A Grounded Theory of Lesbian and Gay Leadership Self-Efficacy Development

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The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of gay and lesbian college students engaged in leadership and the meaning they made of their leadership self-efficacy development, particularly as it related to their identity development and various environmental assisters and constraints. The study sought to identity what shaped the development of leadership self-efficacy for these students and generated additional questions for future research. Using Grounded Theory Methodology, this study explored the primary research question: How do gay and lesbian college students engaged in leadership develop their leadership self-efficacy?

Three interviews were held each with 10 students who self-identified as gay, lesbian, queer, or sexually fluid who were highly involved in leadership activities on campus. The theory that emerged from the participants' experiences centered on the individual's self-efficacy to engage in leadership defined within the context of their beliefs about the nature of leadership engagement. The self-efficacy of the students was enhanced by support, success, and deep and broad involvement and was diminished by failure and active criticism. The students‟ gay, lesbian, or queer identities served to either improve self-efficacy or leadership or had no demonstrable effect, according to the participants‟ stories. Sexual orientation served to improve self-efficacy for engagement in leadership by broadening perspectives, improving relationships and comfort within groups, allowing the participants to bring their full selves to their experiences, creating empathy and understanding, and improving personal awareness. Participants also shared that their identities were integral to their involvements, that being out increased their overall self-confidence, that greater comfort led to greater involvement, and that visibility and voice was important to their leadership self-efficacy. Students also shared that their sexual orientation did not have an appreciable effect on their leadership self-efficacy when they already had a great deal of confidence to engage in leadership, when they had already integrated their sexual orientations, when situations did not relate to their sexual orientations, or when the saliency of their sexual orientations was lower than other aspects of their personality.