Eco-Leadership in Practice: A Mixed Methods Study of County 4-H Programs
Cletzer, David Adam
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Our understanding of leaders and the role they play in organizations and society is changing. Four broad discourses of leadership have been identified as occurring during the past 100 years: controller, therapist, messiah, and eco-leader. The most recent, eco-leader discourse, is characterized by collective decision-making, collaboration, shared leadership, and grassroots organization. Eco-leadership is believed to be beneficial for organizations operating in a 21st century, knowledge-driven economy. A quintessential example of an ecological organization is the Extension Service's 4-H program, the organization which this study examines. However, in 4-H, as in many organizations, a majority of leadership development efforts focus on the individual, positional leader. Further, the vast majority of the literature devoted to eco-leadership is conceptual in nature; empirical studies linking leadership approaches to organizational outcomes are rare. This study uses an explanatory sequential mixed methods design to examine: (a) the nature of the relationship between county 4-H agents' leadership discourse preferences and programmatic success; (b) county 4-H association members' levels of systemic and hierarchical thinking and programmatic success; (c) the way in which county 4-H association members' perceive their leadership within their counties; and (d) the relationship between these volunteers' perceptions of their leadership and other variables associated with programmatic success. Findings indicate that the therapist discourse was the most preferred discourse among county 4-H agents, but that agents' discourse scores were unrelated to county 4-H program success. Associations' levels of hierarchical and systemic thinking were also not related to county 4-H program success. Additionally, county 4-H association members reported that: (a) agents play a central role in decision making and communication within the association; (b) association members rarely make decisions on programmatic matters; (c) associations are often not structured in accordance with 4-H's policy for associations; and (d) members are not provided opportunities for development in their roles as association members.
- Doctoral Dissertations