In this longitudinal study we conducted annual interviews with 19 randomly selected college women for four years to ask them to describe the skills of an effective leader, their current leadership skills, post-college leadership aspirations, and college experiences that adversely and positively affected their aspirations for future leadership roles. As anticipated, growth and changes were not uniform among all participants; in fact, the varieties revealed a complex picture of women’s leadership aspirations and the leadership skill development they favored to enliven their aspirations, as well as the college experiences that shaped their evolving notion of their own desire for top leadership roles.
An analysis of their interview responses indicated that over the span of four years: although most women increased their beliefs that effective leaders should possess both relational and task-oriented skills, the majority reported that they developed stronger traditional authoritative leadership skills; women reported stronger leadership aspirations, particularly those who had developed stronger traditional leadership skills. Those who developed stronger relational skills reported lower leadership aspirations. Suggestions for leadership mentors, professors, administrators, college student personnel and faculty are presented.