Examining the Relationship between Non-cognitive Skills and Leadership: The Influence of Hope and Grit on Transformational Leadership Behavior
University of Kansas
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
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Though it is widely believed that leadership is instrumental to organizational performance, there is not clear understanding of the identifiable personal factors associated with effective leaders. Recent research in psychology, education, and behavioral economics has started to recognize the importance of non-cognitive skills to many successful life outcomes. However, there is little research connecting non-cognitive skills to effective leadership. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to identify and examine the relationship between the non-cognitive skills of hope and grit in relation to self-identified transformational leadership behavior. This study utilized elementary school principals as the leaders of interest in order to study the relationship between non-cognitive skills and transformational leadership behavior. Participants completed four instruments including: The Adult Trait Hope Scale, Grit Scale, twenty items measuring transformational leadership on the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (5X-Short), as well as a short demographic survey. The study used correlational analyses to examine the relationship between hope, grit, and transformational leadership behavior and also used linear regression analyses to study the predictive relationship between hope, grit, and transformational leadership when controlling for a set of demographic variables. Findings from this study suggest that not only are both hope and grit positively related to transformational leadership behavior but that both hope and grit predicted transformational leadership behavior when controlling for age, gender, years of administrative experience, high school grade point average, undergraduate grade point average, maternal level of education, and paternal level of education. Similar to previous research examining non-cognitive skills, this study highlights the importance of including non-cognitive skills when trying to predict successful outcomes, as both hope and grit were found to be positive predictors of transformational leadership behavior. With a large literature supporting the idea that non-cognitive skills are malleable, this study has implications for the fields of leadership development and education, as it adds to the current body of leadership literature examining the dispositional antecedents of effective leaders and has practical implications for the hiring practices and professional development opportunities of school leaders.
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