Understanding the Learning Tactics of College Students and Their Relationship to Leadership

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Purpose – This research aims to extend the generalizability of previous studies, using managerial samples, by investigating the tactics college students employ to learn and how this relates to their own behavior as leaders. Design/methodology/approach – College students were surveyed regarding their typical tactics for learning, using Dalton's Learning Tactics Inventory, along with the extent to which they engaged in various leadership practices, using Kouzes and Posner's Student Leadership Practices Inventory. Findings – Students who are more actively engaged in any of the various learning tactics (feelings, thinking, accessing others, and action), or all of them (versatility), subsequently report greater engagement across the range of leadership practices as well as transformational leadership. Research limitations/implications – The sample is drawn from college students, on a single campus, from a single discipline and in their first year of study and, while successfully holding these variables constant, may be unrepresentative of other student populations. The use of a student population may limit generalizability to managerial and/or professional populations. However, the hypotheses and methodology follow previous studies with managerial samples and serve to extend the validity of the learning and leadership relationships investigated. Future studies should add assessments of the effectiveness of leaders. Originality/value – Leadership skills can be developed through a number of learning tactics and strategies, rather than from a single perspective; but the greater the range of learning strategies utilized, the more comfortable students feel engaging in various leadership behaviors. Leadership development is a learning process in itself.