The new trend in the learning and development world is focusing on youth leadership. We can see a high injection in youth leadership initiatives from aid agencies and training companies, who are now specializing in this field.
The need for a focus on youth leadership development seems to be triggered by the current state of affairs in under developed countries, the direct impact these countries are having on the social fabric of society, and the critical need for refocusing the youth on a healthy productive lifestyle.
We need to focus on defining the concept of youth leadership and understanding the elements of developing leadership skills at a young age. Bearing in mind that culture is the biggest element in impacting behaviour, especially the minds of those who are still on the journey of self-discovery, we need to understand the model of leadership within the cultural framework and its applicability in the changing world.
One of the dimensions in culture is known as Power Distance, which refers to the way in which power is distributed and the extent to which the less powerful accept that power is distributed unequally. If we put this into the perspective of leadership, it is likely that effective leadership in these cultures is considered to be highly authoritative and directive.
The youth in these cultures have gone through an educational system which focuses on directive learning and accepting authority without questioning whether their parents, teachers or seniors should be given the authority to educate them. In contrast, youth development workshops focus on the western models of leadership studies, the aim of these workshops is to find your leadership style and learn the importance of team work. This creates a misfit in the minds of the youth, who see one style of leadership and are taught another.
Even though as adults we face the same disparity in schools of thought, we are better equipped to deal with it due to our maturity and exposure. Therefore, before we jump on the bandwagon of youth leadership we need to ensure that we fully understand the objective and impact of these workshops, and also the role of parents and families in the development of leadership skills at a young age, rather than aiming at instilling them in 2 day workshops.