inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes associated with any given program
objective. Using the logic model as a visual representation of the program, the organization can track
the flow of information from input to outcome to ensure that all activities are necessary for meeting the
objective and that all objectives have a means through which they are met (Hatry, 1999). This paper will
lay out the process through which youth leadership development organizations can apply the logic
model and performance measurement construction process to improve the evaluation and subsequent
success of their programs.
Despite the abundance of youth leadership development programs, many receiving grant or
government funding, very little research has been done to determine best practices for programming or
for evaluation of such organizations. Instead, many organizations apply the research from adult
leadership training to youth, which fails to address the differences between youth and adult leadership
scenarios (Boyd, 2000). The research that does exist, however, demonstrates that youth best learn
leadership skills when certain specific training elements are present.
Most fundamentally, every youth leadership development program aspires to the ultimate
long-term outcome of building children into effective leaders. Though this paper has established that
the new leadership paradigm is built on the idea of a collaborative group style of leadership that creates
social change, the style of collaboration and area of social change will vary wildly from organization to
organization, based on its target demographic, social priorities and the organization’s overall mission.
This paper does not attempt to ascribe relative value to any of these details. Instead, it will show that
no matter the variety of a youth leadership development programming, no organization can be
successful without giving consideration to several essential concepts.
There is a strong connection between a child’s self-confidence and his or her willingness to take
a leadership role. The Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) conducted a study in 2006 to gage the
attitudes of American youth toward leadership. The study discovered that 92% of youth believe that the
skills necessary for leadership can be learned, less than 21% feel they possess these skills themselves
(GSRI, 2008 pp. 14-15). Similarly, slightly more than 35% of youth desire to be leaders rather than
followers (GRSI, 2008 p. 11). This points to a severe lack of self-confidence in leadership ability.
Without a strong sense of self-confidence and a positive self-concept, youth are unlikely to step forward
and lead a group toward a goal, if they feel compelled to contribute at all (Morgan and Streb, 2001). By
enhancing youth self-confidence through programmed activities, tendencies toward leadership can
become a natural by-product (GSRI, 2008).
Similar to self-confidence, youth must develop a strong sense of self-efficacy before they can
attain the leadership skills they desire. Based on the social change definition of leadership, self-efficacy
in youth leadership development refers to the confidence youth have in their own ability to actually
make an impact in their world.
Again, according to the GSRI study, though youth most aspire to a concept of leadership that
values results in social change, they have very little confidence in their ability to actually effect change.
Less than 25% of youth surveyed felt they had very little power to make a change in their environments,
while nearly the same amount indicated they felt they had absolutely no power to affect change (GSRI,
2008 p. 27). Youth will not feel compelled to tackle leadership challenges unless they feel they can
make a meaningful contribution to society (Boyd, 2000).
Service-learning as defined by Shelley Billig, a leading expert in the field, as a teaching method
that involves students performing community service in order to augment and reinforce knowledge and
skills learned through curricular objectives. The actual activities involved in service-learning, however,
vary widely around the basic definition, as well as the extent to which service-learning is integrated into
the core curriculum (Billig, 2002).
Much research has sought to identify the benefits of service-learning and many studies make
similar conclusions. In general, the studies suggest that participants in service-learning programs show
increased growth in personal and social development measures such as self-confidence and
communication skills (Billig, 2000; Morgan, 2001) and increased academic accomplishment (Billig, 2002).
The opponents of service-learning are typically not critics of the concept itself, but of the lack of
uniformity and steadfast standards of practice in individual programs. According to Billig, “service-
learning is not a model and does not have specific steps, content, duration, frequency or goals” (Billing,
2000). Such a broad definition leaves many service-learning initiatives wide open to the threat of bad
program design and implementation.
Some skeptics call for a tighter definition of the service-learning concept to lessen the risk of
bad program design. These definitions would indicate the differences between service-learning, which
has clear ties to curricular concepts and basic community service which has strictly social goals. Those
who study child development, however, attest that instead of being excluded from the concept of
service-learning, basic community service should be a seen as the appropriate service-learning
experience for younger primary or elementary-aged students in early stages of personal and social
development. By creating a loose framework based on students’ developmental stages, service-learning
can evolve from its “one-size-fits-all” beginnings to a highly impactful and individualized experiential
education opportunity (Terry, 2007). Within this framework, students would progress from participating
in simple service projects at a young age to service-learning projects of increasing complexity and
demand for responsibility as they age.
Service-learning projects offer youth the opportunity to practice the leadership skills they’ve
learned through other activities (Boyd, 2000). This “real-world” practice opportunity also teaches the
children to be flexible as they deal the challenges that arise from leading in an environment that is less
controlled than those available in internal organization activities.
In an attempt to create a new, more forward-thinking image and to celebrate the centennial
anniversary of the organization, GSUSA is planning the rollout of a new leadership development
program. The program, Transforming Leadership, seeks to redefine its leadership training through
curriculum enhancement. GSUSA will offer the new Transforming Leadership program to augment its
current curriculum. The programming is based primarily on a series books called journeys, with each
Girl Scout age level having six journeys.
The journeys contain lessons and activities centered on the three themes of Transforming
Leadership: Discover, Connect and Take Action (GSUSA, 2008). The Discover theme encourages girls to
gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their belief and values. The Connect theme seeks to teach
girls the necessary skills for building strong relationships and working together. Finally, the Take Action
theme inspires the girls to use their new skills to make a change in their communities and in their world.
Evaluation for the success of Transforming Leadership is heavily based on 15 anticipated
outcomes for each of GSUSA’s target age groups, divided into the three theme categories. These
outcomes are displayed in Table 1.
The objectives were created based on a comprehensive study conducted by the Girl Scout
Research Institute. The report, Change it Up! What Girls Say About Redefining Leadership, lays out the
results of the survey which sought to quantify how American children view and experience leadership.
The survey confirmed that children hold clear definitions of leadership which centers on the idea of
using leadership for social change, which clearly inspired the objective division themes, particularly in
the case of “Take Action.” In addition, the survey identified several key areas of concern for the
organization that dissuade children from pursuing leadership, including a perceived deficiency in skills
the children deem critical to leadership success, which explains the objectives focused on building self-
esteem and confidence.
Objective Division One: Discover
1. Girls develop a strong sense of self.
2. Girls develop positive values.
3. Girls gain practice life skills.
4. Girls seek challenges in the world.
5. Girls develop critical thinking.
Objective Division Two: Connect
6. Girls develop healthy relationship.
7. Girls promote cooperation and team building.
8. Girls can resolve conflicts.
9. Girls advance diversity in a multi-cultural world.
10. Girls feel connected to their communities, locally and globally.
Objective Division Three: Take Action
11. Girls can identify community needs.
12. Girls are resourceful problem solvers.
13. Girls advocate for themselves and others, locally and globally.
14. Girls educate and inspire others to ask.
15. Girls feel empowered to make a difference in the world.
Source: Transforming Leadership (GSRI, 2008)
An effective youth leadership development program is dependent on the presence of certain
programming elements and clearly stated measurable objectives. By examining best practices in
objective setting and program evaluation, as well as research-proven curricular elements, a basic
framework for effective leadership development programming can be established. To develop this basic
framework, this paper will answer the following questions:
What are the integral elements of a successful youth leadership development program?
What is the process for a determining the success of a youth leadership development program?
The answers to these questions are based primarily on an extensive review of existing research
on the topic of youth leadership development, both qualitative research and quantitative studies. Each
of the existing studies focus on a specific characteristic of youth leadership or leadership development.
As the results of these various studies are compiled, a framework of integral programming elements
begins to emerge.
In addition, the paper will establish a process by which youth leadership development
organizations can evaluate the success of the programming they design. The United Way, as a leading
resource for non-profit organizations, has developed a process for setting objectives, performance
measures and evaluation practices. This paper will take the broad recommendations of the United Way
and other performance measurement research to create a process for logic model and performance
measure construction specific to youth leadership development.
Finally, the paper will compare the integral elements to the youth leadership development
programming, as well as the prescribed evaluation process, to the case study of the GSUSA Transforming
Leadership program, then make recommendations for improvement.
For the purposes of this paper, the term “youth” will be used to describe children who are in
middle school and high school, typically ages 12-18. This age range matches the definition of the term
used most often in existing literature on the topic. However, the Girls Scouts of the U.S.A. (GSUSA)
function on a slightly broader definition. Their programming targets girls from ages 6 to 18 and the GSRI
Change it up! survey included boys and girls, ages 8 to 17.
It is difficult to generalize any steadfast rules to all youth leadership development programs.
Each program will have its own unique definition of leadership, target demographics and objectives that
will require individual interpretation and adaptation of general guidelines. For this reason, this paper is
limited to creating these general guidelines of best practices for youth leadership development
programs and providing examples. These examples are in no way to be interpreted as specific
requirements for success.
Secondly, the lack of research on youth leadership development is a driving force behind this
paper, but it also creates a weakness. This paper lacks a quantitative component to prove a correlation
between the prescribed programming elements, evaluation techniques and success. Instead, the paper
relies on inductive reasoning by creating theories based on results from previous programs and existing
research on isolated leadership training components.
Integral Elements to a Successful Program
As established, the first integral element to a successful youth leadership development program
is setting a definition of leadership that resonates with the youth the program will serve. Without a
clearly defined concept of leadership, the activities of the organization could actually inadvertently work
against the goals it holds for the youth (Klau, 2006).
Once a concept of leadership has been established, the organization can develop the activities
through which they seek to meet the objectives. Many leadership development programs rely on games
and ice breakers to teach leadership principles or to help identify those students with natural leadership
ability. Not only do these techniques cater to the old leadership ideal of inherited traits and individual
management (Roach, 1999) they are simply not enough unless they are directly linked to an established
program outcome (Boyd, 2000). For example, an organization may use a low ropes course to promote
team building and collaboration. Alone, the activity could help develop group cohesion, but to develop
leadership skills that the youth can apply to external situations, the activity must go further. By adding
time for reflection at the conclusion of the activity, the program managers can lead the youth in
discussion that help the youth connect what they learned during the activity directly to the program’s
leadership objectives (Billig, 2000; Boyd, 2000)
One of the first challenges an organization must seek to address when planning activities is the
youths’ lack of self-confidence. According to the GSRI study, lack of self-confidence is the largest barrier
to leadership for young people. Though more than 90% of those surveyed believe anyone can acquire
the skills to become a leader, less than 25% feel they currently embody those skills themselves (GSRI,
2008). To successfully train youth to lead, a program must present leadership as an attainable skill for
each child. Building the self-esteem to lead is the second integral element of a successful program.
Some organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, would suggest that this self-confidence is best built
by creating a safe environment in which the youth can experiment with leadership (GSRI, 2008), which
may be appropriate for young children. However, as youth reach their teenage years, it becomes
necessary to teach leadership in a more realistic setting, one which allows failure and dissent. Without
creating realistic leadership scenarios, youth are less likely to carry the skills they learn into real world
leadership situations (Boyd, 2000). Sheltering youth from certain challenges to leadership may serve the
objective to build self-confidence, but without the exposure to realistic demands and expectations,
failure in a leadership experience outside of the program is more likely and could be even more
devastating to young leaders (Roach, 1999).
Furthermore, programs that focus primarily on charismatic and energetic styles of leadership
run the risk of creating a false sense of leadership security for students, making them ill-prepared for
difficult or contentious leadership scenarios or from tackling tough and uncomfortable issues that arise
(Klau, 2006). If the program seeks to address leadership within a specific area of advocacy, leadership as
an action must be addressed directly and not as an afterthought. Addressing controversial issues
outside of the confines of the program may seem threatening to new leaders if they have not been
prepared in realistic leadership training (Boyd, 2000; Klau, 2006).
For example, a particular leadership development program may exist to create leaders who will
promote diversity and stand up against racial discrimination. The youth may participate in activities that
involve discussion about the myths of the racism and the youth may develop very strong feelings against
discrimination, but they develop these feelings among others who are like-minded. To create leaders
who can be effective in eradicating discrimination, the youth could participate in role playing exercises
where some students portray racist individuals. This type of activity would prepare the youth to combat
the racist reality that exists outside the walls of the organization (Klau, 2006).
Equally as important as the scenarios being realistic, the scenarios must also be age-appropriate.
Currently, many youth leadership development programs rely on activities and evaluation techniques
that were designed for adult leadership training (Morgan, 2001). As already demonstrated through the
stark differences in definitions of leadership, it is not appropriate to generalize from adults to children
regarding the subject (Boyd, 2000). Aside from differing ideas surrounding leadership, youth and adults
lead in different environments on a daily basis, which negates any generalizations from one group to the
other. Adults commonly lead in formal environments, such as a workplace, where leadership positions
are bestowed by title and are supported by a fairly rigid organizational structure. Just the opposite,
youth are required to creatively negotiate leadership positions among their peers on a case-to-case
basis (Roach, 1999). It is not helpful for children to learn a management style leadership technique,
when they must practice leadership as collaboration. Even further, as youth begin to age and move into
the workforce, they will bring their leadership ideals with them, forcing their workplaces to adapt to the
new leadership paradigm (Bennis, 2002). This eventual shift in the workplace makes teaching youth the
management style of leadership even more obsolete.
Service-Learning as a Solution
According to the Government Accountability Office, one of the essential elements to a youth
development program is youth involvement through experiential learning (GAO, 2008). Experiential
learning not only requires a hands-on leadership experience, but also includes a time for reflection on
the activity (Boyd, 2000). Service-learning is a type of experiential learning which is growing in
popularity among educational circles. Service-learning, as a method of instruction, is a hands-on
learning opportunity through which students partake in a community service project that reinforces a
connected curriculum. By some definitions, both the student and the recipient of the service must
benefit for community service to be considered service-learning (Billig, 2001).
Since the contemporary youth vision for leadership is centered on the idea of social change and
helping others, service-learning seems a natural fit to provide the hands-on, realistic leadership
experience experts recommend. According to the Girl Scout study, though youth want to make a
change in the world, they do not feel they have the power to do so (GSRI, 2008). Service-learning offers
the students a chance to make an actual impact in their communities and serves as a means to build
self-confidence and self-efficacy at the same time (Morgan, 2001). Service-learning also requires the
reflection and evaluation elements of the learning process that is commonly accepted as key (Boyd,
2000; Roach, 1999; GAO, 2008).
Having youth involved in community service through service-learning is an effective tool for
leadership development, but it can be made more effective by allowing students to engage in the
planning process for the service projects. By allowing students to have a voice in choosing and planning
their service projects, the students experience increased leadership development benefits when
compared to simply participating in a project planned by others (Morgan, 2001). Furthermore, allowing
youth to take on a planning role in the service project reinforces the idea that leadership is attainable
for youth and not only reserved for adults in formal leadership positions (Klau, 2006).
Determining Success in Leadership Development Programs
The United Way, the preeminent authority on non-profit management, makes one uniform
recommendation to all its clients in the throes of the strategic planning process: construct a logic model
(United Way, 1996). A logic model is, most simply, a graphical depiction of what an organization plans
to accomplish and how it plans to get there. All organizations inherently have a theory on which
activities will produce which results. If not, they would have no reason to exist. By constructing a logic
model, the organizations are able to recognize these theories and determine the most effective path
from input to outcome (Hatry, 1999).
The first step, as established earlier, requires the organization to decide on the definition of
leadership it wishes to pursue. This decision is the keystone of the strategic planning process as this
definition of leadership becomes the basis for the overall objective of the program. This statement
should be qualitative and comprised of two parts: 1) what the program seeks to produce and 2) the
basic plan for reaching the product (Hatry, 1999).
GSUSA has successfully identified its leadership objective. The Transforming Leadership
program summary clearly states its ultimate outcome as, “Girls lead with courage, confidence and
character to make the world a better place” (Transforming Leadership, 2008). Fitting into the suggested
format, GSUSA seeks to create leadership for the purpose of social change by instilling self-confidence
Once the organization has decided upon an objective statement, it must determine the means
for reaching their goal, the activities and services the program will provide. It is absolutely crucial that
the organization designs activities that support the decided objective instead of writing an objective that
attempts to encompass existing activities, as providing any activity or service that does not directly
support the objective could risk undermining the success of the program as a whole (Klau, 2006). For
example, a hypothetical youth leadership program could seek to create leaders who think critically and
challenge the status quo, but success of participants could be measured by required to show support for
the organization through showing enthusiasm (cheering and clapping) in group events. Though the
organization seeks to develop leaders who are independent thinkers, they could unknowingly be
rewarding the youth most deeply entrenched in a groupthink mentality.
Child Trends Youth Entrepreneurship Program has successfully implemented the activity
planning phase of logic model construction. The objective of the Child Trends program is to develop
leadership skills in at-risk youth through entrepreneurship and vocational training (Bronte-Tinkew,
2001). Each of the program’s 31 activities is directly linked to the meeting the objective. Some Child
Trends activities include:
Educating and training youth to develop and operate a small business
Matching youth with apprenticeship/job shadowing opportunities
Providing classes on financial management and principles of economics
By only including activities that directly support reaching the ultimate goal, the organization is
able to visually track a student’s course to success at any point along the path of the logic model.
Finally, an organization must identify specific and quantitative performance indicators to
determine the success of their activities. These indicators will allow the organization to objectively
evaluate its performance and make the necessary adjustment to improve its results. For this reason, it
is imperative that these indicators are numeric measurements (Hatry, 1999). It is the change in this
numeric indicator (an increase in positive results or decrease in negative results) that signifies progress
toward goal attainment.
The New Hampshire 4-H organization exemplifies the performance indicator process. In its 2009
logic model, the organization provides a list of performance measures for each of its program. The
objective for one particular program within the organization is that “youth and adults collaborate and
contribute to improve the quality of life in their communities” (University of New Hampshire
Cooperative Extension, 2008). This objective on its own is vague and full of value judgments, making
goal attainment difficult to determine. 4-H surveys its participants each year and has developed
several numeric indicators which include target percentages of the overall sample. Such indicators
Number of youth and adults surveyed who show increased
knowledge and skills related to successful community action
(Statewide target: 60%)
Number of targeted partnerships, coalitions and groups who
report the sharing or acquisition of resources through
significant Extension involvement (Statewide target: 35%)
(University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, 2008)
Each performance indicator should be justified by being directly tied to the objective of one or
more program activities (United Way, 1996). New Hampshire 4-H demonstrates the relevance of each
indicator by listing each program an indicator measures directly in its logic model.
Competition for acquisition of grant funding dollars is fierce, particularly in an unhealthy
economic environment. Grant makers and other funders continually demand clearer evidence that each
dollar is making the impact the organization promises. By constructing a logic model, determining a
specific leadership objective and developing relevant activities and clear numeric performance
indicators, organizations can provide evidence of success much more clearly, quickly and accurately.
Barriers to Implementation
Though the results highlight the necessity for implementing changes in programming and
evaluation methods, these changes are not without cost, financial and otherwise. Even as the United
Way tout logic model and performance measurement construction, they admit it is not an easy process.
In fact, the United Way insists that logic model construction should only be attempted by those with
experience and organizations without experienced staff should seek outside assistance (United Way,
1996). Naturally, this assistance would typically come at a price.
Implementing service-learning activities can also be a costly endeavor. Even a project as simple
as picking up trash in a park involves the minimal cost of trash bags and transportation for the youth.
More complex projects, like the free community meal, can be quite expensive for the host program.
Many smaller programs simply do not have the budget to implement this type of programming and are
limited to the smaller service-learning programs they can afford.
Undoubtedly, a paradigm shift is occurring in the way contemporary youth view leadership.
Youth are not interested in the traditional “command-and-control” method of leadership, but rather
seek to use leadership as a collaborative group effort to affect social change. A change in the type of
leaders youth aspire to become necessitates a similar change in the way these leaders are trained.
Under the old definition and paradigm, many youth leadership development programs relied on
ice-breaker type games, which encouraged natural leaders to step forward and take charge. The new
paradigm requires the types of activities that allow each member of a group to step forward and lead
according to their own strengths to accomplish social change. Based on the social change, group
oriented definition of leadership, young people are much more concerned with the “what” of leadership
than the “who;” What leadership can accomplish is more important than who led the charge.
Upon critical review of existing youth leadership programming literature, meeting the demands
of the new leadership definition requires that programs include a few critical elements, both in the
planning the programming and in execution of the activities. First, in the planning stage, the
organization must 1) decide on a working definition of leadership; 2) develop activities that drive youth
toward the accepted definition; 3) set performance measures that clearly quantify movement toward
Implications for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A and Similar Organizations
In the case of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. (GSUSA), the Transforming Leadership program has
provided for only one of these elements. GSUSA is very clear on their definition of leadership. Girl
Scouts seeks to “build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place”
(GSUSA, 2008). To GSUSA, a leader is someone who has confidence in her ability to enact social change
and who acts on that ability. Any activities included in the leadership programming, therefore, should
support this vision of leadership.
Once the definition of leadership has been decided upon, youth leadership development
organizations must construct a logic model to ensure that all program activities are properly tied to the
desired outcome of creating the organization’s ideal leader (United Way, 1996). For example, reading
the journeys books may educate Girl Scouts about many aspects of leadership, but without an active
service component, the books alone will fail to address the social change element of GSUSA’s accepted
definition of leadership.
One problem facing GSUSA is the lack of any programming in the Transforming Leadership
initiative. The girls are asked to read the journeys books, but all other activities are open to individual
troop interpretation, leaving no uniform activity experience for the girls on a nation-wide level. Without
this uniform experience, a defined and comprehensive program, GSUSA will be unable to prove that
Transforming Leadership was actually the cause of girls increasing their skills. As competition for grant
funding tightens, grant makers will become increasingly demanding that organizations be able to prove
their success (United Way, 1996). GSUSA must not only create a list of quantitative performance
measures; They must also seek to develop programming beyond moving through the lessons on the
new journeys books to prove that their program is the cause of change in the girls.
As this paper suggests, an ideal means of teaching hands-on leadership development is through
the practice of service-learning. By developing a well-defined service-learning program that augments
the journeys books, GSUSA could ensure that they are teaching the girls the necessary skills to function
as leaders in real-world challenges. The service-learning experience also serves as an experimental
treatment around which pre-tests and post-test can be performed. By surveying the girls immediately
before the service-learning experience and then again immediately after, GSUSA can demonstrate that it
was in fact their programming that caused a change in the girls’ attitudes toward leadership. A simple
survey, measuring attitudes toward leadership and aspirations toward leadership roles would help
indicate progress toward the program’s goals. Conducting the surveys so close to the activity limits the
threat the change occurred due to other outside influences.
The pre-test - post-test design will also aid GSUSA and similar organizations in formation of
meaningful performance measures. In an unhealthy economy, grant makers will demand higher levels
of accountability as competition for grant funding increases. Using survey results to develop
quantifiable performance measures will allow GSUSA to prove that the Transforming Leadership
program is making an impact in its participants. Making the indicators quantifiable is key to showing
actual progress toward a goal (Hatry, 1999).
For an example, an outcome, “Girls advocate for themselves and others, globally and locally” is
demonstrated through girls “reporting an increased interest and confidence in participating in projects
that promote positive social change” (Transforming Leadership, 2008). Instead, the outcome should be
phrased using numeric values. Also, self-reporting, especially to adult mentors, can cause youth to
exaggerate program impacts (Klau, 2001), making the outcome measure open to manipulation, a risk
that should be avoided (Hatry, 1999). A more acceptable outcome indicator would be, “Girls increase
participation in positive social change activities from one to five days a month.”
GSUSA’s reasons for not having made these steps toward improvement are unclear. Upon
review of GSUSA’s annual budget, the financial constraints that limit some smaller youth development
organizations do not apply. In fact, GSUSA ends each year with an average budget surplus of $10 million
(GSUSA Annual Report, 2007; GSUSA Annual Report, 2006). This amount of money would allow GSUSA
to implement any of these programming and evaluation practices to a greater extent than they do
The Need for Youth Leadership Development Research
Contemporary youth are yearning for examples of leadership to follow, but are continually
disillusioned by leaders who fall to corruption and scandal (GSRI, 2008). In a time of corporate scandal
and political corruption, youth are seeking a new style of leadership that circumvents formal authority
and focuses on working together to eliminate social injustice. Some organizations, like GSUSA, are
stepping forward to teach these youth the leadership skills they need to meet their goals. These
organizations, however, must be able to evaluate their methods and identify success and failure in order
to ensure they are accomplishing the goals of their own, but leadership can be a nebulous concept and
difficult to quantify. A well-constructed logic model, defined outcomes and quantitative performance
indicators are critical to a program’s success. Without explicitly defining anticipated outcomes, the
organizations goals are unclear, and without determining specific quantitative performance measures it
will be nearly impossible to verify that the organization ever reached it goal.
Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of research and meaningful evaluation specifically in
regards to youth leadership development programming. Even less research exists since the leadership
paradigm shift has occurred. There is a strong temptation to apply the multitude of studies conducted
on adult leadership development to youth leadership development. Youth, however, experience
leadership in less rigid and formal environments. Adult leadership training does not properly address
these needs and desires of contemporary youth.
This paper is limited to the few studies that do exist on youth leadership development and lacks
the quantitative element the paper itself promotes as necessary. However, the evaluation of the
existing literature on youth leadership development is thorough.
In the future, a quantitative study involving several diverse leadership styles should be
conducted. This study should seek to evaluate specific confidence building techniques, as well as
various types of service-learning projects to more clearly and definitive identify best practices.
As organizations begin to adopt quantitative performance measures, they will also need to
develop data collection methods such as the survey mentioned above. The results from these surveys
will become invaluable to the collective success of youth leadership development programs. The results
can be used to help determine much more specific best practices.
Furthermore, research should be conducted to determine ways to minimize the effects of the
barriers to implementation. Since the barriers are centered on financial limitations, it would be helpful
to combine research on youth leadership development with research on non-profit fundraising to create
a more specific set of best practices. Youth leadership development programs could then implement
this fundraising practices to make the most effective service-learning projects a reality, regardless of the
A Girl Scout Pledge: Relevance. (2006, October 11). The Christian Science Monitor .
Bennis, W. (2002). Geeks and Geezers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Billig, S. (2002). Support for K-13 Service Learning Practice: A Brief Review of Reserach. Educational
Billig, S. (2000). The Effects of Service-learning. ERIC Document Reproduction .
Boyd, B. L. (2000). Youth for Community Action: Leadership for Inner-City Youth. ERIC Document
Bronte-Tinkew, J. (2001). Logic Models and Outcome Measures for Youth Entrepreneurship Programs.
Washington, DC: Child Trends.
George, B. (2007). True North. San Fransico: Jossey-Bass.
Girl Scout Research Institute. (2008). Change it Up! What Girls Say About Redefining Leadership. New
York: Girl Scouts of the USA.
Girl Scout Research Institute. (2008). Transforming Leadership. New York: Girl Scouts of the USA.
Girl Scouts of the USA. (2007). 2006 Annual Report. New York: GSUSA.
Girl Scouts of the USA. (2008). 2007 Annual Report. New York: GSUSA.
Girl Scouts of the USA. (2008). Who We Are. Retrieved September 24, 2008, from Girl Scouts of the USA:
Hatry, H. P. (1999). Performance Measurement: Getting Results. The Urban Institute: Washington, DC.
Klau, M. (2006). Exploring Youth Leadership in Theory and Practice. New Directions for Youth
Development , 57-87.
Morgan, W. a. (2001). Building Citizenship: How Student Voice in Service-learning Develops Civic Values.
Social Science Quarterly , 154-169.
Roach, A. A. (1999). Leadership Giftedness: Models Revisited. Gifted Child Quarterly , 13-24.
Terry, A. a. (2007). Service-learning ... by degrees: How adolescents can make a difference in the real
world. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.
United States Government Accountability Office. (2008). Disconnected Youth: Federal Action Count
Address Some of the Challenges Faced by Local Programs That Reconnect Youth to Education and
Employment. Washington, DC: GAO-08-313.
United Way of America. (1996). Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach. Alexandria: United
Way of America.
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. (2008). Logic Model. Retrieved November 13,
2008, from UNH 4-H Logic Model: http://extension.unh.edu/Intranet/documents/4Hydlm.pdf