“There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” – Kurt Lewin, social psychology pioneer

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.  In practice, there is.” – Yogi Berra, colloquial pioneer

To help better understand the process of leadership learning and inform our theoretical research, members of our lab team have identified and interviewed a wide-ranging group of practitioners and researchers – to ask them about their experiences of how people develop as leader.  Their thoughts, and our analysis, is below.


Jason Emmert

Assistant Dean for Academic Programs, College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Interviewed by Sarah Wright

Jason Lee Emmert, Academic Programs, ANSCI, College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences, ACESjemmert@uiuc.eduM/C 632Urbana, IL 61801office_address: 115 ACES LibraryM/C 632Urbana, IL 61801title: INT ASST DEAN, ACAD PRGMPROF, Animal Sciencesdepartment: Agr Consumer & Env Sci Admn

Dean Emmert offered some great insights about the Illinois Leader Lab’s Model of Leadership. Specifically, he discussed each of the individual aspects of the model: confidence, motivation and self-efficacy. When asked about confidence and how it relates to leadership ability, Dean Emmert believed that it is built over time, noting that “each little success contributes to the next one” and helps an individual become more confident in themselves. Concerning the second part of the model, motivation to lead, Dean Emmert’s experience with students leads him to believe that motivation is most effective when it comes from within. However, he did note that some students seem to draw a lot of motivation from their peers. Finally, Dean Emmert suggested during the interview that self-efficacy was developed best by formal leadership training. He added that “Student Organization positions are great, however, taking advantage of formal leadership training on and off campus is equally as important.”

Our Analysis

Dean Emmert’s interview highlighted a common theme among the three portions of the Illinois Leader Lab’s model. Is it best to develop motivation to lead, skill and confidence in the classroom or through experience? According to Dean Emmert, the best way is through experience, whether it be formal training or actual leadership positions. This information could serve as a new direction for future leadership research. Do students develop leadership capacity more effectively in the classroom, or through real world experiences?