A study of the leadership styles and beliefs of students at Athens State University

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University of Alabama Libraries

The future employment market will require college graduates to possess strong and effective leadership skills. It is crucial that higher education provide numerous and practical opportunities for students to develop these skills. Research confirms that preparing students for leadership roles is one of the founding tenets of American higher education. However, studies regarding leadership and the nontraditional student have not been well documented. The conceptual framework for this research was based on the ecology theory of leadership that proposed a departure from the traditional hierarchical style of leadership towards a more systemic style through an open process that involves all members of the organization. Athens State University serves a population comprised mostly of nontraditional students, many of whom are already employed. This study used the Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (LABS-III) instrument developed by Dr. Richard Wielkiewicz to examine the preferred leadership styles of students at Athens State University and determine if there was a significant difference in those styles based upon a set of demographic variables that included gender, age group, employment status, and college of record. Results revealed that an overwhelming number of students still preferred the traditional hierarchical style of leadership, while a much smaller group preferred the systemic style of leadership. Statistical results revealed no significant differences in preferred leadership styles based upon any of the demographic variables. However, research did show that the older the study participant, the more likely they were to prefer the hierarchical style of leadership. Based upon the results of this study, it is apparent that institutions of higher education many want to consider redesigning the leadership development curriculum with an emphasis on building systemic leadership skills, specifically through the ecology of leadership theory. In addition, specific and meaningful learning opportunities in leadership should be incorporated into all curricula, not just business programs. As the population of nontraditional students continues to outnumber traditional college students, institutions may want to consider establishing an official point of contact for this student, such as an Office of Student Support Services for Returning Adult Students.

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Business Administration, General