Leadership development among college men and women

Dugan, J. P. (2006). Explorations using the social change model: Leadership development among college men and women. Journal of College Student Development, 47(2), 217-225.

Leader development has been the focus of numerous programs and resources in higher education. Dugan (2006) published a study that seeks to examine the leadership styles of college men and women using the social change model as a conceptual framework. This study appeared in the Journal of College Student Development and was undertaken to inform leadership development approaches of individuals in higher education student affairs. Participants were purposively selected based on their enrollment in an undergraduate course and the professor’s willingness to administer the instrument. The sample (n=859) represented each of the 10 colleges at the university and was consistent with institutional demographics (Dugan, 2006). The researcher used the Socially Responsible Leadership Scale (SRLS) as an instrument to measure the leadership development across the eight constructs of social change. The goal of this research was test whether or not gender groups appear to collectively differ across these leadership constructs. The research found a significant difference in the leadership development of college men and women. For example, females had significantly higher mean scores related to six of the eight constructs that constitute the social change model. Females also scored slightly higher on the other two constructs, but the score was not statistically significant.
Dugan states that, “any examination of leadership must first be framed by the theoretical context that influences the understanding of leadership today” (2006, p. 221). In order to frame the discussion he used an approach that discussed industrial and post-industrial as two distinct leadership paradigms. For example, the focus on industrial leadership is command and control, whereas, the post-industrial paradigm is grounded in human relations and shared goals. Although this theory is sound in framing the debate, there are several other theories he could have used to frame his argument. The theoretical strength of this study could have been improved if the author would have provided a rational for selecting this theory versus other options that would have been suitable. For example, transformational leadership theory, Blake & Mouton’s leadership grid, or the social change model could have provided the framework to underpin the study. Although the study focused on the social change model there was no discussion of the model other than the definition of the constructs. I think by explaining the model, and its application and use in higher education, the author could have provided a stronger study. Furthermore, the study could have been improved by providing a literature review of the research related to college students and the eight constructs of the social change model. These constructs include consciousness of self, congruence, commitment, collaboration, common purpose, controversy with civility, citizenship, and change. By framing the importance of the study within this context he could have made a sound argument as to why the research was an important contribution to the field. In my opinion, this study contributes little to the leadership field because it doesn’t offer practical application for the results. For example, his conclusion that “findings may serve a as a tool to help diminish constraining beliefs that prevent women from reaching their full potential” is weak (p. 224). Using previous studies to support his data could have improved the credibility of the results.
The findings are congruent with other research studies conducted in the area of gender and leadership, but as a practitioner application is important to me. To improve the generalizability of the findings the sample should be expanded to include other universities. As evidenced by course readings, we all bring different perspectives to the table based on our personal experiences. These experiences can also influence the way we perceive our leadership which can in turn influence the results of a study that uses an instrument (SRLS) that requires self reporting. This aspect could be improved by controlling for student experiences before they enter college and examine the role of the college environment in leader development. One way to do that is by using Astin & Astin’s (2000) College Impact Model as the conceptual framework; this model “controls for what a student brings to campus and examines what aspects of the college environment predicted various leadership outcomes” (p. 12).
As a future leadership educator, I do see value in this study as model for evaluation of a college leadership program. For example, the SRLS instrument could be administered to freshmen entering a leadership program, the results could be used to determine leadership deficiencies (related to SCM constructs). In effect, the instrument would be used as a “needs assessment” that provides academics with a road map to help determine the interventions needed to address these deficiencies. The social change model can serve as a valuable instructional and planning tool for educators. I plan to use this model to help guide my teaching in leadership because I have learned that student experiences play a role in developing leadership potential. For example, experiences in college accounted for 7-14% of the overall variance in leadership outcome and exerted greatest influence on the social change model (Dugan & Komives, 2007). I plan to develop student experiences and interventions that will help individuals 1) become more conscious of their individual values, 2) understand the value of collaboration and common purpose and 3) view their role as a citizen who can make a positive contribution to society. I will accomplish this by developing service learning projects, providing mentor and networking opportunities, promoting the importance of campus involvement and service, as well as provide formal leadership education programs. By developing high impact experiences and interventions it is my hope that I will equip students with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become successful contributors to our democratic society.


Astin, A. W., & Astin, H. S. (2000). Leadership Reconsidered: Engaging Higher Education in Social Change. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED444437.pdf

Dugan, J. P., & Komives, S. R. (2007). Developing Leadership Capacity in College Students. Retrieved from http://mslreviewteam.wiki.usfca.edu/file/view/MSLReport+06.pdf


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