Harvard Study Suggests Childhood Motivation Predictive of Leadership

The new study takes into account factors like the parental influence, motivational drive, intelligence, social skills and personality traits demonstrated in childhood, and identifies the characteristics that are predictive of leadership later in life. The landmark study started with 130 1-year-old children, who were followed every six months through preschool and every year from age 5 to 17. They were surveyed again at age 24 and again this year at age 29. Though some of the subjects dropped out of the study, 106, who live all over the world, remain.  http://calstate.fullerton.edu/news/Inside/2009/gottfried-longitudinal-study.html

As Allen Gottfried, director of the study, says – how a child initially responds to a novel situation involving new foods, people or situations is important.

“Some hold off, some withdraw, some engage,” he said. Those who engage, “tend to become more extroverted, socially engaging and become everyday leaders.”

Researchers also found that the most demanding children are often the most likely to be leaders as adults.  In their want to join or do activities contained the emergence of a quest to acquire new skills and knowledge, says Laura Pappano at Harvard Education Letter.

 “It also mattered that a child invested in and committed to the new activity if permitted to pursue it.”

The Harvard researchers also found parent involvement equally important, exlaining that the same issues arise in the classroom as well as at home.

“It doesn’t mean you say yes to everything the kid wants,” said Gottfried.

But if a child “shows a genuine interest” in something, that support can be essential to fostering a key leadership quality—the drive to take on a challenge and pursue it until they find mastery or success, he says.

“That quality is very relevant because when you are a leader you have to delve into a world that is uncharted,” said Gottfried.

Revealingly, the data also found that stronger motivation trumped higher IQ in winning top roles in games.

I personally don’t find the results particularly surprising, yet I do consider them to be interesting.  At a time in the world where we are more globally connected than ever, we have an opportunity to collaborate with people around the world, and our attention is fragmented due to constant interruptions, it seems that these qualities will hold relevance in the future.  They also have implications for our school system which seems to be traditional, and more focused on following the rules, than pursuing interests with genuine motivation and interest.

Additional Reference: http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/harvard-study-suggests-ways-to-develop-leadership-skills/