Career and technical education began by seeking to train present and prospective workers in multiple industries. When the U. S. Office of Education listed the major abilities needed to reach the aforementioned objective, they included management, marketing, and leadership as necessary to vocational education ( Hamlin, 1962 ). As Phipps and Osborne (1988) discussed the Seven Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education established in 1918, they described how vocational education contributed. They articulated the importance of individual occupational programs, youth organizations, and activities for developing leadership. Instruction was only briefly mentioned as a method of leadership development, and is an area of career and technical education where concerted effort is warranted.

Formal instructional education in America is faced with the challenge of providing young people with more opportunities than ever before in leadership and personal development for career and societal success. vanLinden and Fertman (1998) found that "employers are more interested in adolescents who are leaders" (p.7). In the following National Association of Colleges and Employers (2000) study, six of the top seven skills desired by employers from new graduates were leadership related (Table 1).

Table 1

Employers Rating of New Hire Skills

Skill Mean

Interpersonal 4.54
Teamwork 4.51
Verbal Communication 4.51
Analytical 4.24
Computer 4.12
Written Communication 4.11
Leadership 3.94

Note . 5-point scale. 1 = not at all important; 5 = very important

The same study listed the top ten personal qualities that employers seek (Table 2).

Table 2

Top Ten Personal Qualities Employers Seek
Rank Personal quality

1 Communication skills
2 Motivation/initiative
3 Teamwork skills
4 Leadership skills
5 Academic achievement/GPA
6 Interpersonal skills
7 Flexibility/adaptability
8 Technical skills
9 Honesty/integrity
10 Work ethic
10* Analytical/problem-solving skills

Note . * Tie

As career and technical education programs are considered, much of the leadership development in our students is a result of participation in youth organizations. Wingenbach and Kahler (1997) pointed out that "… students at the secondary level could increase their leadership skills in communications, decision making, getting along with others, learning management of self, understanding self, and working with groups by participating in a combination of youth leadership organizations in school and/or community activities" (p. 19). Townsend and Carter (1983) found that youth organization activity participation had a positive correlation with the leadership of 12 th grade students in Iowa.

Although most of the above information is encouraging, it does raise some important questions. Can youth organizations alone provide adequate leadership education and training? How many CTE students are active in youth organizations? Does the leadership gained in youth organizations provide students with all of the leadership skills they will need to be successful? The most pertinent question was raised by Carter and Spotanski (1989) , which asked if a more formal method of leadership training would be more effective than leadership development through involvement as an officer, committee chair, or as an active group member in an organization?

The task at hand is to prepare youth with the kinds of skills and personal qualities that career and technical education professionals believe is important, but that seemingly is only offered to the few students who are active in our youth organizations. Carter and Spotanski (1989) found that students who received formal leadership training scored higher than students who had not received leadership training on nine of the top ten personal qualities that employers seek. The authors posit that formal curricular instruction of leadership is ostensibly the missing piece of a strong career and technical education program.

A comprehensive model for a formal leadership education curriculum seems to be an important, key element that is missing from many career and technical education programs. Such a model would supplement existing leadership opportunities and complete the arsenal of leadership knowledge that formal and non-formal career and technical education youth need to compete and succeed.


The primary purpose of this theoretical investigation was to explore and synthesize the literature on leadership as it pertains to youth in career and technical education programs and to identify the constructs that define leadership. A second purpose was to develop a model for formal leadership development curriculum to be used as a formal training tool in career and technical education. The methods and data sources of this scholarly pursuit involve a detailed literature review of the leadership and personal development research for youth.


According to Bennis and Nanus (1985) , all people have the potential for leadership. The reason that leadership is lacking in our society today is because people do not understand it. Stogdill (1974) concluded that, "there are almost as many definitions of leadership development as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept" (p. 259). He also held that leadership was defined as: (a) personality or effectiveness of personality, (b) the art of inducing compliance, (c) the exercise of influence, (d) a function of a set of acts or behavior (e) a form of persuasion, (f ) a set of acts or behavior, (g) a power of relationship, (h) an instrument of goal achievement, (i) an effective interaction, (j) a differentiated role, and (k) the initiation of structure. A review of exactly what leadership development is could have ended there, but the ideas of leadership and its significance have continued.

Kouzes and Posner (1995) explain leadership by listing the Ten Commitments of Leadership:

  1. Search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve.
  2. Experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes.
  3. Envision an uplifting and ennobling future.
  4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes and dreams.
  5. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trusts.
  6. Strengthen people by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks, and offering visible support.
  7. Set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values.
  8. Achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.
  9. Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project.
  10. Celebrate team accomplishments regularly (p. 18).

Kouzes and Posner (1995) also believed leaders were at their best when they were able to "challenge the process, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, model the way, and encourage the heart" (p. 9). Many leadership experts have also conceptualized leadership in terms of group process, personality, interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, compliance, influence, particular behaviors, persuasion, power relations, goal achievement, interaction, motivation, a differentiated role, communication, and initiation of structure. Researchers in leadership have addressed many issues, but a better understanding of youth leadership is what is needed to develop a coherent leadership curriculum for youth in career and technical education.


Leadership development as mentioned above was seemingly developed for managerial and adult leadership. Studies involving youth leadership development are much more limited.

vanLinden and Fertman (1989) stated that, "understanding and appreciating the complexity of leadership is a prerequisite to supporting and challenging teenagers to be the best leaders they can be"(p.8). DesMaria, Yang, and Farzenhkia (2000) indicated certain elements which were necessary in the development of youth leadership. They listed the critical elements as:

  • youth/adult partnerships
  • granting young people decision making power and responsibility for consequences
  • a broad context for learning and service
  • recognition of young people's experience, knowledge and skills (p. 3).

Sandmann and Vandenberg (1995) list three common themes for leadership that are very similar to the aforementioned leadership strategies. They believed in shared leadership, leadership as relationships, and leadership in community.

vanLinden and Fertman (1998) said "Leaders are people who think for themselves, communicate their thoughts and feelings, and help others understand and act on their own beliefs; they influence others in an ethical and socially responsible way." They described three stages of youth leadership development as awareness, interaction, and mastery, which fit into five dimensions:

  1. Leadership information
  2. Leadership attitude
  3. Communication
  4. Decision making
  5. Stress management.

Adolescents differ in gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, learning styles, personality types, experience, and education ( vanLinden & Fertman, 1998 ; Snow & Yallow, 1982 ; Rudd, et al, 1998 ). They also share certain commonalities that aid in the development of an instructional model for leadership. Similarities such as the desire to separate from parents, the need for a time of self-discovery and definition, the way they learn and develop leadership skills gradually, their unpredictability, and the need for a time of exploration ( Basic Behavioral Science Task Force of the National Mental Health Council, 1996 ; Taylor, et al, 1995 ; vanLinden & Fertman, 1998 ).

A thorough knowledge of adolescent development was found to be an important precursor to the development of youth leadership instructional design. Because of the importance of considering each individual's ability to lead, an adolescent's differences, similarities, and needs should all be considered before synthesis and adoption of a model for formal youth leadership development curriculum occurs.

Figure 1 shows the model for developing formal leadership education curriculum for youth or adolescents in formal career and technical education programs. Each circle represents a construct of leadership. The dimensions and stages are heavily influenced by the research of Fertman and Long (1990) , Fertman and Chubb (1993) , Wald and Pringle (1995) , and Long, Wald, and Graff (1996) , and Bloom (1956) .

Figure 1

Model for Youth Leadership Curriculum

The dimensions used by vanLinden and Fertman (1998) encompass cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of youth and "provide a consistent frame of reference to assess, monitor, and evaluate an adolescent's leadership development" (p. 40). Further examination of the leadership and youth development literature, as well as Bloom's (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives provided the knowledge to adjust and expand the vanLinden and Fertman (1998) research so that it can also be used to teach leadership development in formal career and technical education settings.

Each dimension of the conceptual model will have a curricular unit for each stage. The dimensions will be taught on three different hierarchical levels that engage a higher order of thinking. The stages are conceptually aligned with the experiential learning theory of Kolb (1984) , who proposed that experiential learning theory is a holistic integrative perspective on learning that combines experience, perception, cognition, and behavior, and Bloom's (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, which calls for students to thoroughly grasp the concepts of leadership by learning on several hierarchical levels.

The stages represent how students proceed through the curricular model. Students learn about each dimension of leadership at the Awareness, Interaction, and Integration level. The Awareness stage serves as the orientation to the curriculum. The Interaction stage involves student exploration of leadership, and the Integration stage involves student practice and mastery of leadership development activities and concepts. The stages seek to build on the experience and perception of the students in order to enhance cognition and behavior in leadership development.


The dimension of "leadership knowledge and information" represents what youth need to know about leaders and leadership before they can proceed with their application of leadership concepts. In the following citation, Dewey (1963) describes the role of prior knowledge:

To grasp the meaning of a thing, an event or a situation is to see it in its relations to other things; to note how it operates or functions, what consequences follow from it; what causes it, what uses it can be put to. In contrast, what we have called the brute thing, the thing without meaning to us, is something whose relations are not grasped. (p. 135)

According to Stogdill (1974) , leaders with information on the task at hand made more attempts at leading than did those without the proper knowledge. Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson (2001) cite knowledge as being a "demonstrated understanding of a task" (p. 176). The leadership knowledge and information dimension demystifies complicated, abstract concepts and ideas of leadership by helping students understand the phenomena as a personal and attainable undertaking.


Chapman and O'Neil (1999) defined attitude as "…a mental set that causes a person to respond in a characteristic manner to a given stimulus." They also noted that attitude is the way people view and interpret their environment. According to Moorhead and Griffin (1998) , organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and organizational climate can be affected by a positive or negative affectivity.

Leadership attitude, will, and desire is the dimension designed to stress the importance of motivation, self-realization, and health in fulfilling a student's leadership capacity. Lerner (1995) indicated that optimum development occurs when a student is a healthy person, showing physical and mental fitness, having a positive self-image, maintaining self-understanding, and possessing appropriate coping skills.

The motivation theory of McClelland (1987) describing the need for achievement, affiliation, and power as the three needs that motivate people towards a certain pattern of behavior was instrumental in the synthesis of the second dimension. An understanding of McClelland's motivation theory aids students with their own leadership development as well as support their future efforts in influencing constituents.


Henderson (1983) suggested that critical thinking skills be part of the "specific practices and strategies" used by career and technical education professionals in their instructional programs. Decision-making, reasoning, and critical thinking skills are seemingly paramount in the quest to design a model for teaching leadership development to adolescents. The 1989 Report on Adolescent Development provided important insight into curriculum development in leadership education. It indicated that a well-developed young person is an intellectually reflective person, who analyzes problems and issues, and develops new solutions (Learning Leadership…, 1996).

Rudd, Baker, and Hoover (2000) offered the following analysis:
Critical thinking is a reasoned, purposive, and introspective approach to solving problems or addressing questions with incomplete evidence and information, and for which an incontrovertible solution is unlikely.

Lancelot (1929) explained that a person's knowledge and thinking ability were crucial for that person to function efficiently and successfully. Glaser (1984) found that critical thinking, reasoning, and decision-making are ideally taught by incorporating them into existing subject matter, and not taught as a separate topic, while vanLinden and Fertman (1989) felt that exposure to the principals of reasoning would provide adolescents with the ability to make educated leadership decisions.

Because the authors agree with Thomas (1992) that thinking abilities allow people to get better jobs, fit better within a changing and complex environment, and improve the quality of their life, the critical thinking dimension was seen as crucial to the model.


Gardner (1987) pronounced, as a result of his work in leadership development, that if he had to name one "all-purpose instrument of leadership" that it would be communication. Oral and written communication skills are the media for sharing knowledge, interests, attitudes, opinions, feelings, and ideas in order to influence and ultimately lead others ( vanLinden & Fertman, 1998 ).

In a study by Benson (1994) , written and oral communication skills were the two most important factors in graduating business students obtaining employment. Many other studies in the business world confirm that communication is a skill that is in high demand ( Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 2001 ).

Montgomery-White, Lockaby, and Akers (2001) addressed the great demand for communication education. A thorough examination of leadership competencies across all disciplines substantiates the inclusion of oral and written communication skills in the leadership curriculum model.

Ezell (1989) discussed the newest quandary, which should be considered when composing a curriculum designed to teach communication. She acknowledges the convergence of communications, computers, and the media as a technological trend that must be addressed. This convergence in conjunction with traditional communication theory and instruction make the construct a powerful dimension to be included in the model.


The last dimension of the youth leadership curriculum model is intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Conflict resolution, stress-management, teamwork, and ethics combined with knowledge regarding diversity, personality types, communication styles, leadership styles, and other human relations abilities all fall into the final dimension. The human relation dimension prepares students to look inward and to work with others in the most optimum ways possible.

Scherer (1992) felt that when training youth, conflict resolution training should be a top priority. Deen (2000) found that many researchers see conflict as having the potential to be productive and a necessary part of positive interpersonal relationships, creative problem solving and group cohesiveness.

The human relation skills to handle conflict in a constructive matter, avoid conflict if necessary, or perpetuate success in an adolescent leader's constituents can be validated in the model by looking at the leadership constructs of Kouzes and Posner (1995) . Their research revealed that top leaders exhibited the following fundamental practices of exemplary leadership:

  • Challenge the process
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Enable others to act
  • Model the way
  • Encourage the heart

Chapman and O'Neil (1999) also emphasized the importance of intrapersonal and interpersonal relations by getting along with others, managing conflict effectively, communicating, restoring relationships, and maintaining relationships.


It is the desire of the authors to further the composition of the conceptual model for a leadership development curriculum for youth in career and technical education. Educational systems and institutions have been scolded for their ineffectiveness to produce leaders ( Gardner, 1993 ). The authors believe that ineffectiveness is not the problem. The problem is with the lack of formal leadership training. Very little research and even fewer applications of teaching adolescents' leadership development have been conducted.

The research summarizing leadership development as a result of extra or intra curricular activities is more readily available, but the authors are skeptical about the thoroughness and completeness of leadership competency acquisition minus formal leadership education. Utilization of the conceptual model would allow for assuredness as a result of evaluation and prescribed application.

The conceptual leadership model has been an effective model for training students in leadership development within the department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida. As a model, it is successfully guiding the leadership option for undergraduates. The model was presented and received well at the Association of Leadership Educators Conference, and was presented at the International Leadership Association meeting in November of 2001. The next step for the authors include development and testing of the curriculum for youth in career and technical education programs, but the authors welcome career and technical education professionals to utilize the contents of this article as a beginning point for youth leadership programs or as a supplement to already successful programs of leadership. Clearly, adolescents could benefit from curricular instruction from the conceptual model for comprehensive leadership development education.


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