In this era of technology and globalization, students need more than traditional academic skills to be successful. They need to have a strong sense of self and be able to collaborate with others effectively to help change their world. We developed the Student Leadership Scale (SLS) to measure 17 leadership competencies among primary, secondary, and post-secondary school students. The SLS grew out of a research project aimed at understanding youth leadership. The 17 leadership competencies describe four different dimensions of student leadership: Leading Self, Leading Academically, Leading with Others, and Changing Your World. Our research found that these four dimensions were significantly related to student’s sense of belonging and school engagement, which have been found to influence students’ academic and social-emotional outcomes. The SLS has now been validated with over 4000 students in grades 3-12 in public, magnet, and private schools. The SLS has also been validated with over 400 college-aged students.

The Leadership Indicator for Students™ (LIS) is a tool that uses the SLS to assess leadership development needs to students in K-12 schools. The LIS provides a gap analysis that helps determine where there are differences between the leadership competencies considered most important by individuals within the school and the strength of the students on those competencies. The goal of the LIS is to help schools understand where they should focus their student leadership development efforts.

This goal of this research project is twofold: 1) to share our findings from this work through conference presentations and publications (infographics, blog posts, white papers, academic journal articles), 2) to develop a book (COMPASS for Schools) to give schools tools for conducting the student leadership development illuminated by the LIS.

Scientific Contribution:

  • Leadership is an invaluable trait in the classroom, and in the workforce, because leaders bring special skills and assets that result in improved outcomes for schools and organizations. Given the challenges facing students who transition across school levels or into the workforce, leadership development helps to reduce those transitional stressors.
  • However, leadership development does not, and should not, begin when an individual turns 18. A survey conducted by the Center of Creative Leadership in 2012 found that 90% of the 462 business, government, nonprofit, and education leaders surveyed believed that leadership development for youth should begin before age 18.
  • There are a paucity of validated leadership measures focused specifically on youth.
  • The SLS provides a reliable, validated, student leadership assessment tool that schools across the country can use to understand, define, and measure youth leadership.
  • Publications will increase CCL’s visibility in the academic community. 

Application to Leadership Challenges:

  • Developing youth leaders comes with a unique set of challenges, in part due to the large developmental differences between youth of different ages.
  • The LIS helps point out where to focus the development work.
  • The goal of developing the COMPASS for school book is to give school personnel tools for conducting leadership development work with students. 

Connect With Our Team:

If your school is interested in taking the Leadership Indicator for Students™, or if you are interested in learning more about this project, please contact Micela Leis.