Leadership attitudes and beliefs of incoming first-year college students: A multi-institutional study of gender differences

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


Education | Higher Education | Leadership Studies


Incoming first-year college students (N = 4,292) were surveyed regarding attitudes and beliefs about leadership. Students’ opinions about their leadership ability were high and were related to having an outgoing personality, as well as the number of high school activities in which they had been involved. In addition, students’ understanding of leadership was largely hierarchical and unsophisticated. Gender was strongly related to beliefs about leadership, with males indicating a stronger belief in hierarchical leadership, and females indicating a stronger belief in systemic leadership. The results indicated men and women are most likely to be anchored in Komives et al.’s (2009) Stages 2 and 3 whereas women also show some characteristics of Stage 4. It was argued these results support a modular approach to leadership development in which students acquire credits toward a certificate in leadership and where some components of the training activities involve separating the genders.