Date of this Version
While the term “leadership” can be difficult to define, one term that is commonly seen in its association is “influence”. While the field of leadership has empirically identified several outcomes associated with adult influence (i.e., greater organizational performance, higher subordinate satisfaction, higher subordinate engagement), little is known about influence in youth leaders. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain a better understanding of how youth leaders experience influence. Twenty-nine in-depth, semi-structured interviews from fifth- 12th-grade students in a leadership mentoring program called Nebraska Human Resources Institute (NHRI) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln were conducted to ascertain these student leaders’ common experiences with influence. Phenomenological data analysis results indicated that the participants experienced influence by using it to accomplish tasks, and to set an example for others to follow. Furthermore, participants recognized that leaders can influence in both positive and negative ways and expressed that using influence felt good, scary and powerful all at once. Respondents identified having an open mind and being confident as key characteristics for leaders to successfully use their influence and that their families provided the greatest context for learning about influence.
It is naïve to assume that today’s young leaders will lead in the same ways as the generation prior. The results presented in the current study can be used to create more effective youth leadership programs designed to increase influential capacity and better research unique the variables involved in youth influence.
Advisor: Lindsay Hastings