Leadership Role Occupancy Among Women Education Essay

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Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to identify the strengths and weaknesses and to compare and contrast the findings, methodology, and credibility of the five articles annotated in the author's Module 4 assignment. The articles are as follows: Developmental and Genetic Determinants of Leadership Role Occupancy Among Women, by Arvey, Zhang, Avolio, & Krueger (2007); The Natural: Some Antecedents to Transformational  Leadership by Avolio (1994); A Multi-case Study of Primary Circumstances and Life Experiences Contributing to the Careers of Female Presidents in Higher Educational Settings in New England, by Marthe (2009); Learning For School Leadership: Using Concept Mapping to Explore Learning from Everyday Experience by Pegg (2007); Tipping Points That Inspire Leadership: An Exploratory Study of Emergent Project Leader by Toor & Ofori (2008).

Analysis

The research conducted by Arvey, Zhang, Avolio and Krueger (2007) addressed the genetic and developmental influences on leadership role occupancy.  Two general developmental factors were identified, one involving formal work experiences and the other a family experiences factor hypothesized to influence whether women move into positions of leadership in organizations. The sample for this study was drawn from the Minnesota Twin Registry, which tried to locate surviving twin pairs born in the state from 1936 to 1951 (Lykken, Bouchard, McGue, & Tellegen, 1990). The subsample examined in the present study was restricted to a random sample of 500 pairs out of the 1,317 female twin pairs in the registry. All twins had been reared together during childhood. The researcher's leadership measure was developed using a biohistory methodology in which respondents indicated past or present participation or role occupation in leadership positions. Respondents in this study indicated whether they had held or hold positions at work that would be considered managerial in nature. A number of different options were presented (president, manager, supervisor, work group leader, etc.). The purpose was to examine whether there is a significant genetic influence on leadership role occupancy among women. This was a mixed method study using a formal survey with a hypothesis as well as an exploratory portion (survey) with no hypothesis.

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The results confirm the study's hypothesis in that there are significant genetic influences on the leadership role occupancy reported by females. Family Experience and Work Experience factors correlated with the leadership variable as well. Of particular note is that the Work Experience factor showed a substantially higher correlation with the leadership role occupancy variable (.48) compared with the correlation shown with the Family Experience factor (.18), suggesting that experiences at work are perhaps more important in shaping developmental components of women's careers and their entry into leadership roles.

This research study contains a wealth of supportive results gleaned from multiple research tools, each supporting the study's findings. Of greatest value to the author of this paper is the use of a quantitative model (a formal survey) to determine the results. The research was published within the past five years.

Avolio's solo 1994 study examined the development of transformational leadership by linking life events and experiences to ratings of leadership given to a diverse group of 182 community leaders. Although the participant number of this study is ample, it was nearly one-third of the size of the sample in the Arvey et al study.

Much like the prior reviewed study, the researcher used a formal questionnaire to collect the data. The data reported in this paper was based on evaluations of leaders using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) Form 5R and a Life History Survey derived from the work of Owens and Schoenfeldt and their colleagues.  The primary objective of this paper was to provide a framework for linking key life experiences to the development of effective leadership behavior-particularly transformational leadership, while also offering suggestions for future research in this area. 

Avolio's study sample included 182 community leaders comprised of 86 males, 92 females, and 4 which were un-coded. The leaders came from both for-profit and not for-profit organizations located in the northeast United States. Each target leader completed a 126 question Life History Survey and Multi-factor Leadership Questionnaire (Form 5R). Results of this investigation indicated there were some early life experiences that were associated with subsequent self and follower perceptions of transformational leadership. However, the associations were much weaker than anticipated based on prior research studies. Several reasons were offered for the patterns of results obtained in this study. First, the life history scales were primarily empirically derived and therefore may not tap all of the key life experiences relevant to the development of transformational leadership. Second, the reliability estimates for these scales were in a number of cases only marginally acceptable. Third, when raters were asked to respond to life history items, they may be responding on factual recollections or a reconstruction of prior experience based on their current developmental level.

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Avolio's study is valuable in that a great deal of pertinent information was extracted that would provide a foundation for further studies. This paper is the oldest of the five selected studies. The author of this paper chose to include this paper in his review because of the importance of Avolio's research, especially the research tools utilized. Like the first study reviewed in this paper, the researcher used a quantitative model to reach his hypothesis. There were patterns gleaned from the study regarding the moral standards of parents, work experience and school experience. It was clear that these factors accounted for some of the variance in transformational leadership rating and deserve a closer look.

By understanding through qualitative research conducted through individual, face-to-face interviews with five female college and university presidents in New England, the study conducted by Marthe (2009) asked the subjects of the research to describe the life and career experiences that enhanced and/or hindered their success in achieving their leadership roles in higher educational settings. Unlike the prior two studies, this study used an interview process where the researcher conducted personal one to one conversations with each of the participants. The results of the research revealed negative gender bias, lack of formal mentoring or training, and relationships on all levels of experiences impacting the smoothness of their transitions into leadership roles. The use of interviews to tell the stories of a limited number of female college presidents allowed the research to go beyond the statistics of how many women held these positions and moved the insights on to the individual case study of the lives of these women. The case study, based on the phenomena of these female president's stories, was subjective by the nature of the model itself. In allowing for the individuality of the women studied, the researcher's personal filters and experiences, and on the reader's biases and interpretations, a constructivist paradigm must be considered to enhance and validate meaning. It is much easier to argue with these life experiences as opinions rather than using them as universal truths.

This study followed the "life history interviews" (Smith, 2004, p. 30) described in her research entitled "A Multi-Case Analysis of Perceived Circumstances and Life Experiences Contributing to the Presidential Ascent of Mississippi Female College and University Presidents." By framing these interviews in a multi-case study format as Smith (2004) did in her research but also taking into account the constructivist paradigm, the researcher of this study captured and verified meaning in this unique snapshot of paths to leadership for women in higher education in New England.

A personal, in-depth interview lasting approximately one hour was conducted with each president at her campus using a semi-structured interview guide with open-ended questions. Audio recordings were gathered to allow transfer of interview data into written transcripts of the sessions.

One of the key issues in the case study regarding validity is to accurately report the details of the words within the interviews and to reflect the stories of the individuals in terms of their relationship to each other. Whether pointing out patterns of similarities or demonstrating differences, the case study is only as valid as the detail of the descriptions that are provided.

The researcher then identified and coded common threads and patterns of data. Reading transcripts and looking for repeated themes and language within individual interviews accomplished this identification. Once reviewed and coded, this researcher presented individual and collective data and groupings of data that suggested greater meaning. The final analysis carefully managed the coded data to all interpretations and reflection on the narrative of the collection.

The most sobering conclusion to be drawn from the data reported in this study is that the demographic makeup of higher education leaders has changed very slowly during the past 20 years.

This research study provides a limited level of credibility in that the qualitative process of conducting one to one interviews can be, as mentioned earlier in this paper, quite subjective. Further studies could provide more solid results if the researcher included a team to assist in the process of ensuring unbiased interpretation of the results.

Pegg's 2007 study explores concepts of learning used by leaders, focusing on learning for leadership through day-to-day workplace experiences.  It also highlights the use of concept mapping as a technique for exploring workplace learning. Although the use of interviews was likely to be an appropriate method for investigating the life history, attitudes and motivations to learn for the participants, the researcher chose to adopt a more participatory approach for the identification of concepts. This gave the participants a tool that could fully express their ideas. Unlike the prior study by Marthe which used only interviews, the ideas were captured visually at the time, and this allowed the participants to revise and build their explanations as they talked. Concepts and ideas would develop through the talk, and concept mapping, together with the taped conversations offered a way to capture that at the time. Returning the maps for comments offered a far more accessible way for participants to access, check and change the data than interview transcriptions, which are lengthy and difficult to follow.

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Each interview was clearly divided into two parts. First, an initial open question was asked inviting the participants to describe their life and learning history-how they came to be in their current role as a leader. Second, the idea and process of concept mapping was explained to the participants, all but one of whom was familiar with the process from teaching others. The technique adopted was that of free-range concept mapping (McLay and Brown 2003: 75), where only the prime descriptor was given to the interviewee.

Individual transcripts were used with the maps to confirm linkages and to explore the reasons for links between concepts. A composite map was also drawn up from the six individual maps locating concepts used under generic headings. Concepts were grouped under headings where identical or similar words had been used on individual maps or where transcription data indicated that there were common ideas. As the research developed, a second composite map was drawn up to investigate the possible institutional aspects of learning from experience.

The maps indicated that learning for leadership from experience was multifaceted. The language used to describe concepts of learning reflected generic and everyday concepts, rather than the language of pedagogy or concepts used in professional training/the literature.

The use of concept maps for this study added a dimension that was missing from the study conducted by Pegg. The use of only qualitative research practice could make this study less "hard" than the use of quantitative models practiced by the first two studies.

Much like the study conducted by Arvey et al., the study by Toor & Ofori utilized an exploratory format. This paper aimed to report a study which explores the leadership antecedents that inspired leadership development among graduate project management students. Like the studies conducted by Arvey et al., Pegg, and Marthe, a questionnaire survey was used to collect data on taxonomies of various leadership antecedents which contributed to the development of leadership skills among the subjects. Of a total of 90 questionnaires, which were distributed, 58 completed questionnaires were received. In comparison to the studies by Arvey et al., and Avolio, this number of participants could be considered weak.

The results suggested that teachers, parents, and mentors are significant in the development of leadership among the emergent leaders. It was also noted that educational and occupational experiences play a central role in leadership development.

Synthesis 

The five research studies chosen for this analysis all focus on leadership development resultant from life experiences.

The results of the studies varied. Each demonstrated a correlation between life experiences and leadership development. The study conducted by Arvey et al. showed a significant relationship, where the study by Avolio showed only a limited relationship. The study by Toor and Ofori resulted in outcomes that support a relationship between job and educational experiences and leadership development.

The methods of the studies varied. Four of the studies utilized an interview process (qualitative) for the collection of data. One study (Arvey, et al) included a mixed method process, effectively using both quantitative and exploratory methods. Marthe's study was qualitative in nature and included interviews. It also included the use of concept maps, which provided the study with further credibility.

All five of the reviewed studies have value by contributing to previous research and paving the way for further research.