Youth Future Orientation and Leadership in France and the U.S

June 03, 2021

The Columbia-SciencesPo students’ collaborative empirical research, supported by the Alliance program, sheds light on French and American youth future orientation and compares this societal attribute across generations and cultures. The motivating thread in the study was driven by the following inquiry: are future leaders future-oriented? How different are their perceptions of the future when compared to those of adults or when compared across cultures (national borders)?

The student research team approached future orientation as a core characteristic that reflects the degree to which societies encourage and reward future-oriented behaviors, however acknowledging that it varies substantially across societal groupings. The design of the project included a survey of 283 high school students in France and the U.S. with a 7-point Likert-scale questionnaire and the analysis of the findings per the methodology of the 62-societies’ Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) research. The empirical and benchmark data included the future orientation profiles of French and American young people, data for adults in two countries, as well as averaged adult scores for 62 societies along behavioral (practices) and anthropological (values) streams of inquiry.

For the behavior-tied scores, the study demonstrated higher youth future orientation when compared to that of the adults in both France and the U.S. However, there is a greater gap in the former case and higher future-orientations of French youth when compared to the scores of young Americans.  For the values-tied scores, in both countries, youth future-orientation is lower than that of the adults and French youth scores are lower than that of the Americans.

Interpreting the findings, the authors provided arguments that stem from a broader perspective of French and American societal cultures and revealed cultural and generation-specific patterns that may be further applied to predictions in economic performance and leadership effectiveness. Theoretical implications of the study support the instrumentality of a multi-disciplinary approach that considers behavioral, anthropological, psychological, and educational streams of research. Practical implications of this study may be considered in social and educational policies, particularly those relevant to transatlantic educational exchanges initiatives such as through the Alliance Program. Furthermore, predictions about leadership considered effective in a culture with an emphasis on future orientation may assist in policymaking and the development of joint programs in U.S.-Franco exchange.