Allison L. Dunn & Summer F. Odom 10.12806/V18/I4/R10
Career preparation through education and training is a core purpose of college. Historically, college students aspired to a specific job, selected the associated major to provide the needed specialized education and training, found a job in that field after graduation, and stayed within that field until retirement. However, as the economy has shifted from a production focus to a post-industrial information focus, “the entire workplace ecosystem has become more fluid, requiring individuals to move beyond the limitations of the traditional, single-track career mindset” (Chan et al., 2012, p. 84), to a multi-track mindset full of options and possibilities. This shift has given birth to and acceptance of the ideas of ‘second’ or ‘third’ careers, as people realize “career trajectories may never be truly fixed” (Geldhof, Malin, et al., 2014, p. 411). In many ways, this shift has also validated entrepreneurship as a valid career path alongside more traditional careers (Chan et al., 2012). Entrepreneurship is one way to regain a sense of control for one’s career and is a known means for innovation, job growth, and economic advancement (Butz, Hanson, Schultz, & Warzynski, 2018; Engle, Schlaegel, & Delanoe, 2011; Geldhof, Malin, et al., 2014; Kuratko, 2005; Ramsay et al., 2017)
The general applicability of the knowledge, skills, and abilities taught within a leadership major expands a student’s options for employment and/or additional education after graduation; i.e. there is no traditional career path for leadership majors. This lack of specialization fits well in today’s more fluid workplace (Chan et al., 2012) where employees may assume managerial and/or entrepreneurial duties along with their professional roles (Cho, Harrist, Steele, & Murn, 2015). Additionally, the variety provided by working for a small company, or being self-employed, is appealing to the generation now entering the workforce (Geldhof, Weiner, Agans, Mueller, & Lerner, 2014); therefore, it is important to understand interest in and intent towards entrepreneurial careers (Watchravesringkan et al., 2013).
Even though college students typically are at the beginning of their leadership development journey, and do not have extensive experience with either entrepreneurial or leadership endeavors, many “stand on the cusp of their first major career choice, . . . and given the importance of this initial decision in shaping future careers, identification of the forces driving graduate career intent is critical for understanding career progression as a whole,” (Ramsay et al., 2017, p. 390). Furthermore, one’s career trajectory is much more flexible while attending college than at other times in their lives (Geldhof, Malin, et al., 2014). Interest in leadership and entrepreneurship are two of the forces shaping future careers and both have economic importance. Thus, college students engaged in formal leadership education activities are an ideal population to study to understand formal leadership or entrepreneurial career aspirations.
While the growth of collegiate leadership programs has been documented, the focus of much of the research has been on knowledge acquisition rather than an individual’s development as a leader (Keating, Rosch, & Burgoon, 2014), or the path they choose to reach that development (Rosch, Collier, & Thompson, 2015). In efforts to fill this gap, researchers have begun to focus on the key personal antecedents needed for effective leader development to occur. Through this research, antecedent variables such as motivation to lead, leader self-efficacy, developmental capacity, learning focus, and cognitive ability have been noted as influencing if leader development occurs, and the depth of the development (Avolio & Hannah, 2008; Chan & Drasgow, 2001; Murphy & Johnson, 2011; Priest & Middleton, 2016). Likewise, previous research has shown that similar personal characteristics such as cognitive ability, personal traits, need for achievement, or not being risk adverse also influence intent toward entrepreneurship (e.g. Butz et al., 2018; de Pillis & Reardon, 2007; Geldhof et al., 2014; Geldhof, Malin, et al., 2014; Hisrich, Langan-Fox, & Grant, 2007; Rauch & Frese, 2007; Walter & Heinrichs, 2015).
This study is a response to the call for additional research in the area of the role of the individual learner as noted in Priority I of the Association of Leadership Educator’s NationalLeadership Education Research Agenda (Andenoro et al., 2013). In order to better understand the impact of leadership education as a developmental experience, it is vital for leadership educators to better understand how the role of individual differences impacts the individual learner and leadership education (Andenoro et al., 2013, p. 5). Moreover, as leader development, and to some extent entrepreneur development, are entirely individual endeavors influenced by a variety of variables including, but not limited to one’s individual differences, there is no single way or path to become an effective leader (Northouse, 2019) or entrepreneur (Schmitt-Rodermund, 2004). However, most researchers agree that enacting change is at the heart of leadership and entrepreneurship is also rooted in opportunities for change or improvement. Therefore, it makes sense to study leadership and entrepreneurship together as successful economic growth needs both (Ramsay et al., 2017).
While the years a student spends in college are traditionally a significant time of growth and development, the experience of college, in and of itself, does not have the same impact on every student. Thus, a student’s racial identity, gender, previous familial collegiate experience, and choice of curricular and co-curricular activities are all significant predictors of participation in collegiate leadership programming (Stephens & Rosch, 2015). As expected, researchers have found that students who choose to participate in formal leadership development and education programs have greater changes in leadership understanding, ability and skills, and commitment towards being a leader than students who did not participate in a formal leadership program (Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkhardt, 2001).
The focus and objective of most leadership education programs is preparing students for future leadership endeavors, or leader development, since the typical student enrolled in these programs does not currently serve in a professional or formal leadership capacity (Riggio et al., 2003). By encouraging engagement in formal and informal interactions, leadership educators can cultivate an environment conducive to students’ cognitive development towards leadership (Thompson, 2013).
Yet, if institutions of higher education are to develop the next generation of leaders, “teaching not only leadership theory but also strategies for development may help college students gain the intrapersonal skills necessary to plan, regulate, and evaluate their own growth as leaders over time” (Reichard & Walker, 2016, p. 21). Or in other words, leadership educators must generate developmental experiences where leaders can be created (Sternberg, 2011). Thus, as Cho et al. (2015) stated, “educators must do more than simply teach quality leadership-related course content: they must also address student enthusiasm, passion, and desire to lead—in other words, student motivation for leadership” (p. 32), if they are to stimulate student leadership development.
Addressing one’s passion for leadership is the initial step in cultivating leadership developmental readiness. Passion for leadership is needed, as effective leaders must have the drive and stamina to see their actions or vision to completion. As a result, Bronk and McLean (2016) found that those with a solid understanding of their passion for leadership were more likely to actively search for and engage in occasions to develop their own leadership capacity and competencies; such as finding a mentor, taking on challenging work assignments, or engaging in formal leadership developmental opportunities. For this reason, those who demonstrate a passion for leadership are better positioned to develop as leaders (Bronk & McLean, 2016). Nevertheless, just as one’s leadership competency can change depending on the situation, developmental readiness is also context-specific (Avolio, & Hannah, 2009; Cho et al., 2015; Hannah, Avolio, Luthans, & Harms, 2008; Murphy & Johnson, 2011; Waldman, Galvin, & Walumbwa, 2012).
Similarly, examining one’s motivation or intent toward entrepreneurship is the first step in understanding one’s readiness or preparation to engage in entrepreneurial activities. Intentions, or the focused attention and planning, toward an activity or behavior are connected to the engagement in that behavior (Butz et al., 2018; Gibson, Harris, Mick, & Burkhalter, 2011). Because intent leads to action, it is reasonable to presume that “career intentions should strongly predict career-related behaviors” (Ramsay et al., 2017, p. 392). Engle et al. (2011) stated that the stronger belief one has that they can accomplish a desirable goal, the more likely they are to achieve it. College students tend not to have a lot of full-time employment experience, thus their “intentions are intrinsically linked to expectations regarding the nature of the different careers and their associated costs and benefits” (Ramsay et al., 2017, p. 392). Failure is a real cost in entrepreneurial activities, and thereby may influence one’s desire or intent to pursue an entrepreneurial career (Gonul & Litzky, 2018).
Current college students, the generation we call millennials or Generation Y, are the most entrepreneurial minded generation to date (Martin, 2005). Many college students, report an interest in owning their own business, and that interest increases in those who engage in post-secondary education (Gibson et al., 2011). But it is important to note that entrepreneurship also includes working for a small business or working within a family business, as well as starting your own business. As Chan et al (2012) noted, entrepreneurship and leadership, while sometimes correlated, are independent endeavors so we should be finding ways to educate and train students on more than one dimension.
Understanding self-efficacy is central to the discussion of motivation and intent towards leadership or entrepreneurship, because most motivation is cognitively generated, in that one must think something through in their mind first before they become motivated to achieve it (Bandura, 1993). Motivation then influences the goals one sets for themselves, how much effort they expend, how long they persevere in the face of difficulties, and their resilience to failures (Bandura, 1993). Moreover, motivation to lead or motivation toward entrepreneurship may influence a student’s desire to engage in formal leadership education or development, as well as the intensity of effort and persistence shown throughout the leadership course or training (Cho et al., 2015). High self-efficacy is a powerful predictor of leadership behavior (Rosch et al., 2015) as well as entrepreneurial activity (Geldhof, Malin, et al., 2014). As Bandura (1993) noted, when one has high self-efficacy “the more career options they consider possible, the greater the interest they show in them, the better they prepare themselves educationally for different occupations, and the greater their staying power and success in difficult occupational pursuits” (p135).
The challenge is that students enter college with varying degrees of motivation to lead and motivation towards entrepreneurship. Yet, research has shown that academic leadership coursework can have an impact on a student’s motivation to lead (Waldman et al., 2012), as well as their motivation towards entrepreneurship (Florin, Karri, & Rossiter, 2007). Consequently, there is a need to vary leadership interventions to meet the needs of students from various backgrounds, and motivation levels before focusing on specific skill development, in order to provide more individualized and relevant instruction, as one-size-fits-all programs only result in gains for some in the class/program/etc. (Keating et al., 2014). Additionally, leadership interventions “grounded in strong leadership theory” and requiring a longer time-span to complete, are more likely to be successful (Reichard & Walker, 2016, p. 15).
An increasing body of research shows that gender influences one’s perception and definition of leadership (Fischer, Overland, & Adams, 2010; Haber, 2012; Ho & Odom, 2015; Wielkiewicz, Fischer, Stelzner, Overland, & Sinner, 2012), especially in societies where gender expectations regarding leadership or entrepreneurship differ for men and women (Murphy & Johnson, 2011). But research also shows that gender does not make a difference in reported increases in leadership skills and capabilities (Cress et al., 2001), nor does it serve as a prediction of who will step-up to lead (Rosch et al., 2015).
Variables such as gender and age also have an effect on career path selection. Gender influences career intent generally (Ramsay et al., 2017) and intent toward and engagement in entrepreneurial activities specifically, with males having a higher entrepreneurial intent than women (Engle et al., 2011; Tomkiewicz, Bass, & Robinson, 2012). In addition, gender influences self-efficacy and self-efficacy influences entrepreneurial career choices (McCormick, Tanguam, & Lopez-Forment, 2002). Accordingly, research shows that women do not choose entrepreneurial activities as often as men (Ramsay et al., 2017), or those with higher self-efficacy scores.
Emerging research also shows that age may play a part in one’s intent towards entrepreneurship. The current generation of young adults, those aged 18 to 24, do not view the world of work the same as other generations (Cogin, 2012; Schakett, Schertzer, & Kleine, 2015). Rather than spending their 20s focused on building their career to the exclusion of other aspects of their lives, this generation desires a more balanced approach to work and life outside the office. This desire for increased life-work balance is not necessarily compatible with entrepreneurial activities at the beginning of their careers (Gonul & Litzky. 2018). Additionally, young adults today want flexibility in their work and seek a ‘portable career,’ as they realize they will not work for the same organization throughout their working years (Cogin, 2012). Thus, entrepreneurship “adds to the power to choose what to do, with whom who do it, hours of work, amount of income, [and] making decisions that carry weight; in short all the things that come with being the boss.” (Tomkiewicz et al., 2012, p. 915).
A student’s motivation and intent to lead, along with their motivation and intent toward entrepreneurship, may serve as a predictor of who will accept the responsibility of leadership in the future. Murphy and Johnson (2011) found that without a desire to lead, without the motivation to assume the role of leader, it was unlikely that anyone in the organization would agree to shoulder the responsibility to lead the organization. But, being motivated to lead is not enough. Cho, et al. (2015) found that motivation also impacts a student’s resolution, or intent, to take on leadership responsibilities. Thus, understanding a student’s motivation and intent to lead may be an important part of understanding how to develop those who will accept leadership roles in the future (Waldman et al., 2012). Ramsay et al. (2017) also found that entrepreneurial intent predicts a leadership career path, meaning that high entrepreneurial intent predicts a choice of a career path where leadership activities are prominent.
In times of economic downturns, such as the recent Great Recession, individuals are forced to reexamine their career paths and potentially create new ones (Tomkiewicz et al., 2012). This reexamination may lead to individuals being underemployed, or over educated for jobs they can get, as they wait for the economy to improve to continue their job search. For some, this forced reexamination can be discouraging or demoralizing, but for others who are interested in entrepreneurial activities, it can provide the spark needed to take that risk and start their own business (Greenburg, 2011; Tomkiewicz et al., 2012).
The Entrepreneurship, Professionalism, and Leadership (EPL) framework was used in this study. The EPL framework was developed by Chan et al. (2012), as a person-centered framework for subjective careers in a boundaryless work context. It is a whole personal and life-course longitudinal approach to the science and practice of career development. For college students, the EPL can be used as a way to categorize employment options or opportunities (Ramsay et al., 2017). A central tenant of this framework is that entrepreneurship, professionalism, and leadership are not mutually exclusive work types of categorizations (Chan et al., 2012; Ramsay et al., 2017).
When discussing future employment, it is important to note the distinction between selecting a vocation or occupation, and the shaping of a career over a life time. Typically, selecting a vocation or occupation occurs as one selects their college major or chooses a vocational training program, whereas careers unfold as a combination of opportunities, abilities, personal aspirations, and employment roles or experiences over time (Chan et al., 2012; Ramsay et al., 2017). Also, the shift to a knowledge-based economy enables individuals to view their careers in more boundaryless ways, i.e. careers can move within and between the traditional work-role domains of leadership/management, professional, and entrepreneurial (Chan, Uy, Chernyshenko, Ho, & Sam, 2015).
As one purpose of higher education is the development of knowledge and skills that lead to specific professions or vocations, clear frameworks for understanding vocational interest exist. Yet, “there is no well-accepted framework for representing the subjective space in which careers unfold over time” (Chan et al., 2012, p. 74); there is no framework to guide an individual’s movement through this new boundaryless environment. Subsequently, Chan et al. (2012) proposed a framework where leadership, professionalism, and entrepreneurship are no longer separate or mutually exclusive work types or categorizations, but rather represent the three independent dimensions or vertices upon which any career can be plotted in a three-dimensional model. Thus, this model exposes the complexities of the current work environment and sees “individuals as having motivations and capacities across multiple career/work-role domains (e.g. I want to be a professional-leader or entrepreneurial professional or entrepreneurial leader) rather than limiting them to one particular career track” (Chan et al., 2015, p. 162).
One way to determine if an individual has a single-track or multi-track career mindset is to measure their motivation for and intent towards entrepreneurship; where entrepreneurship is the “identification, evaluation, and exploration of opportunities” (Obschonka & Silberseisen, 2012, p. 107). As entrepreneurs are found in every discipline and there is not a single career path towards entrepreneurship (Schmitt-Rodermund, 2004), it would be expected that those with the more fluid multi-track mindset would be inclined to have higher entrepreneurship scores. Furthermore, effective leadership skills are exhibited by successful entrepreneurs (Mayhew, Simonoff, Baumol, Wiesenfeld, & Klein, 2012; Watchravesringkan et al., 2013). Therefore, utilizing this framework enables researchers to categorize students’ career aspirations, or career mindsets, towards leadership and entrepreneurship regardless of specific academic major or program.
Purpose and Objectives
The goal of this study was to describe the motivation and intent toward leadership and entrepreneurship of undergraduate students enrolled in academic leadership major or minor degree programs. In efforts to examine how progression through an academic leadership program influences students’, a variety of courses, both core and elective to the program, were included in this study. As an academic leadership program, it is reasonable to examine the motivation and intent toward leadership of our students post-graduation. Motivation and intent toward entrepreneurship were included to examine if our students were considering entrepreneurial activities post-graduation. Table 1 illustrates the courses selected to participate in this study.
As research on the career aspirations of college students enrolled in academic leadership courses is still emerging, this study provided an opportunity to add to the body of knowledge. By focusing on college students actively enrolled in academic leadership courses, this study examined students who have an identified interest in the study of leadership as well as the development of their individual leadership competency and capacity. Specifically, this study addressed the following objectives:
Describe the motivation and intent to lead, and the motivation and intent toward entrepreneurship of undergraduate students enrolled in an academic leadership major or minor.
Determine the relationship between motivation and intent to lead and motivation and intent toward entrepreneurship, in terms of the student characteristics of gender and number of leadership courses completed.
Population and Sample. The approach of this slice-in-time study was survey research, as the purpose of the study was to describe the motivation and intent towards leadership and entrepreneurship of a large group of people (Fraenkel, Wallen, & Huyn, 2012). The population for this study was undergraduate students currently enrolled in face-to-face leadership courses at a large land-grant institution in the southern United States. Five core courses and one elective course in leadership with a total enrollment of 411 students were selected to participate in this study. After excluding the students who were concurrently enrolled in courses selected for the sample, the accessible population for this study was 343 students (N=343). The final sample size of 143 students (n=143), represents a response rate of 42%. The survey was administered by researchers other than the course instructors to control for social desirability bias (Nederhof, 1985). Participation in the study was voluntary and anonymous.
Measures and Variables. The instrument used was an electronic version of the Entrepreneurship Professional Leadership (ELP) Career Aspiration Survey (Chan et al., 2012), with twelve additional demographic questions added. The EPL Career Aspiration Survey is a 57-item instrument used to examine motivation, intent, and self-efficacy along three scales: leadership, professional status, and entrepreneurship. As the sample population was undergraduate students who were interested in leadership enough to enroll in formal leadership courses, focusing the study on the leadership and entrepreneurial scales, specifically motivation and intent towards either, seemed most relevant and contributed to ease of data analysis.
The survey section dedicated to motivation consisted of 18 items, nine each for leadership and entrepreneurial endeavors. The survey section dedicated to intent entailed seven items, four and three questions for entrepreneurship and leadership, respectively. All of these items were measured on a five-point summated scale: 1(Strongly Disagree), 2(Disagree), 3(Neither Disagree nor Agree), 4(Agree), and 5(Strongly Agree). Construct validity has been established for the instrument, with the internal reliability of the motivation to lead and intent to lead scales at 0.72 and 0.74 in turn, and the internal reliability of motivation and intent toward entrepreneurship at 0.82 and 0.78, respectively (Chan et al., 2012).
Thresholds were used to describe students’ responses for each construct. A neutral threshold was determined as a score of 3(Neither Agree or Disagree) for each question in that dedicated section. Similarly, a supportive threshold was determined as a score of 4(Agree) or greater for each question in the dedicated section. For intent to lead, the neutral threshold was a score of 9 and the supportive threshold was a score of 12. Thus, scores of 9 to 11.99 reflected a neutral mindset. Scores of 12 or greater reflected a supportive mindset, with the support for the construct increasing as the score increased. For motivation to lead, the thresholds were set at 27 (neutral) and 36 (supportive). So, scores of 27 to 35.99 reflected a neutral mindset and scores of 27 or greater indicated a supportive mindset, with the support increasing as the score increased.
A parallel process was used to describe students’ intent and motivation toward entrepreneurship. For intent, the neutral threshold was set at 12 and the supportive threshold was set at 16. Hence, scores of 12 to 15.99 reflected a neutral mindset and scores of 16 or greater reflected a supportive mindset. For motivation, the neutral threshold was set at 27 and the supportive threshold was set at 36. Accordingly, scores of 27 to 35.99 indicated a neutral mindset, while a score of 36 or greater indicated a supportive mindset.
Research has shown the usefulness of the EPL instrument to gauge Singaporean college students’ motivation and intent towards leadership, professional status, and entrepreneurship regardless of major. However, this instrument has not been administered to undergraduate college of agriculture students in the United States who are formally studying leadership. The twelve demographic questions were included for data analysis purposes. Incorporated in the demographic questions were those asking gender, number of leadership courses completed, and academic leadership program affiliation, i.e. agricultural [leadership major], [leadership major], or [leadership minor]. In terms of gender, 62 students (43.4%) identified as male and 79 students (55.2%) identified as female, with two (1.4%) not responding. With regards to academic program affiliation, 72 students (50.3%) identified as an agricultural [leadership major], 41 students (28.7%) identified as an [leadership major], and 16 students (11.2%) identified as a [leadership minor] with 14 students (9.8%) not affiliated with a formal leadership program.
For purposes of this study, progression through an academic leadership program was divided into two categories: one to two courses taken, and three or more courses taken. This variable serves as a proxy for year in college, as it is common for students at [institution] to enroll in leadership courses later in their collegiate career. Additionally, it is common for students new to either the [leadership major] or [minor] to take the first two core courses simultaneously. Thus, having taken one or two courses represents those ‘new’ to the academic leadership program, while having taken three or more courses represents those ‘experienced’ with the leadership program. The first category of one to two courses taken consisted of 78 students (54.5%). The second category consisted of 65 students (45.6%).
The two leadership majors and leadership minor are housed within a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, yet agriculture courses are only required for the agricultural-related leadership major and are not required for the university leadership major or leadership minor. All leadership courses used in this study were delivered in a traditional face-to-face format. However, four of the five courses are also delivered in an online format, so the students in this study could have taken some of their previous leadership courses online. The introductory department course is the only one delivered exclusively in a face-to-face format. Because of enrollment management, students can only take Introduction to Leadership as a general elective course. All other courses included in this study are part of the two leadership majors or leadership minor degree programs. The age of student respondents was not tracked for this study, but traditional and non-traditional aged students, including military veterans, were included in the study.
To address Objective 1, descriptive statistics were utilized to detail the intent and motivation towards leadership of undergraduate students enrolled in an academic leadership course. Descriptive statistics reveal characteristics of distinctive factors of groups who may be dissimilar (Agresti & Finlay, 2009). The descriptive data included percentages, frequencies, mean scores, and standard deviations. Table 2 lists descriptive statistics for each of the three questions tied to the intent to lead scale, ordered from highest to lowest question mean score. Over 70 percent of all students responded in support of, either agree or strongly agree, to every question on this scale. The mean question score for these three questions ranged from 3.83 to 4.23. Overall, students who are enrolled in leadership courses have supportive views of both motivation and intent to lead, with a more supportive view of their intent to lead, as the grand mean score was higher for intent to lead than motivation to lead, 3.75 and 4.01, respectively.
The nine questions connected to the motivation to lead scale are detailed in Table 3, and are ordered in a similar manner as Table 2. A majority of students indicated support for eight of the nine questions. The residual question had a majority of students indicate lack of support, with 43% of students scoring just below neutrality. The mean question score for the eight questions to which students responded favorably ranged from 3.45 to 4.19, out of a 5-point scale.
The four questions connected to the intent towards entrepreneurship scale are detailed in Table 4, and are ordered similarly to Table 2. Only one of the four questions had a majority of students with a slightly positive opinion, (68.31% either agree or neutral). The majority of students responded with a less favorable opinion for the three remaining questions. The mean question score for these three questions ranged from 2.65 to 2.96. Overall, students who were enrolled in a leadership course had a slightly more positive view of their motivation towards entrepreneurship than their intent towards entrepreneurship, as the grand mean score was higher for motivation than intent, 3.06 and 2.83, in turn.
The nine questions tied to motivation towards entrepreneurship are detailed in Table 5, and the table is ordered similarly to Table 2. A majority of students did not agree with any of the statements tied to this scale as indicated by the fact that the item with the highest mean had a mean score of 3.49 (SD=0.97). However, a majority of students did not disagree with a statement either, as indicated by the fact that the item with the lowest mean had a mean score of 2.56 (SD=1.03). The mean question score for the five questions to which students responded favorably ranged from 3.12 to 3.49, out of a 5-point scale.
To address Objective 2, the data was compared along the student characteristics of gender and progression through an academic leadership program (Tables 6 and 7). As Table 6 shows, the sample was fairly evenly split between male and female participants in this study, with female students constituting the majority at 55.2 percent (n=79), and male students at 43.4 percent (n=62).
Table 6 details descriptive statistics for both the motivation and intent to lead scales based on the personal characteristics of gender and progression through an agricultural leadership program. The range for the motivation to lead scale was 21 to 45, with an overall mean score of 33.77, which is only slightly less than the supportive threshold of 36. The range for the intent to lead scale was 7 to 15, with an overall mean score of 12.00 – equal to the supportive threshold. Furthermore, a majority of students reported being relatively new to leadership courses as 78 students (54.5%) had only completed one or two leadership courses, including the one in which they were currently enrolled at the time of the study.
Differences between characteristic groups were examined using two-tailed independent t-tests (Field, 2009). With respect to gender and motivation to lead, the differences in mean scores were found to be not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level (t=0.879, p=0.381). Similar results were found for differences in mean scores with respect to intent towards leadership and gender (t=1.584, p=0.115). Additionally, the differences in mean scores for both motivation and intent towards leadership when compared on the characteristic of progress through the program, i.e. number of leadership courses taken, were also found not to be statistically significant at the 95% confidence level (motivation: t=-1.193, p=0.235; intent: t=0.855, p=0.394).
Table 7 details descriptive statistics for both the motivation and intent towards entrepreneurship scales based on the personal characteristics of gender and progression through a leadership program. The range for the motivation towards entrepreneurship scale was 11 to 45, with an overall average score of 27.54, which is only slightly more than the neutral threshold of 27. The range for the intent towards entrepreneurship scale was less, 4 to 20, with an overall average score of 11.31, which is slightly below the neutral threshold of 12.0.
Likewise, differences between motivation and intent towards entrepreneurship and the characteristics of gender and progress through the program were determined using two-tailed independent t-tests (Field, 2009). For motivation towards entrepreneurship, the t-test yielded no significant difference between the mean scores for male and female students at the 95% confidence level (t=1.539, p=0.126). Similar results were found for gender and intent towards entrepreneurship (t=0.896, p=0.372), also at the 95% confidence level. Additionally, the differences in mean scores for both motivation and intent towards entrepreneurship when compared on the characteristic of progress through the program were also found not to be statistically significant at the 95% confidence level (motivation: t=-0.496, p=0.621; intent: t=-0.714, p=0.476).
Conclusions and Recommendations
This study examined the motivation and intent towards leadership and entrepreneurship of students enrolled in an academic leadership program at a large southern institution. As can be expected from students who choose to enroll in leadership studies courses, the students in this study expressed a positive motivation and intent towards leadership. This finding supports previous research that those with positive motivation towards leadership are ready and willing to engage in the developmental process (Avolio & Hannah, 2008; Bronk & McLean, 2016; Chan & Drasgow, 2001). This study also supports the work of Murphy and Johnson (2011) in that those with high motivation to lead also tend to be those with a high intent to lead.
When compared to motivation and intent toward leadership, students had more of a neutral stance regarding their motivation towards entrepreneurship and even had a negative opinion in terms of intent towards entrepreneurship. This finding does not support the work of Florin et al. (2007), when they found that academic coursework increases motivation and intent towards entrepreneurship; nor the work of Gibson et al. (2011) that engaging in post-secondary education increases and individual’s interest in entrepreneurial activities. While there may be some students in leadership studies programs who have a desire to own their own businesses or engage in other entrepreneurial activities, it seems most students are more interested in and intend to participate in leadership in other capacities after graduation. But this result may be evidence of support for Gonul and Litzky’s work (2018) that entrepreneurial activities immediately following graduation do not align with the desired work-life balance of today’s young adults.
The lack of a statistically significant difference between male and female students when discussing motivation and intent towards leadership is encouraging. While this finding does not support previous research that gender influences one’s conceptualization of leadership (Fischer et al., 2010; Haber, 2012; Ho & Odom, 2015; Wielkiewicz, et al., 2012), it does support other research that gender does not predict one’s intent to lead (Rosch et al., 2015). Although, this finding raises additional research questions. For example, are these findings an anomaly or does the post-millennial generation now entering college view leadership differently than previous generations? Also, are female students in academic leadership programs just as likely as male students in the same programs to have an intent and motivation to lead? In other words, is participation in an academic leadership program, at any level, a stronger indicator of motivation and intent to lead than gender? More research is needed to further investigate this finding in order to generalize this finding.
The lack of a statistically significant difference in intent toward leadership between students at the beginning and nearing the end of their program warrants further examination. Students ‘new’ to the academic leadership program had mean scores of only 0.22 above the supportive threshold in regards to intent to lead. Additionally, their mean scores for motivation to lead were below the supportive threshold. Could a marginally supportive mindset in terms of their intent to lead be an unintended outcome of the increased self-awareness we expect from our students? Could it be a greater awareness of the costs of leadership, and if so, what interventions can and should be incorporated in the classroom to help students reconcile the costs? What are the characteristics of students who remain in a leadership studies program, but are lower in motivation and intent to lead at the end than the beginning of the program? What interventions can and should be made in the classroom to help them become more motivated to lead and increase their intention to do so after graduation? Similarly, what interventions should be made for students whose motivation and intent towards leadership starts high so that they remain high throughout the entirety of the student’s academic program? More research is needed to understand how leadership education can not only teach students the leadership knowledge and skills needed for leadership engagement, but also address the affective and behavioral components of learning, which includes being motivated to be a leader and intending to engage in leadership endeavors.
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