Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Fred Galloway, EdD, Member; Cheryl Getz, EdD, Member


leadership, leadership education, evaluation, triangulation, drawing, Japan


Today’s complex problems transcend borders and require a collective and adaptive learning response. Literature suggests that, because the traditional hierarchical or positional style of leadership cannot effectively address problems we face today, leadership should take a more collaborative and systemic form. Rost (1991) characterized this new approach as the postindustrial paradigm of leadership. Unfortunately, changing the existing conception of leadership is not easy. Furthermore, assessing people’s leadership perceptions is challenging because leadership is often a tacit and latent construct. Because formal leadership education is still in its infancy in Japan, little is known about the impact of leadership education in higher education on students’ understandings of leadership in the Japanese context. This study aims to understand how Japanese college students reshape their understandings of the postindustrial model of leadership through taking an online leadership course.

This mixed methods study adopted a one-group pretest-posttest study design to examine changes in students’ understandings of leadership. An online survey composed of the Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors Scale and a request for participant-produced drawings of leadership images was administered at both the beginning and end of the semester to 124 students enrolled in a semester-long online leadership course at a large university in Japan. To gain more in-depth insight, I also employed semistructured interviews with 11 students enrolled in the course.

Survey results demonstrated students enrolled in the leadership course were, overall, less enthusiastic about hierarchical approaches to leadership and more enthusiastic about systemic approaches to leadership after taking the course. Interviews revealed two factors that affected shifts in students’ understandings of leadership: past leadership experience and learning experience in class. Students’ leadership experiences before attending the leadership course shaped their understandings of leadership at the beginning of the course, and how students made sense of their past leadership experiences influenced shifts in thinking during the course. In addition, student learning experience in class impacted shifts in their conceptions of leadership. The study’s findings about the impact of a leadership course in Japan support future leadership education in Japan. They also strengthened the academic legitimacy of leadership education in higher education generally.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies