The current study explored the internal conflicts of a diverse group of undergraduate students as leadership development experiences challenge students’ pre-existing attitudes and beliefs of what comprises effective leadership. Interviews with 23 undergraduate students uncovered two consistent conflicts within the minds of emerging leaders, often experienced unconsciously: (a) the recognition of the need to serve the group while also exhibiting command over followers and (b) the desire to adapt to changing circumstances while also remaining resolute in personal chosen courses of action. The particular internal contradictions, common to students in the study across gender and racial lines, imply a structure of predictable cognitive transition as emerging leaders work toward internalizing group-inclusive concepts associated with contemporary leadership practices. The study's findings possess several implications for leadership educators—in higher education and external organizations—in the ways these professionals create both formal and informal developmental experiences for undergraduate students.
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