Watson, Arthur Calvin (2016-05). An Examination of Student Leadership Styles and Their Relationship to Leadership Development Training and Student Leader Effectiveness. Doctoral Dissertation.
Leadership development programs have become popular at universities across the United States. These programs, whether curricular or cocurricular, short-term or long-term, have helped undergraduate student leaders to be effective and to develop skills that they can use not only in their student organizations but also in their lives after graduation. While some studies have focused on leadership development programs, very few have compared the students' leadership styles and effectiveness as perceived by peers, based on participation in a leadership development program. This study was designed to determine whether there were differences in the leadership styles of student leaders who participated in a leadership development program and those who did not. The study also investigated whether followers perceived their student leaders to be more effective based on their leaders' participation in a leadership development program. Based on both quantitative and qualitative measures, the results of this study provide positive implications for student participation in leadership development programs. Results from the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire showed no significant difference between students who participated in a leadership development program and those who did not; however, a slight difference showed students who had participated in a program to be more transformational and more transactional. The qualitative method of focus groups showed that student leaders who participated in a leadership development program were perceived to be more effective than those who did not, based on four emergent themes: leading by example, passion for the organization, organizational skills and task- versus relationship-oriented leadership. While focus group participants discussed similarities of the themes of leading by example and passion for the organization, differences were found in the themes organizational skills and task- versus relationship-oriented leadership. These differences were in favor of student leaders who participated in a leadership development program that made them more effective. Recommendations in support of leadership development programs were discussed, including required training for student leaders, incorporating cross-cultural communications training, and developing a peer evaluation system, among others.