Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Steven LeMire


The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of an institution-wide leadership development model on students at a private Christian university. The university being studied in this research made a significant commitment to the principles of servant-leadership as well as Kouzes and Posner's (2002) Leadership Challenge development model. In 2001 the university adopted the mission of ensuring that every student grows as a leader in his or her own field of study. All courses and programs are required to include servant leadership development opportunities and outcomes. Key to the model selected is the premise that leadership, as a set of observable practices, can be taught and strengthened. As such, it would be expected that if the university is effectively following the leadership development model, students would grow in their practice of leadership behaviors while participating in classes and being exposed to leadership theory and practice. Although the university tracks leadership development between students' first-year students and senior years, there has been no research on the development model's impact past graduation.

This study assessed and compared participants' self-reported practice of five specific leadership behaviors as a means to explore the efficacy of the development model employed by the university. Measures associated with the Leadership Challenge (Kouzes & Posner, 2002) model were used to examine the leadership development of college students and alumni. A cross-section of first-year students, seniors, and alumni participated in the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI). The LPI was created by Kouzes and Posner (2003) as part of their Leadership Challenge model and ranks participants' self-reported participation in five key leadership practices. Each group's mean scores for each of the five practices was determined and compared between groups for differences.

The data revealed that there was a significant difference in mean scores between groups. Groups with greater knowledge and experience with the leadership development model self-reported a significantly higher level of engagement in all five of the key leadership practices than did groups with less exposure to the model. Not only did the data suggest the effectiveness of the leadership development model, it also revealed a strong impact of servant leadership principles on the participants. All three student groups reported high levels of engagement in practices closely related to the servant leader ideals: enabling others, encouraging the heart, and modeling the way.

Results of this research suggest that the leadership development model employed by the university under study is successfully impacting students in servant leadership principles and practice.