How to Measure Character and Leadership Development

In many youth development and education programs, improving character and leadership development are common goals. Measuring them can become challenging due to their close relationship and broad understanding. This is why it is important to establish clear definitions of character development and leadership development before completing an evaluation.

We are currently working with a college and career readiness program,  the Center for Leadership Development (CLD), on their internal data collection and evaluation process. Two key principles of CLD are character development and leadership effectiveness. In order to determine the best way to measure these two focus areas, we walked CLD Leadership through a process where the team defined the two key focus areas, assessed their alignment across the 13 different programs and services, developed short-term IMG_0398outcomes that align with the definitions, and mapped their alignment to long-term aspirational outcomes.

1. Establish Clear Definitions

The Center for Leadership Development has a model that utilizes principles like character development and leadership effectiveness to measure the college and/or career readiness of its participants. In order to effectively measure the two principles separately, the team needed to establish clear definitions of character development and leadership effectiveness for the organization. For example, one-character trait of college and career readiness is discipline. One must be disciplined in order to complete assignments on time whether it be in a school or professional setting.

2. Ensure Alignment with Programming

To ensure programs had the proper alignment with the core principles, the CLD leadership team identified programs with strong focuses on character development and leadership effectiveness. We walked the leadership team through each program to ensure the programs focuses aligned with the two principles and their definitions.  This process creates an understanding with the team and makes sure the measures are connected to the curriculum or services.

3. Develop Short-term Outcomes

Once character development and leadership effectiveness were defined, CLD’s leadership team began to brainstorm short-term outcomes for these focus areas. These short-term outcomes were developed based on the established definitions. For example, the CLD leadership team identified self-discipline as part of what defines character development for the organization. If the program has a focus on character development, there should be a short-term outcome that will provide a measure in order to show an increase, decline or no change in the self-discipline of a participant. This will help the staff understand if the curriculum and program is addressing these specific areas and moving closer to accomplishing its goals.

4. Align to Long-term Outcomes

The CLD leadership team also needed to ensure that the principles aligned with the long-term goals of the organization. The team reviewed research and discussed the rationale behind why character and leadership development are critical components to propel students to a college and career path. The goal of ensuring alignment between the principles and long-term goals is to avoid losing sight of the long-term vision and impact, and to make sure everything remains connected.

Many programs that focus on developing strong character and leadership abilities in youth focus on these efforts simultaneously. It can be challenging to measure character traits and leadership traits separately when character development sets the foundation for building strong leadership skills. Although this challenge exists, organizations can overcome this hurdle by first establishing clear, organizational definitions in order to move forward with creating short-term outcomes to measure the impact of a program and the organization as a whole. We at Transform Consulting Group are here to support the data and evaluation needs for your organization. Contact us today!  

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