Introduction: Student leadership is currently a critical topic at South African universities. Leadership skills are essential to the development of humanity and universities play a vital role in the development of students to become future leaders. The development and practice of leadership at university level can benefit student development and can contribute to the good of society, which is crucial at this date and time. However, very limited research has been done on what motivates students to develop their own leadership skills.
Research purpose: The objective of this study was to explore the factors that motivate students participation in leadership development at a selected South African Higher Education Institution. In essence, the study aims to explore possible factors that contribute to students participation in leadership development and to make recommendations for future leadership development initiatives at university level.
Motivation for the study: As far as could be determined, this was the first study on the motivational factors that influence students interest in leadership development at university level, in particular in South Africa. This study can assist universities in exposing more students to leadership development. Essentially, it can enable universities to grow their own pipeline of leaders that can be engaged in the universities own leadership structures and will contribute to the good of society.
Research methodology: An exploratory quantitative research design with supplementary qualitative questions was used. Convenience sampling was used and data were gathered from students of a selected South African Higher Education Institution (N = 78). Participants completed the Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (LABS), the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) as well as biographical questions.
Main findings: The results of the study indicated that the LABS and AMS are valid and reliable instruments for use in higher educational institutions. The results of the empirical findings of this study were unexpected. No significance in terms of hierarchical and systematic thinking was found in the descriptive statistics. A strong correlation was found between EM identified and EM external regulation. The results indicated that gender differed significantly on the subscale Intrinsic motivation toward accomplishment as well as Extrinsic motivation identified and Extrinsic motivation external regulation. The study found that previous leadership exposure might serve as motivation for students to further develop their leadership competence.
Significance of the study: No similar research could be found in South Africa or in the international context. The findings of this study do not only provide valuable insights into the theory of student leadership, but also provide insight into the practical implementation of student leadership development at universities. The study creates awareness of the critical importance of investment by universities in student leadership development.
Limitations and future research: This study emphasised the need for and relevance of future research on this topic. The convenience and homogeneous nature of the sample as well as the sample size complicated the effort to make definite conclusions about motivational factors. It is therefore recommended that a larger sample size be used in future research to ensure a representative distribution of a heterogeneous student population.
Conclusion: The development of student leadership is a critical issue for universities and society as a whole. In light of the results of this study and the current situation that universities in South Africa are faced with in so far as student leadership is concerned, further research should be conducted into this topic.
Mini Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2016.
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