Program Theory In Leadership Development: A Structured Conceptualization Exercise For The Lead New York Program
A review of the literature on leadership development indicated a disconnect between the practice of leadership development and its theoretical underpinnings. Many leadership development programs (and practitioners) operate without an explicit program theory to guide their work, resulting in interventions that are often haphazard in their implementation. On the other hand, many contemporary leadership theories are not contextualized, their constructs are not adequately explicated, and they are not developed using issues facing real-world organizational leaders, thus they are of little use to practitioners. This theory-practice gap has contributed to practitioner mistrust for the processes and outcomes of basic research, and a relative dearth of scholarly program evaluation research in this area. A structured conceptualization technique, Concept Mapping, was used to both identify underlying constructs and develop a theoretical framework for the Empire State Food and Agricultural Leadership Institute, or LEAD New York, a two-year leadership development program for adult professionals in the food and agricultural industry. Program alumni and board members had an active role in identifying specific outcomes, conceptualizing the relationships among outcomes, rating the importance and feasibility of outcomes, and interpreting the data generated in this study. This method is participatory, action oriented, and grounded in a specific context. As a result, the program theory developed through this research is contextualized, explicit, and may be more readily accepted by practitioners in similar settings. Constructs identified in this research were compared to those identified in other contemporary leadership theories, thus building on previous scholarly research. This study identified 117 specific outcomes, organized into eight distinct constructs, and three regions of related constructs. Relationships between constructs were explored, as were participant ratings of importance and feasibility. The result was the explication of a theoretical framework for the LEAD New York Program. The results of this study suggest that LEAD New York is primarily a leadership skillbuilding program, but also indicated that the skills developed were highly social, complex, and inter-related. Findings from this study have both immediate utility for program planning (this study served as a process evaluation) and lay the groundwork for future theory-based outcome evaluation.
dissertation or thesis