Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Curriculum and Instruction


This thesis report presents results of a qualitative study conducted at Iowa State University. The purposes of the study were to investigate college student perceptions of leadership, and to identify beliefs that empower some students to be involved in leadership opportunities as well as beliefs that constrain some students from being engaged in leadership. A review of the literature was conducted concerning paradigms of leadership, how students perceive leadership, and what attempts are made to develop leadership. Twenty-four student leaders (students holding leadership positions in student organizations) were interviewed through focus groups, and five disengaged students (students who did not currently hold, and have never held, positions of leadership in student organizations) were interviewed individually. The student leaders generally regarded leadership to be an individualistic phenomenon pertaining to positions of power and influence, which requires particular qualities and skills that individuals should possess.;While their beliefs were fairly similar to student leaders, the disengaged students indicated more beliefs that anyone can be a leader, and that leadership does not require a position or title. In addition, the student leaders revealed many empowering beliefs that have encouraged them to engage in leadership, whereas the disengaged students revealed several constraining beliefs that have limited their motivation to engage in leadership opportunities. The student leaders also indicated that they receive more encouragement and support from others, are given more opportunities, and have had a background that has fostered their desire to be leaders. The disengaged students demonstrated a lack of confidence, a lack of interest in leadership, a self-perceived deficiency in leadership qualities, and fewer opportunities to lead. A review of appropriate documents was conducted as well, in order to gain a better understanding of the institutional leadership beliefs of Iowa State University. Implications for higher education and recommendations for practice are discussed.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Johnathan Ernest Shertzer



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

110 pages