Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Strategic Leadership Studies


T. Dary Erwin

Susan Murphy

Denise Perritt


As the study of leadership evolves, it is vital to consider adult development; specifically student leadership development. This study examined changes over time in undergraduate students’ leadership self-efficacy, leader identity, and socially responsible leadership capacity. As a component of motivation to learn, curiosity breadth and depth were included to explore how the “positive approach to new information” relates to individual leader growth. This research helps explain how leader identity fits into a student leader development model as an outcome and as a contributor to future leader identity growth and engagement with leadership tasks. A combination of longitudinal and cross-sectional designs was used to study student leadership capacity development due to participation in a structured semester-long leadership development program that was based on student-specific theoretical models. Participants in the program and a control group of similarly-aged students from a mid-sized comprehensive university completed surveys at three time points over a six-month period. Past participants in the program and a senior-level control group completed a single survey approximately two years following the past participants’ completion of the leadership development program. The extent to which students describe themselves as leaders and the certainty with which they perceive themselves as leaders contributed the most to their growth over time. Students who enter college with a higher level of leader identity may have a tendency to grow at a higher rate in that identity throughout college. Citizenship and depth of curiosity may play a role in leader identity development. Students higher in consciousness of self, citizenship, and breadth of curiosity are more inclined to engage in personal leadership tasks. Recent and past program participants showed greater differences in levels of leadership self-efficacy, leadership self-identity, and leader identity stage than the control groups. Results partially supported existing research that leadership development programs produce growth in students’ leadership capacity and leadership self-efficacy. In addition, results indicated that early development of leader identity is an integral part of the overall picture of leadership capacity, adding specificity to the body of literature related to college student leadership development. New paths of inquiry were provided for practitioners and scholars.



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