An exploratory examination of students' pre-existing beliefs about leadership

Arran Caza, David M. Rosch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Preparing future leaders is a long-standing priority in higher education, but doubts have been raised about whether this goal is being achieved. Pedagogical research suggests that leadership development can be improved by taking account of students' pre-existing beliefs about leadership; however, little is currently known about those beliefs. To learn more, we conducted exploratory factor analyses of responses from the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership. In a random sample of 1465 undergraduate students with no prior leadership education, we found that their beliefs about leadership had a four-factor structure: students felt that leaders needed to serve their community, be open-minded, honour their values, and be comfortable with change. As evidence of these factors' importance, we found that students' factor scores predicted several leadership outcomes, including leadership self-efficacy, social change behaviour, and perspective-taking. These findings suggest the value of better understanding students' pre-existing beliefs about leadership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1586-1598
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 21 2014


  • leadership
  • leadership development
  • social change
  • undergraduate education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'An exploratory examination of students' pre-existing beliefs about leadership'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this