Our Mission


LeaderShape Pic (Balloons)The Illinois Leadership Laboratory focuses on how high school and college students develop the capacity for effective leadership in contemporary organizations.  More specifically, we examine the environmental factors that exist that promote leadership capacity-building in students – through pedagogy applied within a classroom environment and through the systems of co-curricular involvement available there.  Said another way, do leadership opportunities (formal courses, retreats, workshops, conferences, student organizations, etc.) help students develop their capacity to lead, and if so how?



Our Theoretical Model


We conduct this research examining three aspects critical to a student’s effective leadership practice:

  1. Skill – Leadership-related competence in enacting effective behaviors and knowledge.  More specifically, can students create and sustain positive working relationships with others, lead in authentic and ethical ways, and create systems of organization for goal achievement?  Utilizing  Transformational Leadership Theory (Bass & Riggio, 2005), we are interested in assessing both transformational and transactional leadership competence.
  2. Confidence – Leadership self-efficacy.  Do students feel like their efforts will be successful?  We have adapted a model of leadership self-efficacy originally developed by Murphy (1992).
  3. Motivation to Lead – Potential energy for leading others.  Do students feel “called” to lead their peers?  Do they feel like their efforts would be worth it and valued?  We have adapted a model of leadership motivation from Chan & Drasgow (2001) that specifies a leader’s “affective-identity” motivation (“Do I naturally see myself as a leader?), “social-normative” motivation (“Do I feel others expect me to lead?”, and “non-calculative” motivation (“Should I lead even if I gain little personally?”).

Our lab has build a model of a “three-legged stool” of effective leadership practice and capacity.  Without each of these three aspects of leadership capacity, emerging leaders may struggle to act in effective ways.  Without skill, they would lack precision in their actions.  Without self-efficacy and motivation, they may withhold their effort and the assertiveness required for action.  Moreover, each reinforce effectiveness within the others.


“Three-Legged Stool” Model of Leadership


Our recent research suggests that students with varying levels of each are affected differently by broad-based leadership initiatives .  We are currently working on several projects designed to inform our thinking on the following questions:

  • How does the length of student contact time in the educational environment affect longitudinal capacity building?
  • Do multiple educational opportunities spread out over time affect students differently from a single, longer immersion experience?
  • What is the effect of American-style leadership opportunities on international students, who might presumably have different ideas about what leadership is and how to practice it?
  • What is the role of facilitators of educational programs and mentors in unlocking student leadership development?


Programs & Involvement

We are engaged in a variety of educational environments, collecting and analyzing data to respond to the questions above, including:

  • The Illinois Leadership Center, which coordinates several “i-programs” each academic year for over 1,000 University of Illinois students
  • Leadership courses offered through the Agricultural Education Program and Minor in Leadership Studies at the University of Illinois
  • The iFoundry program in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois
  • LeaderShape, Inc., which coordinates several six-day immersion leadership programs (“LeaderShape Institutes”) for college students across the United States
  • The Illinois State Association of the FFA, one of the largest high school organizations in the world, dedicated to teaching high school students the skills necessary to feed our growing population.

For more information on our involvement with other programs, please see our Partnerships page.

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