Student Leadership Perceptions in South Africa and the United States

  •  Laura Getz    
  •  Michael Roy    


The present study examined high school and college students’ perceptions of leadership traits necessary for
outstanding leaders to possess in South Africa and the United States. Students (N =124) indicated traits that both
inhibited and facilitated outstanding leadership using modified Project GLOBE (House et al., 2004, Culture,
leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies, SAGE Publications) questionnaires. Results
showed that: 1) Overall valence of trait dimensions remained constant across cultures and developmental stages;
2) South African students rated traits less strongly than American students overall, showing a less distinct
definition of outstanding leadership; 3) College students’ ratings of positive versus negative leadership traits
were more differentiated than their high school counterparts’ ratings; 4) The ratings of students in this study
mirrored those of business people from Project GLOBE, although college students tended to have an even more
distinct definition of what makes a good leader. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of considering
cultural and developmental contexts when studying leadership traits.

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