Leadership Literacy for Life (LL4L) has been designed to better prepare our future leaders. This leadership preparation course is the result of a recent doctoral research study conducted in New Zealand and South Africa which aimed to address the leadership crisis prevalent in demanding leadership roles such as enterprise and entrepreneurial leadership. The question that the research question set out to answer was “can we better prepare our future leaders, earlier in their education?”
This article contains the key points of the study for a faster overview and is about a 5-minute read. For each key point, there is a link to additional documents, containing deeper explanations, further details, and research references that you can click on as you go, or come back to if any area is of interest to you.
Introduction: Why was this study undertaken?
As a business founder myself and having led both entrepreneurial training and student leadership training, I have become aware over the past years of the difference in how the concept of leadership is experienced and practiced within each environment. The purpose of my work is not to criticise or challenge the student leadership structures within the traditional school structure, as they serve a purpose within that environment. The problem I was raising, was how leadership learning experience in schools is translating to leadership requirements, post-school for all our students. According to the research, the two most common types of leadership styles that students become familiar with are transactional (a style of leadership where leaders promote compliance by followers through both rewards and punishments) and authoritative ( a management style where the leader is in complete control). The select few chosen for formal leadership roles at school tend to adopt these styles as their leadership styles, and those not selected leave school believing that they are not leaders.
Considering the disparity between educational and entrepreneurial understandings of leadership, the research question I derived for my study was: “Can we better prepare our future entrepreneurial/enterprise leaders, earlier in their education?”
Please click here for a summary of the fifteen patterns I found from exploring other research into the area of student leadership roles.
What do “currently successful entrepreneurial leaders” put their success down to?
216 currently successful entrepreneurs from both New Zealand and South Africa (COVID-19 survival became a context for the term “successful”) participated in an online survey. The purpose of the survey was to measure sources of positive influence on their success as a leader. Overall, the results clearly indicated that self–awareness was the highest source of positive influence on currently successful leaders, and student leadership experiences, the lowest. Please click here for a more in-depth explanation of the survey research process and statistical analysis results.
These results were further explored in 20 individual interviews which confirmed self–awareness as the highest source of positive influence and student leadership experience as the lowest. Interview participants were of different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and genders, and had attended school in New Zealand or South Africa. For a closer look at the actual comments recorded from the interviews please click here. You might find this interesting reading – not just the common patterns that emerged but the exception!
The Intervention – Leadership Literacy 4 Life (LL4L)
Having confirmed from participants that their experiences of leadership as a student had not been helpful, or in many cases counterproductive, to their current entrepreneurial leadership success; the purpose of my study was to create a leadership intervention for high school students. This was intended to be run before their experiences of formal student leadership roles became too influential to their overall and ongoing perception of leadership.
LL4L was designed as an online course to place a foundation for self–awareness, self–leadership, and leadership of others for all who participated. By means of videos (click here for the “Bloopers short video cut and to meet the student actors) and interactive activities, students were taken through a process of learning about and building awareness around certain concepts. These concepts included communication styles, their personal values, goal setting, strategies for making important decisions (such as subject choices), how to reframe failure, the many different styles of leadership, and how leadership relates to them in different contexts through the positive influence of others. I chose the age group of 13/14-year-olds as the first year of high school can be an overwhelming time for many students. This learning was intended to assist them with these adjustments, from the inside out by laying key leadership foundational skills for their school career and their future careers. Please click here for an expanded and researched explanation of this age group, relating to the development of self–identity and personal leadership identity in adolescents.
How did the students respond in the trial?
124 students, from both countries and almost equally representing both genders, as well as diverse cultural backgrounds participated in the trial from June to September this year (2021). They completed a pre-course questionnaire, then they undertook the LL4L course, and then completed a post-course questionnaire. The results showed clear patterns of an increase in their self–awareness, self–leadership, and leadership of others skills, after having completed the course. The results indicated that the intervention was successful in its aim to enhance the self-identity and personal leadership identity phases that it specifically aimed to do. The self-leadership and leadership of other skills of the trial participants were shown to be higher than those of the currently successful entrepreneurs who participated in the study.
For a more in-depth look at the statistical analysis of the results and specific questions asked, relating to the three above points, click here.
The new improved Leadership Literacy for Life Course is now ready!
The post-trial version, along with some adjustments around content from the feedback received will be broken down into approximately eight, 30 to 40-minute segments that can be easily integrated into lesson times so each school can choose which lesson slots work best. The content is best suited to first-year high school students. Students will be able to log in and out, pick up where they left off, and be able to access results from previous assessments and activities. The post-trial version will be ready from June 2022.
Please click here to view the content plan for the post-trial version as well as feedback comments from the students who participated in the trial.
If you are interested in this course for your students and have not been given the specific contact information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will ensure that you are well looked after and supported through the process by our amazing support staff.