The Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (LABS-III; Wielkiewicz, 2000) was validated against a measure with a more traditional, position-based definition of leadership. Disagreement with Hierarchical Thinking was associated with a higher GPA. A Life-Long Learning scale was strongly associated with GPA, Systemic Thinking, and social activism. These results suggested there are likely to be multiple leadership development paths. Educational practitioners interested in leadership development may find it fruitful to broaden definitions of leadership development activities to include service learning trips, social welfare activities, learning communities, volunteering, internships, and other activities that develop social consciousness and life-long learning.
The Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (LAB S-III; Wielkiewicz, 2000), provides student development practitioners in higher education settings with an alternative method of assessing leadership development and evaluating leadership development programs. One purpose of the present study was to determine whether the LABS-III makes a unique contribution to the understanding of leadership development compared to a measure with a more traditional, position-based definition of leadership. A second purpose was to evaluate the relationships of leadership with college students' academic habits and attitudes. The ability to comprehend the systemic and ecological context of leadership requires a different set of intellectual skills than traditional, position-based approaches, and the present study was. designed to extend comprehension of this aspect of leadership development.
The LABS-III is based upon the theoretical notion that knowledge of the systems context in which leadership and organizational adaptation take place adds to an understanding of leadership. For example, Hannan and Freeman (1984) hypothesized that organizations rarely succeed in the radical changes needed to adapt to environmental challenges (e.g., Christensen, 2000). Thus, variations in organizations are the result of evolutionary selection and replacement, not adaptation of individual organizations. Colarelli (1998) also applied an evolutionary perspective to understanding organizations. He suggested that organizations are an emergent property of their specific components. Because relationships among the parts are "loose" r weakly associated, an organization should be structured for maximum flexibility and adaptiveness, rather than to accomplish a specific end or purpose. Concerns about the ability of organizations to adapt to the current environment (Cairns, 1998; Cascio, 1995; Clark, 1985; Gersick, 1991; Haveman, 1992; Johnston & Packer, 1987; Weick, 1985) have encouraged development of a variety of alternative leadership perspectives such as organizational learning (Rousseau, 1997; Senge, 1990), transformational leadership (Bass, 1985: House, 1977; Howell & Avolio, 1993), charismatic leadership (Conger, 1989; Conger & Kanungo, 1988, 1994), and the ecological or systemic approach to leadership (Allen & Cherrey, 2000; Allen, Stelzner, & Wielkiewicz, 1998), which is the main focus of the present paper.
Allen et al. (1998) based their theory on principles of ecology and systems thinking (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1986; Capra, 1996; Colarelli, 1998; Katz & Kahn, 1978; Kelly, Ryan, Altmann, & Stelzner, 2000; Levitt & March, 1988; Mathews, White, & Long, 1999; Miller, 1955, 1978; Novelli & Taylor, 1993). The theory posits that a successful organization functions like a complex adaptive system and that leadership is not a characteristic possessed by individuals. Instead, it is a process that emerges from individual actions. Rather than being relied upon for decision-making and direction, positional leaders can assist an organization's adaptation by facilitating information flow and encouraging broader participation in decision-making processes. …