Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6258-170X

Year of Publication

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Lars Bjork

Abstract

Cooperative extension is one of three components, along with teaching and research that form the mission of land grant universities. The focus of extension work is to take knowledge gained through research conducted at the university, and disseminate the information, in a practical manner to the end user. In most instances, extension work revolves around agriculture. Within the extension system are personnel that help to foster this program of educating clientele who work in the agricultural industry. County level agents are in place to teach and address the needs of local constituents, specialists are generally housed at the university campus and are hired for their expertise in a specific field of agriculture, and administrators help to keep the system functioning. Many studies have been conducted on the leadership characteristics of county agents and extension administrators, however the current knowledge base concerning leadership behaviors of extension specialists is lacking.

Traditionally, specialists were strictly used as a resource for subject matter information; however, changes overtime to cooperative extension have seen specialists move to a leadership position that involves leading agents groups and conducting programing that directly serves the clientele. With newly acquired expectations to perform in a leadership capacity, yet without training or educational background to ensure these skills, there is potential for complications to arise. Using a mixed methodological approach, this sequential explanatory study was conducted using Burn’s (1978) transformational leadership as a theoretical framework, with the purpose of examining current transformational leadership characteristics among extension specialists in addition to gaining information concerning demographic and professional information pertaining to this group.

The sample group consisted of equine extension specialists, an initial survey was sent which contained questions relating to educational background, make-up and tenure of their position, as well as the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to analyze self-perceived transformational leadership characteristics. This survey was followed by a voluntary individual interview with the researcher. The purpose of the semi-structured interview was to gain a broader example of the leadership perspectives of this particular group.

Although no significant connections could be made concerning demographic information and MLQ leadership scores, the group as a whole registered below average for displaying transformational leadership characteristics, ranking in the 40th percentile for composite MLQ scores compared to the general population. The interview data showed that as a whole there was agreement with the concepts of transformational leadership, however MLQ scores and anecdotal evidence show that practical application of transformational leadership is lacking. Most participants indicated they did not feel prepared for their job, and many indicated that interpersonal relationship skills were used more often than their degree specialization. The findings from this study may help to encourage leadership training focused towards extension specialists, and to emphasize the need for leadership skills within this position.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2018.444

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