26 SES 11 A, Paper Session
Research on teenage girls’ leadership has recently gained momentum due to the long-standing inequalities between women and men in leadership roles, with a focus on the necessity of preparing adolescents to become future leaders. Past scholarship on girls’ leadership has identified key facets that foster their young leadership. This includes cultivating adolescents’ extensive experience in various roles to promote self-efficacy, raise awareness of youths’ aptitudes through mentoring relationships, and honing a set of leadership skills (Komives et al., 2006). However, there is a dearth of research that focuses on the impact of organizational structure on leadership formation. This is most salient among youth movements that integrate informal properties (Kahane, 1988) within a bureaucratic-formal organization which often employs adult control and supervision.
Various researchers posit that effective organizational tension can be maintained between formal and informal structures, through an open communication system. An approach that advocates developing an organizational structure that minimizes the distance between teenagers and adults, while placing efforts to build relationships characterized by mutuality and respect (Rimm-Kaufman & Sandilos, 2011). Moreover, it encourages youth to express their voice and participate in decision-making processes.
Past research identifies a gap between learning leadership skills and incorporating them into youths’ identity (Komives et al. 2006). Nonetheless, little attention is given to the organizational structure’s effect on shaping, enabling and framing adolescent leadership. Thus, I inquire how does the structure of a youth movement shape the ways in which girls define, view, and act upon their leadership experiences?
Case studying the Israeli Scouts, the study’s objectives are threefold: first, to characterize the organizational structure of contemporary youth movements; second, to examine the convergence between formal and informal properties within a youth movement; third, to explore girls’ attitudes towards leadership and their organizational experience.
To address these objectives, I draw on the theoretical framework of Kahane (1988). Kahane’s model examined organizations by framing them as complex institutions composed of several subsystems. These systems are primarily regulated by four codes: formal-bureaucratic, professional, primary, and informal. Drawing on Webers’ (1947) ideal type, Kahane underlines the formal-bureaucratic properties and contrasts them with that of an informal code based on key components (e.g symmetry, moratorium, multiplexity). Consequently, the convergence of these organizational codes prompts different organizational outcomes, and it can induce different forms of leadership (authoritarian, democratic, authentic). Accordingly, in this study, I aim to identify this convergence as it is played out in a youth movement.
To this end, the study focuses on Israeli youth movements as key after-school organizations that prepare female adolescents for leadership positions. In contrast to formal institutes (e.g. schools, total institutions), scholars have emphasized the significance of these movements as an arena for extracurricular learning, and developing leadership skills (McKenney, 2018). In addition, researchers have assumed that youth movements are based on informal activities that foster spontaneity and a sense of freedom, as well as commitment to values (kahane, 1997). However, the structure of these youth organizations, is not always clear. This is more evident in their structural bearings on female participants who often experience educational institutions in a distinct, and understudied, manner (Archard, 2013). Under these conditions, opportunities for personal and social skills acquisition and development, including that of leadership traits, are fostered.
The research case studied the Israeli scout movement. Data collection lasted for 24 months, and included an in-depth ethnographic engagement with an active center (shevet). To uncover the ways that organizational structure shapes leadership development, three different strategies of data collection were employed. These include on-site observation of girls in leadership positions (counselors, project facilitators, gap year management positions), semi-structured interviews and analyses of written material (staff meeting transcripts, counselors guide books, summer training program guides and manuals). Different sites were observed including troop gatherings, staff meetings, camping and outdoor activities, debriefing meetings. Through this observational design, an understanding of relationship dynamics between the organizational goal of nurturing adolescent girls, and organizational bureaucratic structure and practice were identified. For the interviews, I used a semi-structured protocol focusing on questions regarding the autonomy of female leaders’ decision-making, organizational rules and regulations, and relationships between adults and teens. My subject have granted me access to significant documents. In line with the IRB approvals, which I have obtained from both my academic institution and Israel’s Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Education, ethical issues were given the highest priority to ensure that consent was voluntarily granted, and anonymity maintained. These methods were supplemented by in-depth interviews with 10 educational staff members, 35 adolescent girls and 5 formal stakeholders in the organization. To enhance credibility, findings were triangulated and compared (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). A unified coding process was employed throughout the different research strategies. Data was arranged and analyzed through the use of the Atlas.Ti software and finally, the results were compared to past literature. I used various ways of information sharing combined with frequent discussions of the research aims, design and progression in an attempt to enable participants to be able to input the research process. Similar to other studies, incorporation of the participants into the research process has been found to contribute to the validity and reliability of the study (Collin & Swist, 2016)
Research findings highlight the importance of organizational structure as a building block that shapes leadership development processes. The study uncovered three primary findings: youth movements’ organizational structure fostered conformist behavior and feelings of exclusivity; the organizations’ extensive implementation of regulations minimized the extent of girls’ experience and freedom of action; and an adult-directed framing of adolescent leadership as ‘managers’, rather than authentic and autonomous leaders. Findings indicate that strengthening of the formal-bureaucratic dimension in the youth organization generates leaders’ instrumental and homogeneous character. Furthermore, adult authority prompts youth to embrace a conformist track of leadership, relying on role-based power. A dynamic that highlights youths’ marginalized leadership status in society, and ultimitally portrays youth leadership as dim and non-charismatic. Indeed, this form of youth leadership experience reduces possibilities of authentic leadership and autonomous identity formation, which are distinct from organizational values. This finding corresponds with studies that discuss ways in which adults perceive, and facilitate, often through a negative and stereotypical prism, youth’s active participation in organizational settings (Blanchet-Cohen & Bedeaux, 2014; Gordon & Taft, 2011). This may be compounded with negative tagging of girls’ organizational involvement and adult’s unintentional shaping of female leadership. Ultimately, these findings suggest a transformation in the pedagogic character of youth movements. Scout leaders’ autonomy in initiating outdoor activities, excursions, and more have been replaced by administrative obligations. Thus, a demand for upholding bureaucratic regulations has mitigated the youth movements’ spontaneous character and stifled leaders’ creativity that was prevalent under a trial-and-error system. Consequently, a supervised pedagogy is encouraged. One that conforms to the ideals of the organization and adult operators, yet loses its charismatic zeal and may lead to dropout, as well as impact the long-term formation of women leaders.
Archard, N. (2013). Adolescent leadership: The female voice. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 41(3), 336-351. Blanchet-Cohen, N., & Bedeaux, C. (2014). Towards a rights-based approach to youth programs: Duty-bearers' perspectives. Children and Youth Services Review, 38, 75-81. Collin, P., & Swist, T. (2016). From products to publics? The potential of participatory design for research on youth, safety and well-being. Journal of Youth Studies, 19(3), 305-318. Gordon, H. R., & Taft, J. K. (2011). Rethinking youth political socialization: Teenage activists talk back. Youth & Society, 43(4), 1499-1527. Kahane, R. (1988). Multicode organizations: A conceptual framework for the analysis of boarding schools. Sociology of education, 211-226. Kahane, R. (1997). The origins of postmodern youth: Informal youth movements in a comparative perspective (Vol. 4). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Komives, S. R., Longerbeam, S. D., Owen, J. E., Mainella, F. C., & Osteen, L. (2006). A leadership identity development model: Applications from a grounded theory. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 401-418. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry, (Vol. 75). SAGE Publications. McKenney, P. (2018). Adventures beyond cookies: A Girl Scout journey into crumbling the stereotype. In The Palgrave International Handbook of Women and Outdoor Learning (pp. 545-556). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Rimm-Kaufman, S., & Sandilos, L. (2011). Improving students' relationships with teachers to provide essential supports for learning. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/education/k12/relationships.aspx Weber, M. (1947). The theory of social and economic organizations. New York: Free Press.
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