Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (PhD)


Industrial/Organizational Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Robert B. McKenna, Ph.D

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Katy Tangenberg, Ph.D

Third Advisor/Committee Member

McKendree Hickory, Ph.D


Differentiated leadership, emerging adults, experiences, leadership development, conviction, connection


Several decades of research have indicated a strong relationship between developmental experiences and the lessons that shape one’s leadership. Furthermore, researchers have suggested that effective leadership often involves a complex combination of various components or character qualities. Differentiated leadership involves knowing and expressing one’s convictions while also listening to and deeply understanding the perspectives of others around them. Research is limited on which experiences shape differentiated leadership or a shared capacity of conviction and connection. As a critical phase of development, emerging adulthood (the phase of life from ages 18 through 25) may be a particularly important time to develop these leadership qualities. Furthermore, the way the workforce is rapidly changing suggests that emerging adults will soon be in positions of leadership. Thus, leveraging this stage of life to focus on developmental experiences that shape differentiated leadership may better prepare emerging adults for the workforce. This study explores which foundational experiences develop differentiated leadership in emerging adults, while controlling for openness to experience. The sample consisted of 274 emerging adults enrolled in an online leadership development tool. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the primary hypotheses and exploratory research questions, all of which resulted in statistically significant results. Specifically, People Experiences positively predict conviction and connection development beyond other types of experiences. Exploratory analyses indicated which specific experiences most impacted this development, and results particularly pointed to the importance of family experiences. Implications are offered regarding which specific experiences emerging adults should seek out to develop differentiated leadership, and which experiences educators, supervisors, and families of emerging adults could provide.

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