4-H Agents are community leaders! But what is expected of this person? Basically an agent is a person who influences. In a good way. A positive influence to guide, assist, and provide feedback. A person to listen and give advice. We aren’t parents or teachers. We are in a perfect position to form a youth/adult partnership.
There have been volumes written about leadership. Leaders simply just lead! That’s it. They find ways to encourage individuals to move in their direction. I’ve witnessed debates about world leaders who committed atrocities…..are they leaders or not? Yes, they just led people in the wrong way. In positive youth development we really need to consider our motives and understand what kind of leader we are as individual agents.
There are three main leadership styles:
Before we make a judgement about poor, good, better, and best on leadership styles, we need to consider which of these styles would fit the right job.
General Russel L. Honore’ was an outstanding leader who was responsible for coordinating military efforts in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. Authoritarian! Thank goodness for his intervention and style of leadership.
But a 4-H agent who is authoritarian probably won’t have positive results. Youth voice and youth choice would be a much more effective style. So implementing democratic strategies into the 4-H program planning would be wise. Buy in from youth and support of their ideas will go a lot farther than “telling” them what they will or will not do.
And quite frankly a Laissez-fair leadership style falls short as it does not give enough structure. Sure, kids will think that their 4-H agent is the best ever if they get to stay up all night eating pizza and watching YouTube. But it won’t teach any self discipline or make youth responsible.
It’s worth a little self evaluation. Becoming more firm or flexible as the case may be. Remember, we are influencing youth through our 4-H work. Through our language, mannerisms, healthy habits, and social media posts. Let’s not be lukewarm leaders. Let’s understand our circumstances and make the best decisions for each occasion.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture