Many people believe that: a) leadership cannot be learned – that people either “have it” or they do not; and b) that whether someone “has it” or not, measuring the level or degree of his or her abilities is next to impossible.  The Illinois Leader Lab is focused on these two areas, by mapping out the pathways of leadership development that are common as well as more individual to specialized populations, and by rigorously assessing the methodology of leadership evaluation.

The Lab has created research partnerships with a variety of leadership education centers, both within the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and on college and high school campuses around the country, to investigate these issues.

Specific research questions that we are engaged in include:

  1. To what extent is there a common pathway of leadership development from youth through emerging adulthood?
    • What differences exist across specialized populations?
    • How important is prior background and training relevant to current advances in capacity development?
  2. What is the relationship between levels of leadership skill, motivation, and confidence in developing broad-based competence in practicing leadership?
    • To what extent does a person need to be “ready” to develop as a leader before skill-based training sessions are maximally effective?
      • How can leadership educators support youth in their development of leadership readiness?
    • Does a “periodic table” exist of leadership experiences or competencies necessary for effectiveness in contemporary society?
  3. As youth and emerging adults participate in leadership development initiatives, what are the best and most accurate ways to assess their growth and development?
    • How accurate are traditional methods of self-report measures?
    • What can we learn through rigorous qualitative and mixed measures?