Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Valerie Sessa

Committee Member

Jennifer Bragger

Committee Member

John Paul Wilson


In the last two decades, the leadership conceptualization literature, already shrouded in confusion, has broadened from the traditional, hierarchical view to encompass systemic views that characterize leadership as a process, leadership as a property of the system, and leadership as an outcome. This study seeks to clarify the leadership conceptualization construct by (1) separating it from the leadership construct into its own construct to juxtapose the components of the four theories; (2) proposing and examining an antecedent to leadership conceptualization, leadership experience; and (3) exploring the component structure of leadership conceptualization to see if the range of leadership beliefs are developmental or independent. Two hundred and eighty-seven college student leaders and non-leaders were surveyed in their conceptualization of leadership as a process, as a property of a system, and as an outcome. Responses were correlated at the scale level to determine overlap between measures and theories and categorized into groups corresponding to theory while independent t-tests were used to highlight differences in conceptualization between leaders and non-leaders. Results showed that leaders and leaders differ in their conceptualization of leadership at the systemic level. They also revealed weak but significant relationships between theoretical components and suggested that leadership conceptualization is comprised of an independent set of beliefs. Implications for cognition, adult development, and leadership research and application are discussed.

File Format


Included in

Psychology Commons