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Journal of College Student Development 47.3 (2006) 335-343

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Involvement and Leadership:

A Descriptive Analysis of Socially Responsible Leadership

The development of students as leaders remains a central goal for institutions of higher education as evidenced by mission statements and the increased presence of leadership development programs on college campuses (Astin & Astin, 2000; Boatman, 1999; Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 1999; McIntire, 1989; Zimmerman-Oster & Burkhardt, 1999). Additionally, research indicates that college students can and do increase their leadership skills during the college years (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005), and that this increase can be attributed in part to collegiate involvement (Astin, 1993). These findings complement the growing number of leadership models that specifically target college students, including the relational leadership model (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998), the social change model (Higher Education Research Institute [HERI], 1996), the leadership challenge/Student Leadership Practices Inventory (Posner, 2004; Posner & Brodsky, 1992), and the leadership identity development model (Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, & Osteen, 2004; Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, & Osteen, 2005). In most cases, however, a gap exists between research on college student leadership and the models used in practice. Researchers' use of general measures of leadership development rather than those tied to existing models has contributed to a scarcity of empirical studies grounded in the theory that informs leadership practice. The purpose of this study is to examine leadership development as well as the role of involvement in leadership learning using the social change model.

The Social Change Model of Leadership Development

The social change model of leadership development (HERI, 1996) was created specifically for college students and is consistent with the emerging leadership paradigm. This perspective, also referred to as the postindustrial paradigm, suggests that leadership is a relational, transformative, process-oriented, learned, and change-directed phenomenon (Rogers, 2003; Rost, 1993). Similarly, the central principles associated with the social change model involve social responsibility and change for the common good (HERI). These are achieved through the development of eight core values targeted at enhancing students' level of self-awareness and ability to work with others (HERI). The values include consciousness of self, congruence, commitment, common purpose, collaboration, controversy with civility, and citizenship. These values function at the individual (i.e., consciousness of self, congruence commitment), group (i.e., common purpose, collaboration, and controversy with civility), and societal (i.e., [End Page 335] citizenship) levels. The dynamic interaction across levels and between values contributes to social change for the common good, the eighth critical value associated with this model (HERI). The social change model was selected as a conceptual frame for analysis because of its broad applicability and identification as one of the most well-known student leadership models (Moriarty & Kezar, 2000).

Research on Student Involvement and Leadership

In the early 1990s Astin (1993) successfully linked leadership development to involvement, defined as the investment of psychosocial and physical energy in the collegiate environment. Additional studies have explored the influence of particular types of involvement (e.g., community service, positional roles, organizational membership, and participation in formal programs) on various measures of leadership. This approach is supported by Kezar and Moriarty's (2000) finding that type of involvement has differential influences on development based on student background. Specifically, they found that involvement in positional leadership roles (i.e., election to a particular office) was the strongest extracurricular predictor of leadership ability for White men, and significant for African American women as well (Kezar & Moriarty; Moriarty & Kezar, 2000). Conversely, nonpositional leadership experiences were significant predictors for White women and African American men (Kezar & Moriarty; Moriarty & Kezar). Volunteering was the only significant predictor for African American men, whereas White women benefited most from active membership in student organizations (Kezar & Moriarty; Moriarty & Kezar). Another study examining the influence of community service on three measures of leadership development found a significant positive relationship across populations (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, & Yee, 2000). Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, and Burkhardt (2001) examined involvement in a formalized leadership program. They found participants demonstrated significant growth across leadership skills and several leadership-related measures including...