Cultivation of Leadership in Higher Education Students

Cultivation of Leadership in Higher Education Students

Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch009
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In the midst of great and rapid change, it is no longer sufficient to equip higher education students with discipline knowledge and skills. Instead, it is imperative that graduates not only cope with change, but they should also drive and incite change. Given leadership is about dealing with change, it is argued that each and every student should develop leadership capabilities throughout the course of their tertiary studies since, during their careers, they will be required to engage in leadership activity, regardless of the ‘rung' they occupy within an organization. Although approaches to leadership development such as specific programs of study or extra-curricular activities have been shown to be useful, leadership can, and should also be cultivated as an integral part of students' studies in whatever discipline is being pursued. If instructors adopt a social constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning, then conditions become favourable for the cultivation of leadership within the classroom in such a way that is integrated with learning and discipline knowledge. The conditions include teacher as leader, role model and mentor, and emphasis on reflection and on metacognitive activity.
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Cliché as it is to begin by stating that we are living in times of change, it is an undeniable truth. Gregory LeStage, president of the International Center for leaders and executive vice president of Kotter International observes: “Change has become the universal business context, the sea in which we all sink or swim” (LeStage, 2014, para. 5). Change is pervasive and rapid and it is likely that this will be the case for the foreseeable future (LeStage, 2014). It is therefore no longer enough to equip graduates with knowledge. To be successful in their future careers and in order to be enable them to make a positive contribution to society, graduates require the skills to both cope with, and drive change regardless of what position or level they will occupy within organizations. That is, graduates must emerge from their studies with the capability to engage in leadership activities.

Leadership as a desirable quality of graduates is certainly not a new direction in higher education. Leadership education for graduates has been implemented in many institutions in one form or another (Borgese, Deutsch, & Winkler, 2004). Whether or not leadership should be included as part of the higher education study experience is clearly not in question. Leadership development is a sought after and frequently mentioned outcome for higher education (Allen, Shankman, & Miguel, 2012; Shertzer & Shuh, 2004). An examination of strategic documents of universities further evidences that leadership as a highly desirable educational goal of higher education, for example:

To extend knowledge through innovative educational programs in which students and emerging scholars are mentored to realize their highest potential and assume roles of leadership, responsibility, and service to society (Washington State university.)

Given the environment of pervasive and rapid change, leadership as a graduate attribute is now not simply desirable, but a necessity. The central aim of the present chapter is to contribute to literature informing the development of leadership in graduates. In order to accomplish this aim, it is necessary to first to consider literature and articulate what effective leaders do. It is then established that leadership should be cultivated rather than taught, and cultivation of leadership ought to be embedded within the curriculum of programs rather than addressed as a distinct and separate activity. The key outcome of the discussion in the present chapter are guidelines for building leadership capacity in graduates.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Constructivism: Social constructivism based on the work of theorists such as Vygotsky, centres on the personal construction of knowledge through social interaction.

Leadership: Leadership is about dealing with change and producing change. This is achieved through three core activities: 1) Establishing a direction (vision), 2) Aligning people (communicating goals, seeking commitment, building teams and coalitions), and 3) Motivating and inspiring (energizing, empowering others, satisfying unmet needs) ( Kotter, 1990 ).

Metacognition: An individual’s awareness and knowledge of their own cognitive processes. A capacity for metacognition enables individuals to exert control over their own learning. May be considered to have two components: knowledge and regulation.

Zone of Proximal Development: A key concept found in social constructivism and is defined as “The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” ( Vygotsky, 1978 , p. 86).

Metacognitive Knowledge: Refers to knowledge of skills and strategies that an individual may employ in solving a problem.

Metacognitive Regulation: The ability to monitor processes of problem solving and include planning, monitoring, comprehension, and evaluation.

Critical Reflection: Although there is a lack of consensus on the meaning, it is used in the present chapter to refer to the process of becoming aware of and critically considering beliefs and values.

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