Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Four Dimensions of Student Leadership: What Predicts Students' Attitudes toward Leadership Development?

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Four Dimensions of Student Leadership: What Predicts Students' Attitudes toward Leadership Development?

Article excerpt

Multiple regression was performed on four dependent variables derived from the results of a student survey measuring attitudes about student leadership: (a) leadership is important to the student, (b) the student considers himself or herself to be a leader, (c) leadership will be important to the student after college, and (d) leaders need to be able to work in teams or groups. Each of 10 independent variables was a significant predictor of one or more dependent variables.

Developing students' leadership skills is a major objective at many institutions of higher education, many of which commit considerable time and resources to student leadership development programs and initiatives. While student leadership development is of major interest to higher education institutions, it is also important to determine how students perceive the leadership development programs from which they are meant to benefit. This study was undertaken to explore student perceptions of leadership, and thus revealed characteristics of students who believe that leadership is an important part of their lives.

Involvement, according to Astin (1984), is a key determinant of college student success, satisfaction, and persistence. Involvement helps connect students to their institution, and fosters many positive relationships and learning opportunities not available within the classroom (Abrahamowicz, 1988; Astin, 1984; Schuh & Laverty, 1983). The benefits of student involvement can be substantial. Students who become involved in one organization or activity often become involved in others, and develop increasing pride in their institution (Abrahamowicz, 1988). Involvement also gives students opportunities to interact with a wide range of people, develop management skills, and enhance self-confidence (Bialek & Lloyd, 1998). Howe and Strauss (2000) commented that members of the Millennial generation, to which many current traditionalaged college students are said to belong, have been involved with more scheduled activities and organized sports prior to college than have other recent generations. Thus, colleges and universities may be inheriting students who do not need to be persuaded to get involved.

Involvement also can be linked to a student's place of residence, since students often find connectedness and a sense of belonging within their living environment (Astin, 1984; Terenzini, Pascarella, & Blimling, 1999). Residence hall floors, fraternity and sorority houses, and off-campus communities all have unique community features, many which can promote, or possibly inhibit, a student's involvement. The place of residence also may influence student perceptions of leadership, given the close interactions with peers and the nature of the environment. Capturing the messages that students receive about leadership from their living situation may be an important step in increasing leadership development opportunities, especially as students are being challenged to become community leaders after graduation. Previous research has revealed themes involving alternative paradigms of leadership.

Literature Review

Educating students about leadership and developing them into leaders has become a priority' objective of many colleges and universities (Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkhardt, 2001). Colleges are widely expected by the public to produce national and global leaders in economics, politics, culture, education, and other spheres. While arguments exist about how best to define and develop leadership for students, at a minimum it is very clear from increased emphasis on leadership development in university mission statements that institutions of higher education are trying to answer a call to deliver more leaders to society (Rost, 1993). This call has been accentuated by new and emerging thoughts about leadership, the examination of student perceptions regarding leadership, and new trends in leadership development (Rost). …

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