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Dissertation Abstract

The Influence of Strengths-Based Development on Leadership Practices Among Undergraduate College Students

Alina Black Lehnert
March 2009

This study explored the influence of strengths-based development on leadership practices among undergraduate college students while controlling for gender, years of leadership experience, and number of completed leadership courses using a quasi-experimental approach with a randomized control–group pretest–posttest research design. The sample included 95 student leaders (60 female, 35 male) with a mean age of 20 years old, with the majority being Caucasian (87%) from a Midwestern liberal arts university. The independent variable was strengths-based development. Participants in the study group completed six online strengths-based development learning modules while participants in the control group completed traditional leadership development learning modules. The dependent variable was Kouzes and Posner's (2002) model of exemplary leadership practices and was measured by the Student Leadership Practice Inventory (SLPI, Kouzes & Posner, 2003). Pretests and posttests were administered for each dependent variable with pretest scores used as covariates in the statistical analyses. ANOVAs were used to view how each leadership practice (DV) was affected by group (study vs. control) and time of measurement (pretreatment vs. posttreatment). A MANOVA explored all five leadership practices (DV) between groups and across time. All hypotheses were supported. Significant differences were found between the study and control groups. The study group had statistically significant greater gains on all five leadership practices when taking into account SLPI-self scores, SLPI-observer scores, and self–observer average scores compared to the control group. Student leaders engaged in a strength-based development program showed significantly greater gains in the leadership practices of modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart, both individually and collectively, at the end of the 6-week program than student leaders not engaged in the program.