Travel Experience in the Formation of Leadership: John Quincy Adams, Frederick Douglass and Jane Addams

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Author: James B. Hunt
Date: Winter 2000
From: Journal of Leadership Studies(Vol. 7, Issue 1)
Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,961 words

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Executive Summary

Scholarship on leadership has tended to emphasize its nature and its behavioral features. This article focuses on the formation of leadership by paying particular attention to the role of travel experience in a young (11-29) person's life. The study examines the travel experiences of three nineteenth-century American leaders: John Quincy Adams, Frederick Douglass and Jane Addams. The author's findings establish the importance of travel in the formation of a person's sense of self-confidence, perspective, skills, and sense of purpose, all of which contribute to the formation of their leadership abilities.

The field of leadership studies has principally focused on the nature and behavior of leaders.(1) Some of these studies have begun to call for an examination of leadership formation.(2) Recent studies by Howard Gardner (1995) and the writers of Common Fire (1996) have pointed out the significant impact travel experience has upon youth and young adults in the formation of leadership.(3) Neither contingency, nor situational, nor transformational theorists of leadership have paid great attention to either the formation of leadership among young adults or the impact travel has had upon the educational background of leaders.(4) The writers of Common Fire have noted that 72% of 100 plus interviewees, who were perseverant leaders devoted to the public good, had some formal travel experience as a young adult.(5) Howard Gardner, while noting travel was an important factor in leadership formation, provided anecdotal evidence that the lack of travel experience in youth and young adulthood may limit the capacity of leaders. Gardner pointed out that Mao Zedong, Stalin and Hitler were unable to be open, flexible and willing to engage cultures different than their own perhaps because they had so little cross-cultural travel experience in their youth.(6) There are numerous instances of leaders who traveled as young people between the critical years of eleven to twenty-nine. At seventeen Benjamin Franklin traveled to England, nearly failed in his business ventures and personal life, and on his return home resolved upon a plan to improve his life which he regarded as a key to his leadership in Philadelphia.(7) Gandhi's attempts to build a legal career in South Africa in his early twenties were critical in the formation of his moral vision.(8) Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled from his home in Atlanta to Crozier Theological Seminary in Massachusetts in his twenties to gain a theological education that proved pivotal in his ideas of non-violent resistance and social justice.(9) American Presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy traveled in their youth as part of their educational formation.(10) Eleanor Roosevelt also had travel experiences crucial in her emergence as a compassionate and sympathetic leader in her own right.(11) Significant artists, writers, poets and cultural leaders also had travel experiences that gave them perspectives on their own lives and helped to forge an independent vision or voice of expression.(12)

It is the purpose of this paper to examine the lives of three leaders in American history as case studies to explore the impact...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A65357257