From both historical and contemporary perspectives, the education and development of future leaders has served as a core function of higher education (Astin & Astin, 2000; Burkhardt & Zimmerman-Oster, 1999; Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education [CAS], 1999; Zimmerman-Oster & Burkhardt, 1999). This is evidenced in institutional mission statements (Boatman, 1999; CAS) and the recent proliferation of both curricular and co-curricular programs targeting college student leadership development (Zimmerman-Oster, 2003). The creation of these programs is consistent with research linking collegiate involvement to developmental gains (Astin, 1993). Further, studies have linked leadership programs with a variety of specific developmental outcomes including civic responsibility, multicultural awareness, skill development, and personal and societal awareness (Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkhardt, 2001; Posner, 2004). These findings situate leadership development not only as central to the goals of higher education, but also as a powerful tool for influencing student learning. However, research has also challenged traditionally held assumptions regarding the transferability of leadership models across gender differences (Kezar & Moriarty, 2000).
Divergent Leadership Paradigms
Any examination of leadership must first be framed by the theoretical context that influences the understanding of leadership today. Despite the characterization of leadership as an easily recognized construct that is particularly difficult to comprehend (Burns, 1978), scholars have developed an array of theories to describe the phenomena, and a clear evolution of thought has led to the identification of two distinct paradigms framed by Rost (1993) as industrial and post-industrial. Most of the twentieth century has been governed by the industrial understanding of leadership, which focused primarily on the individual as leader, promoting command and control models, power and authority, rational and analytical thinking, and strong managerial influences (Rogers, 2003; Rost). This focus shaped the body of leadership research generated during this time period. Significant emphasis was placed on determining task versus interpersonal orientations and/ or autocratic versus democratic leadership styles (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003).
The emerging paradigm of leadership sharply contrasts with its industrial counterpart and is grounded in human relations and characterized by shared goals (Allen & [End Page 217] Cherrey, 2000; Higher Education Research Institute [HERI], 1996; Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998; Rost, 1993). This post-industrial perspective is process-oriented, transformative, value-centered, non-coercive, and collaborative (Rogers, 2003; Rost). Much of the emerging research that explores this paradigm has focused on transformative (i.e., leadership focused on a shared, motivational partnership between leaders and followers) versus transactional (i.e., leadership focused on the exchange that occurs between leaders and followers) styles and determinants of leadership effectiveness (Eagly et al., 2003; Northhouse, 2001).
Research on Leadership Styles of Men and Women
Along with changing understandings of leadership, the emergence of the post-industrial paradigm contributed substantially to expanding accessibility of leadership to a variety of populations. Specifically, women benefited from a new conceptualization that incorporated stereotypically "feminine" skills and behaviors consistent with female gender roles (Eagly & Carli, 2003; Helgesen, 1990; Komives, 1994). These skills emphasized relationship-building, process-orientation, connectedness, and ethics of care and concern and transformed leaders into facilitators that perform more like coaches and teachers (Eagly & Carli; Helgesen). Further research established a consistency between women's perceptions of leadership and the values asserted by the post-industrial paradigm (Boatwright & Egidio, 2003; Kezar, 2000). This inevitably led to the question of whether or not sex differences influence post-industrial leadership styles and ultimately provide a leadership advantage to women (Eagly & Carli; Helgesen). The question bears significant merit as: (a) leadership behavior is often a major predictor of effectiveness (Eagly et al., 2003), (b) results could potentially help to refute stereotypical beliefs regarding women's abilities to lead (Eagly, 1990; Eagly & Carli), and (c) research may serve as a source of empowerment for women (Eagly).
Although there has been a general consensus regarding the benefits of studying sex differences, the results of numerous studies conducted over the past 40 years often are contradictory. The plethora of research does, however, allow for the use of meta-analysis to examine overall trends in data (Northhouse, 2001). In their early meta-analysis of more than 160 studies of...