Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Making the Case: Part I: Longitudinal Research

Here at LeaderShape, we are often in conversations with individuals interested in bringing The LeaderShape Institute to their campus or organization. People are supportive. They are on board. But you need evidence and data to help make the case to your colleagues.

“In many ways, experiential education validates what we as educators are trying to do for our students. We claim we are teaching leadership. But until we get longitudinal data spanning the careers of leadership students, what measure do we have of our success?” (p. 81) - Swatez, M. J. (1995). Preparing leadership students to lead. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 2(2), 73-82.

This is the first installment (of several) that showcases research conducted on LeaderShape by third party researchers.

First up, Dr. Dan Stoker successfully defended his dissertation on the long-term effects of The LeaderShape Institute by studying the impact of LeaderShape - five years or later - on 207 national session graduates responses.

The following are direct quotes from his research and dissertation:


“The quantitative questions resulted in strong responses, with 17 of the 21 scaled questions with over 90% positive results. The data show that LeaderShape continues to be a meaningful experience for the respondents and they continue to identify abilities and behaviors consistent with the LeaderShape outcomes. The qualitative results demonstrated strong social connections facilitated by the environment and atmosphere, personal effects regarding values and leadership style, and continuing memory of specific curricular components most often due to emotional or personal affect.

Based upon the data, LeaderShape could be characterized as an emotionally charged, positive growth experience that develops a lasting effect on program graduates by developing strong connections, enhancing personal values, and developing a commitment for leaders to influence positive change. The research demonstrates that program graduates identify, apply, and retain curricular components that enhance their personal development years after attendance with an adequate amount of time for discussion, reflection, and social interaction at the experience.” (p. iii-iv)

"Over 95% of respondents stated that LeaderShape was one of the meaningful experiences identified, with 4.8% responding that it was not one of the experiences. While this research was not specifically designed to statistically examine this proportion of students who indicated that LeaderShape was one of their most meaningful experiences, it should be noted that this is a remarkable proportion of students who believe that their experiences at LeaderShape was of such great importance to them." (p. 52)

"Participants were asked to rate the significance of LeaderShape on their personal or professional lives...92.4% of respondents answering Very Significant, Significant, or Somewhat Significant...representing that respondents strongly identify LeaderShape as having a significant effect on their lives..." (p. 53)

"...respondents highly rate LeaderShape for having a significant effect on their personal development." (p. 54)

"...rate their LeaderShape experience in shaping or effecting their leadership styles...88.6% of respondents selecting Very Significant, Significant, or Somewhat Significant...respondents identify LeaderShape as significantly shaping their leadership styles..." (p. 54)

"...lean towards addressing conflict rather than avoiding it, which is a behavior that is expected from individuals with advanced leadership training." (p. 54)

"...have a deep self-awareness of who they are and how others see them...89.2%, either Strongly Agreed or Agreed with the statement." (p. 55)

"...respondents view the role of a leader to include developing inclusive relationships." (p. 55)

"...participants sought out relationships, either personally or professionally, with people different from them...81.7% of respondents chose either Strongly Agree or Agree..." (p. 56)

"...if they act consistently with their core ethical and personal values...98.6% of respondents selected either Strongly Agree or Agree, with no responses on the negative end of the scale." (p. 56)

"...if the participants recognize when their behavior is not in congruence with their values...96.7% of respondents selected either Strongly Agree or Agree with the statement, with only one individual selecting a negative response." (p. 56)

"Results indicate that respondents identify a strong confidence in their current abilities to identify with and act upon the seven LeaderShape outcomes." (p. 57)

"88% of respondents either Strongly Agreed or Agreed with the statement, 'I am committed to identifying my core ethical and personal values and then to act on them.' ...The results indicate that respondents continue to be committed to the LeaderShape outcome of identifying and acting on their values." (p. 57)

"99% of respondents either Strongly Agreed, Agreed, or Somewhat Agreed that they could identify when their behavior was not in congruence with their core ethical and personal values...indicating that respondents report an ability to identify when their behaviors are incongruent with their values." (p. 57)

"'develop relationships where the dignity and contributions of all people are acknowledged and respected.' ...47.6% of respondents selected Strongly Agree and an additional 41.8% selected Agree...indicating that respondents report developing relationships based on respect and dignity." (p. 57)

"'able to create a vision for the greater good of a community, which includes a 'healthy disregard for the impossible' ' ...74.5% of respondents still Strongly Agreed or Agreed with the statement...The results indicate that respondents report an ability to create a vision as described at LeaderShape..." (p. 57-58)

"...rate their current ability to develop skills to successfully work in groups to accomplish a collective vision...99% identified that they Strongly Agreed, Agreed, or Somewhat Agreed...indicating that respondents continue to identify an ability to work in groups to achieve goals." (p. 58)

"...able to articulate action steps to implement a vision...99.5% of respondents Strongly Agreed, Agreed, or Somewhat Agreed that they could articulate the action steps for a vision...The results indicate that respondents identify an ability to break down the steps for a vision to be implemented." (p. 58)

"...rate their current ability to increase their capability to produce extraordinary results...94.7% of respondents selected Strongly Agree, Agree, or Somewhat Agree as their answer...The results indicate that respondents identify an ability to achieve results." (p. 58)

"...which word best described them as a leader, with 73.2% of respondents selecting 'Interdependent,' 25.8% selecting 'Independent,' and 1.0% selecting 'Dependent.' ... which word set best described the participants‘ views of leadership, resulting in 63.5% of respondents selecting 'Relationship motivated (concerned with leader-member relations),' 34.6% selecting 'Task oriented (focused on achieving a goal),' and 1.9% selecting 'Position power (based on title or authority).'" (p. 58-59)

"'In general, the LeaderShape Institute was a valuable experience in developing my capacity to lead.' ...84.4% of respondents either Strongly Agreed or Agreed that LeaderShape was a valuable leadership development experience, with very few individuals disagreeing...indicating that respondents continue to identify LeaderShape as a valuable experience." (p. 59)

"...felt confident and capable to lead with integrity as a result of their LeaderShape experiences...93.7% of respondents selected Strongly Agree, Agree, or Somewhat Agree that they feel more confident in their abilities to lead as a result of attending LeaderShape...indicating that respondents continue to relate at least some of their confidence and leadership abilities to their LeaderShape experiences." (p. 59)

"The data provide insight into the strong affiliation that program graduates have for LeaderShape. Respondents identified LeaderShape as an influence in their leadership styles or practices, evident by the positive responses in the data. LeaderShape remains a meaningful experience for the respondents and rates highly in comparison to other personal or professional experiences attended. Five survey questions, each with over 91% responses of Strongly Agree, Agree, or Somewhat Agree, describe the significant effect LeaderShape has had on participants‘ personal or professional lives. Based upon the data, respondents continue to have opinions or practices that are consistent with the leadership principles and intended outcomes of the program. Twelve questions were analyzed to determine the degree of consistency to the outcomes, with all questions rating over 74.5% Strongly Agree or Agree in self-confidence or ability. In addition to identifying leadership principles consistent with LeaderShape, the respondents strongly indicated congruent behavior between their values and their behaviors with three questions each over 96% Strongly Agree, Agree, or Somewhat Agree. With very few outliers, the data remain consistent in the positive responses in support of the LeaderShape experience and the program‘s principles and intended outcomes through the years after attendance." (p. 59-60)

"Based upon the data, LeaderShape could be characterized as an emotionally charged, positive growth experience that develops a lasting effect on program graduates by developing strong connections, enhancing personal values, and developing a commitment for leaders to influence positive change." (p. 78)

"The data present evidence that memories of the LeaderShape experience last for years after attendance for program graduates. Specifically, the relationships that were developed at the Institute strengthened the memory retention for participants because of the quality of interactions during the one-week sessions and for the lasting friendships that continue to exist post-attendance. During the Institute, both the physical environment and the atmosphere of trust allowed participants to open-up, share, and explore some personal and emotional information—each contributing to developing a strong emotional experience.

Somewhat surprisingly, respondents mentioned specific elements of the LeaderShape curriculum in their recollection of memories, demonstrating strong lasting effects on the program participants." (p. 78-79)

"...Due to the time since participation for the survey respondents, the specific naming of curriculum elements was unexpected. A general description of the exercise or the outcomes was anticipated, but the specific identification of the exercise, recalling how it was played and the emotions experienced, was not anticipated. The inclusion of these descriptions speaks to the powerful experience of the exercise to remain in participants‘ memories over the years.

Overall the memories that were recalled demonstrate the greatest influence on program graduates‘ self-awareness and personal approaches to life or work. Although the experience was labeled as fun and powerful, the data suggest a significant amount of values exploration and development occurred at LeaderShape that continues to influence current approaches to interacting with others and personal identity. Respondents demonstrated a commitment to leading with integrity through personal behavior as well as interactions with others. The leadership-related components of the program, such as vision and creating change, were mentioned, however, the values clarification element of LeaderShape seems to have the strongest lasting effect on program graduates." (p. 79)

"A strong majority of respondents, 95.2%, identified LeaderShape as a personally meaningful experience with very strong responses identifying LeaderShape as having an effect on their lives, on their personal development, and shaping their leadership styles. In addition the data indicate a very strong indication that LeaderShape was a valuable experience in developing leadership capacity and building confidence." (p. 80)

"Solely based upon the data though, program graduates strongly identify LeaderShape as an influence on their leadership styles and current practices." (p. 80)

"Overall respondents continued to identify either confidence or the ability to act with the intended program outcomes." (p. 80)

"Respondents indicated that they had utilized aspects of LeaderShape from doing so immediately following the experience at their undergraduate institutions to providing more recent examples of applications, with specific elements of the program identified. The strongest responses mentioned the vision element and values or integrity development components in both the qualitative and quantitative results. The importance of relationships and working with others who are different were also identified as outcomes that respondents continue to relate to; however the quantitative results are less strong, yet still remain over 80% on the positive end of Strongly Agree or Agree. This differentiation in the results may demonstrate a difference in being committed to the idea of diversity and the act of developing or seeking diverse relationships." (p. 80-81)

"Based upon the data, LeaderShape graduates are consistent in their opinions and practices with the stated outcomes of the program, although with greater differentiation in results depending on the outcome in question. Outcomes of a personal nature had strong results over 90% on the positive end, as opposed to questions of action of a specific nature that LeaderShape instructed, yielding results in the 74-88% range of positive-end response. Although considered strong, in comparison to the other data, these results stand out." (p. 81)

"The data present an understanding and definition of leadership that is consistent with LeaderShape‘s. The responses demonstrate that leadership is interactive, evidenced by most respondents identifying interdependent and relationship-motivated as descriptors which they personally identify with, which is consistent with LeaderShape‘s statement that 'effective leadership takes place in the context of a supportive community' and that 'leadership is not positional and does not require formal authority or personal charisma' (LeaderShape, 2002, General Information Section, p.1).

Each of the key words in LeaderShape‘s definition appeared as either main themes or sub-themes in the respondents‘ definitions of leadership, with the exception of action and possibility. The data demonstrate a strong emphasis on relationships, continuity with personal values, and leading or living with integrity in the definitions. Respondents also identified the need for a common purpose, most notably a vision focused on a greater good and change that was beneficial for the greater good. Although action is not specifically identified as a common theme in the data, one could extrapolate that movement toward a vision or common purpose is stated, so action is implied as opposed to inaction or idle behavior.

Most respondents defined leadership as an ability, which supports statements in the LeaderShape materials that state, 'Every person in the world has the capacity to effectively lead with integrity; and this capacity can be developed in all people who are committed to doing so' (LeaderShape, 2002, General Information Section, p.1). With ability, a person has the potential to develop the skills to become more effective and to continue to grow in that area. So, the respondents‘ use of leadership as ability supports the LeaderShape philosophy." (p. 82-83)

"With LeaderShape‘s emphasis on integrity, the research investigated any lasting effect this focus had on program participants by asking questions related to congruent behaviors between their values and their daily actions or activities. Results indicate an overwhelmingly strong response, with each question over 96% positive, in the respondents‘ abilities to self-assess and act with behaviors congruent with their values." (p. 83)

"Nonetheless, based upon the data, LeaderShape graduates believe they have and demonstrate integrity by aligning their daily actions with their personal values, acting consistently with their core values, and recognizing when their behaviors are incongruent." (p. 83)

"In order to act with integrity, an understanding of one‘s personal values is necessary combined with a commitment to regular action and reflection. Besides LeaderShape‘s emphasis on integrity, the values clarification outcome of LeaderShape is supported as a lasting effect of the program on participants." (p. 83)

"The data support long-term effects on program graduates as a result of attending LeaderShape, with social implications, personal effects, and influences on leadership practices. The positive environment created a strong emotional experience that allowed for personal exploration and learning to occur that was retained and utilized after attendance, at least for the respondents of this survey." (p. 83-84)

"Respondents clearly identified specific elements of the LeaderShape program, including details of the curriculum, that continued to resonate and affect current practices or behaviors. The program reached beyond the one-week session and provided learning opportunities to allow for practical applications in the participants‘ personal and professional lives. Although positive memories and connections to LeaderShape by participants were anticipated, the strong responses so many years after attendance demonstrated a bond with the program that was not expected." (p. 84)

"This study demonstrates that learning can occur within a program outside of a traditional higher education classroom setting, with positive memories of the experience enhancing the application of the material and intended outcomes years after attendance. Several factors that the LeaderShape experience included may be replicated with other programs or learning environments to achieve similar long-term results. The learning environment, both the physical location and surroundings, in addition to the atmosphere generated by the program, facilitators, and other attendees, all contribute to any potentially lasting effects. Components of the curriculum designed to elicit an emotional response or encourage strong personal reflection and exploration may also contribute to possible lasting effects." (p. 85)

"The program graduates in the study demonstrate a long-term effect that the program has had on their lives and their interactions with others." (p. 86)

"This study demonstrates lasting effects for program graduates of LeaderShape, providing evidence of support to justify sending students to the program. Likewise, LeaderShape has evidence that graduates continue to lead with integrity and identify a strong effect the program has had on their personal and professional lives." (p. 87)

"In addition to how and when leadership programs conduct assessment, this study demonstrates the influence emotions and personal connections have in creating lasting memories that ultimately affect attitudes and behaviors for the long-term. Leadership programs, as well as other learning opportunities, should account for a social component in the curriculum with time for individual processing, feedback, and group reflection to strengthen the personal ties the participants make with the material. Ideally, some activities in the curriculum should elicit an emotional response that challenges students‘ comfort zones and stretches their previous perceptions or beliefs." (p. 88)

"Among people who value LeaderShape the effects seem to be long standing. Program graduates of LeaderShape who attended a national session five or more years prior to the assessment demonstrate a lasting effect on their personal lives and leadership styles, directly linking such effects to their LeaderShape attendance and experiences. Responses were consistent over the time since attendance, demonstrating strength of the program by delivering a consistent message that has resonated over time with individuals. This study demonstrates that lasting effects occur from an emotionally charged, growth experience delivered in a one-week format with attention to the environment and atmosphere, facilitating personal development, and designing curriculum components that elicit strong responses. LeaderShape graduates responding to this study further demonstrate that specific information or knowledge is retained over time and utilized, supporting the idea that learning in the short term can have lasting effects over time." (p. 88)


Stoker, D. J. (2010). Study of the lasting effects of attending a LeaderShape program. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Indiana State University.

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