A new study has suggested that fault-finding adult co-workers could make a big difference in young workers’ leadership development by developing relationships with them, modeling the behaviors they wish to see, and providing leadership growth opportunities.
University of Illinois’ Jill Bowers said that young adults in the study had learned a lot from mentors who modeled initiative, drive, and persistence; demonstrated how to communicate with confidence and engage in active listening; and displayed reliability, tolerance, respect, and a positive attitude.
As per Bowers, most of the literature on leadership development is written from an adult point of view. In this small qualitative study, however, young adults describe their leadership growth as students and on the job as they moved from adolescence into young adulthood.
The study shows that role models were profoundly influential during the transition to adulthood, and the article describes a role model-driven framework for leadership development, she said.
Adults who are complaining about the new generation of ‘slackers’ should build relationships with students and young colleagues and actively model a professional work ethic for them, Bowers said.
In the study, when a mentoring relationship was established and role models demonstrated the behaviors they wished to see in young participants, mentees described a process in which they listened to the knowledge their mentors shared, engaged in opportunities to grow as leaders and believed in their own potential, she said.
When adults prepare to take on a mentoring role, it’s important that they evaluate their own work ethic and professional skills. They should modify their behavior and personal qualities that they wouldn’t want to see replicated in the adolescents or young adults they are working with, she said.
The study appears in Journal of Adolescent Research.