Leadership Skill Development: The Perceptions of Connecticut 4-H Adolescent 4-H Leaders in the Connecticut 4-H Youth Development Program

Date of Completion

January 2011


Education, Gifted|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Social Sciences




The 4-H Youth Development Program is a national organization that is federally mandated to conduct positive youth development programming. 4-H programs are found throughout the United States as well as internationally. 4-H provides educational programming based on research and is affiliated with the land grant university in each state. Youth development programs help participants to develop their capacities and areas of interest. One component of the 4-H program is leadership skill development.^ This study investigates the perceptions of 4-H adolescents holding active leadership roles in the Connecticut 4-H Program. The qualitative research design examined the interpretations and perceptions of 8 individual cases regarding leadership skills and leadership skill development. The Personal Assessment Guide and the Connecticut 4-H Member Leadership Questionnaire provided initial data used to select cases. Final cases were selected because they were unique or unusual in some way related to the question of leadership experience in the 4-H program. Cases included 2 males and 3 females from grade 11 and 1 male and 2 females from grade 12; at the time of the interviews, participants ranged in age from 15-17 years of age.^ Semi-structured interviews were conducted over a four month period of time; a series of three interviews were conducted with each case selected. (Seidman, 2006). This method provided an in-depth understanding of the participants' experience and the meaning which they made of their experience. Interviews were audio taped, electronically transcribed, and provided to participants for member checking. In addition, each participant provided his or her personal 4-H Record Book, which contained additional information and confirmation of leadership experiences and roles. Pattern analysis was used to code interview and artifact data. Thematic networks were devised to create constructs and to aggregate the data. Key words and phrases regarding leadership skills and development were gleaned from a review of literature.^ Participants' perceptions were compared to the 11 dimensions of leadership developed by Rinehart (1992) to identify weak or missing leadership constructs in the Connecticut 4-H program. In addition, perceptions found in this study were compared to the seven leadership skills recommended for high school age youth by the approved National 4-H leadership curricula. Five global themes of leadership were identified in this research which incorporated the dimensions identified by Rinehart. The five global themes identified in this research are almost identical to the national skill areas with some modifications or combining of the national skill areas. This research also found more self-perceptions related to initiative and perceptions of leadership roles than was previously reported. Youth interviewed felt a strong sense of having learned leadership through their 4-H program participation. ^