HCBE Faculty Articles

Developing Leadership Potential in Graduate Students with Assessment, Self-Awareness, Reflection and Coaching


Eleanor Lawrence0000-0002-9700-2218

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Journal of Management Development



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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present an innovative, research-based approach for stimulating self-awareness, reflection and intentional leadership development and address a call from the academic and business community to educate and prepare graduate students for leadership in contemporary complex workplaces. Building on previous research findings and recommendations, the authors suggest that leadership potential is understood and facilitated through leadership assessment, increased self-awareness and faculty coach-supported reflection and development planning by MBA students. Based on three key constructs in leadership development, a conceptual model depicts the approach to developing potential leaders at this juncture in their professional development.

Design/methodology/approach New MBA students completed a leadership potential assessment instrument designed to target areas for focused leadership development throughout their MBA program and beyond. The assessment process is followed by faculty coach-supported reflection and development planning as an assignment during the students’ MBA orientation course. To explore the impact of this innovative approach to accelerating the development of leadership potential, reflection papers from students who completed the process were analyzed. Data analysis consisted of content coding with an inter-rater reliability of 0.99 to classify the responses into four key categories. Survey data were also collected from 504 MBA students who attended an on-campus orientation course to measure students’ increasing understanding and awareness of the value of the leadership development opportunity.

Findings Quantitative and qualitative results provide initial support for this approach to developing leadership potential. Results suggest that the integrative model stimulates a process of awareness, reflection and intentional development, and supports the identification and pursuit of goal-directed learning opportunities throughout students’ MBA program.

Originality/value Graduate business school students are at a leadership inflection point in their trajectory as leaders. Business colleges play a key role in closing the leadership gap during the development cycle of the students’ MBA program. The innovative approach in this paper, which facilitates self-awareness, reflection and intentional leadership development, offers a model for business colleges exploring how to foster these necessary leadership insights and capabilities.







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