A current focus of youth-serving organizations is youth leadership development with an objective of helping youth become productive contributors to society. 4-H is a leading organization in the effort to expose youth to leadership opportunities. This study examined the leadership identity development of 4-H youth serving in statewide leadership positions. The Leadership Identity Development (LID) model and mentoring mosaic served as the conceptual framework in this study. The purpose of this qualitative study is to shed light on the question, how do 4-H teens describe their journey to leadership? Youth reflected on the experiences, examples, and influences that impacted their leadership journey. The most common response for experiences that led to a 4-H youth’s choice to pursue a leadership role was a previous leadership experience. Leadership traits, Extension agents, and historical figures were the most frequently identified examples of leadership, and family members and Extension agents were commonly identified as influences. Four themes emerged from the youth perspectives: (1) leaders are characterized by traits, (2) individual-focused leaders, (3) team-oriented individuals, and (4) community contributors. The results corroborated with Stages 2-4 in the LID model. This study is a starting point for exploring leadership identity development of youth.



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