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KLI Research Update: Leadership Development and Potential

Posted April 15, 2016 in KLI Research, News

Jeremy Anderson ’19

In addition to producing leadership co-curricular programming, The Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI) conducts high-level academic research. KLI faculty, staff, and students continue to partner to produce research insights featured in academic articles, books, and presentations at national and regional conferences.

Fullerton Longitudinal Study

The Fullerton Longitudinal Study (FLS), which began in 1979 at Cal State Fullerton, is a landmark longitudinal study of leadership development from child to adulthood. 130 individuals born in 1979 were assessed every six months through preschool and every year from age 5 to 17, and again at age 24. Studies like this are not commonplace because they are expensive and laborious to conduct. However, the results from studies like FLS give invaluable insight into leadership development. KLI, led by Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Ron Riggio, partnered with faculty members Allen Gottfried, Adele Eskeles Gottfried, Diana Wright Guerin, Pamella H. Oliver at Cal State Fullerton, as well as Becky Reichard at Claremont Graduate University, to assess the individuals from theKLI Research Team FLS at age 29. Across three decades, the study had a surprisingly high retention rate of 82%.

The research team, led by Gottfried, originally focused on intellectual and motivational giftedness, as it relates to education, temperament, and parental involvement. The FLS has become internationally known and continues to be cited widely in developmental psychology and child development textbooks. Rather than looking retrospectively, researchers at KLI have used longitudinal data from this study to test several hypotheses about leadership development.

Previous surveys of the students determined that personality, sports participation, interpersonal skills, self-efficacy, and several aspects of demographics were predictors of leadership potential. For example, adolescent participation in sports was linked to emergence of leadership in adulthood. Encouragement from parents, teachers, and friends was proven to relate positively to transformational leadership, a style of leadership that seeks to inspire positive changes in those who follow. KLI researchers also examined the question of gender differences in terms of leader emergence and leader effectiveness. Their research found that for work related leadership duties, males scored significantly higher. However, there were no significant differences between men and women when examining non-work leadership positions.

Principal Investigators and research assistants will continue to “mine” the existing data to address questions about the development of leadership over the life cycle. As of now there are over 18,000 variables. KLI researchers are currently seeking funding to collect further data on the participants, who are now 38 years old. They are trying to move beyond self-report data by conducting a live leadership assessment, in which they can examine the participants in different situations. The Fullerton Longitudinal study also provides a unique partnering opportunity with The Undergraduate Leadership Experience study.

The Undergraduate Leadership Education (ULE) study

Initiated in 2006, The Undergraduate Leadership Education (ULE) study is an ongoing longitudinal study of leadership development and training in higher education. Considered to be KLI’s signature research project, ULE seeks to determine the long-term impacts of leadership training and education at CMC.

ULE follows undergraduate students from the time of their college applications through their adult years post-graduation. Participants include individuals who applied to CMC, were accepted and enrolled, as well as those who were not admitted. The data is pulled from surveys sent to these students during their senior year of high school, freshman year of college, senior year of college, second year of alumni, and fifth year of being an alumnus.

Pema Donyo ‘17, Courtney Chan ’17, Brian Chmelik ’18, and Suvena Yerneni ’18 have continued to build upon the work of previous KLI faculty and students on the ULE project as research assistants under the supervisions of Sherylle Tan, Interim Director and Director of Internships and KLI Research, and John P. Dulay, Research Manager. One of the research projects to come out of the ULE study examined the change in leadership self-efficacy and developmental self-efficacy, or one’s perception in their ability to succeed in a specific situation or accomplish a certain task, between senior year in high school and freshman year of college. This year’s project seeks to determine why scores for leadership self-efficacy and leadership developmental self-efficacy were higher during students’ senior year of high school versus students’ freshman year of college.

In order to answer this question, Pema began with a qualitative study which consisted of interviewing members of CMC’s Class of 2018 about their experiences at CMC while they were freshman. The qualitative data from the survey was then combined with quantitative data from three past CMC classes to form a mixed-methods design study. The study determined that the consistent decrease in both leadership self-efficacy and developmental self-efficacy scores in the quantitative study can be attributed in part to the change in environment and support systems that students experience when transitioning from high school to college. Additionally, they determined that the decrease in self-efficacy could also be attributed to the transition from the highest grade in high school to the lowest grade in a college. For instance, college freshman no longer occupy the leadership positions they held in high school.

The findings from this study have implications for the development of leadership programs and freshman orientation programs at CMC and other colleges. Pema, Brian, and Courtney, accompanied by KLI faculty and staff, will present their findings at the Western Psychological Association conference in Long Beach in April. As time progresses the database will continue to grow and KLI researchers will be able to evaluate both the short term and long term impact of curricular and co-curricular leadership education.

High Potentials’ Advantage

Jay Conger, faculty chair of KLI and Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership Studies, has been researching what it takes to secure a place in the top five percent of leadership talent in any organization, better known as ‘high potential’ leadership talent. He has partnered with Allan H. Church, a leading thinker and practitioner in the field of talent management, to answer critical questions asked by ambitious employees and managers such as: “What does it take on my part to get to the senior most levels of my organization? What are the skills, abilities, and knowledge that I need to get there? Do they differ at career stages or are they basically the same throughout my career? Am I better off staying in the same company or jumping around to improve my chances of climbing the corporate ladder? What does my boss look for when assessing whether I am a high potential leader? And what’s my organization’s process for assessing my potential? ”

To answer these questions, Conger and Church drew upon more than two decades of research and their combined experience in leadership development and global talent management. They have interviewed over 150 ‘high potential’ leaders as well as senior human resource professionals to lay the groundwork for a book on their findings.

CMC-Yonsei Summer Program Evaluation

Globalization is changing the face of the workplace around the world. As more companies embrace this trend, they need leaders who can lead effectively with cross-cultural and global settings. To address this need, CMC has partnered with Yonsei University, a private research university in South Korea to form a 5-week summer academic program. This interdisciplinary program emphasizes a liberal arts perspective for understanding different contexts of world affairs, specifically Korea. This is achieved through curricular and experiential learning. KLI research assistants, led by KLI Research and Internship Coordinator Tamara Duggan-Herd, are in the midst of evaluating the CMC-Yonsei program’s impact on participant’s leadership and cross-cultural competencies, and determining the effectiveness of the program in generating lasting global leadership outcomes.

The evaluation project features two phases of data collection. In the first phase, Year 3 program participants completed an online survey measuring their global leadership competencies and skills at the beginning of the program and upon completion of the program. Year 4 students also completed this survey 4 months after the completion of the program. In the second phase, research assistants, Courtney Chan ‘17, Lauren Mounts ‘18, and Suvena Yerneni ‘18, interviewed Year 3 and 4 program participants independently. They then transcribed and coded these interviews. Coding involved distinguishing recurring themes and then classifying information provided in the interviews according to these themes.

Previous evaluations, presented by Sherylle Tan at the International Leadership Association (ILA) Conference, have demonstrated that participants of the program showed significant gains in leadership, leadership self-efficacy, transformational leadership and cultural competency. Analyses are now being conducted on the data collected to determine whether program participants experienced the long-term impacts associated in the literature with these competencies, for example, taking on leadership roles, seeking out and building cross-cultural relationships, communicating effectively with people from different cultures, and adapting to novel situations.

The KLI research agendas continue to examine new frontiers in leadership as well as explore existing data from the FLS and ULE projects in order to address critical questions about leadership and how it develops. In the field today, KLI is a preeminent center for the understanding responsible and innovative leadership.