Leadership and social roles are two important aspects of social development. Certain children have greater leadership qualities which they exhibit through different stages of social participation. They possess qualities that enable them to make a forward move before the other members can.
Merely possessing a few qualities cannot make a leader of a child. These qualities must be accepted as of paramount importance and those who possess them have to be accepted as leaders. Generally leaders are popular figures, but popularity and leadership, are not but synonymous. A leader is always popular but every popular person cannot be recognised as a leader.
During the first year, the baby who is older, physically stronger and more skillful, dominates as a leader. In early childhood, the child leader is generally superior to the other members of the group in size, intelligence and in age. Sex is an unimportant factor in leadership at this age, Similarly, social status, nationality, caste or creed, physical attractiveness do not matter much during this period.
More important than these are fairness and social responsibility to the group. Other qualities that have been found important are the ascendent behaviour, a tendency to resist adult control, and expression of a rivalrous, competitive attitude.
During the gang age, the leader is supposed to represent the group ideal. Generally the oldest, the largest, best player, the best fighter and good-natured boy and girl becomes a leader in this period. A few studies have shown that it is the fair-mindedness rather than the physical strength that makes for leadership. Intelligence and high standards of scholastic achievement are other qualities sought for in leader at this age.
Adolescent leaders are chosen for intelligence, fairness, pleasing appearance, good sportsmanship, scholastics standing and socio-economic position. The leaders in this period are generally of the extraverted, expensive social type of boys and girls.
The concepts of ‘social role’ needs to be understood in order to appreciate the significance of social development. “A role is a unit of culture, a set of expectation of behaviour.” Every human individual is expected to behave in a certain way because of his position in a social group. He has to play several social roles; and he plays them after having learned them.
Learning of social roles consists in an internationalization of the expectation concerning the various roles and of applying these expectations to oneself. If the social roles have been learned effectively, the individual becomes a good member of the group and attains higher social adjustments.
An attitude, in the words of Kimball Young, is “a pre-disposition to respond in a persistent and characteristic manners – in reference to some situation, idea, value, material, object or class of objects or persons or group of persons”. This can be a positive or a negative pre-disposition.
According to Sherif and Contril, an attitude is a functional state of readiness which determines the organism to reach in a characteristic way to certain stimuli or stimulus situations. Social attitudes concern those response tendencies, which are directed towards other people or group of people or social situations; social attitudes develop as a result of social interaction and are indicative of the type and degree of social adjustment which an individual has gained during the process of his social development. Invitation, training and relationships with other people, the satisfaction derived or frustration caused – all affect the development of social attitudes.