A local school district has convened a positive youth development taskforce. The taskforce is a partnership between the district and the university and is supported by funding from both. The taskforce contains five full-members and five adjunct members. The five full-members attend meetings every month. The goal of the taskforce is to provide recommendations to the district regarding integration of positive youth development principles into school environments, including academics and extracurricular activities. The district serves predominately low-income youth and families. Both graduation and college entrance rates for this community are lower than the state averages.
The five full-time members of the team include:
Professor Towne: Professor Towne is from the university and is an expert in youth development. Professor Towne has worked in this field for over 30 years.
Mrs. Nidal: Mrs. Nidal is a teacher with over 20 years of experience at the largest public high school in the district. She has been recognized by the district for excellent service.
Mr. Hernandez: Mr. Hernandez is the vice-principal of an elementary school in the district. He also coordinates the district’s extra-curricular activities. He is new to the district, a recent graduate with a Master’s in Education.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Bradley is the coordinator of a mentoring program. He works both at the university and at the same school as Mrs. Nidal. The program brings in college students to mentor high school students. Mr. Bradley has coordinated this program for five years.
Maya Soto: Maya Soto is the youth member of the taskforce. She is in the 10th grade and is the 10th grade class president and a member of the volleyball team. She is also a participant in Mr. Bradley’s mentoring program.
The task force has met four times this year. They have six more meetings until their work needs to be submitted to the district for review. So far they have completed a review of research and have an outline for providing recommendations to the district. The first few times the task force met, the discussion was dominated by Mrs. Nidal and Mr. Hernandez. Their conversation tended to drift into school and district reform efforts, school budget cuts, etc. Maya often remains quiet through most of the discussion. Professor Towne feels like they are losing time and need to focus more on the task at hand and making final recommendations for the district.
What leadership styles could be developed in this situation?Several different styles are demonstrated in this situation. Mr. Bradley might be well-suited as a leader for this group perhaps in the transformational style as he has experience working with mentoring programs. As a long time and successful teacher Mrs. Nidal and may have had opportunities to develop a situational approach in her previous work with students and helping them succeed based on their current skill-set. In an administration role at the district Mr. Hernandez might be suited for a path-goal leadership style helping the task force to 1) Define goals, 2) clarify the path, 3) remove obstacles, and; 4) provide support.
What are the primary leadership challenges facing the taskforce?
There might be several challenges facing the taskforce in their work:
• If the conversation/focus continues to drift into other topics, the work will fall behind
• The integration of the youth perspective is an important component and Maya, the youth representative, does not appear to be actively engaged
•Work burden for each member as they develop the final product may be high
How could the taskforce make mid-course corrections to be more effective?
The taskforce could take several steps to improve functioning:
• Revisit the scope of work for the taskforce
• Clarify roles and responsibilities
• Create a project timeline
• Delegate specific activities/deliverables that contribute to the final product
• One adult member, perhaps Mr. Bradley who knows Maya from the Mentoring Program, could work directly with Maya to ensure the youth perspective is fully integrated into the report
• Professor Towne may offer some of his colleagues as external reviewers, which would ensure that the final product include researched-based decisions
• Ask adjunct taskforce members to review or help develop the final report if the work burden is too high for the regular members
• The members most concerned with budgetary and reform issues could be assigned a specific section in the report to address these contextual concerns
Which kind of style do you think a leader would need to be effective in this situation?
Several types of leadership may be suited for this situation:
• Style: A style approach may effectively balance relationships with and between taskforce members while, at the same time, directing tasks so the final product is submitted on time
• Situational: Based on the different capabilities of the task force members, the leader could provide the needed support
• Path-Goal: Would structure leadership interactions by motivating taskforce members to complete a timely and excellent final product