Leaders of a student organization may have a strong impact on the success of the chapter they lead. The current research study examines leadership qualities of Psi Chi faculty advisors, faculty leaders in Psi Chi chapters, and how these qualities affect the satisfaction, involvement, and activity of members within Psi Chi. In order to assess these variables, we sent a national online survey to Psi Chi student leaders asking them to evaluate their faculty advisor's leadership characteristics and qualities of their Psi Chi chapter. Two hundred and eighty-five surveys were completed and returned. Results show a significant positive correlation between Psi Chi faculty advisor leadership scores and student satisfaction,
r(285) = .44,
p < .01, as well as chapter activity,
r(285) = .20,
p < .01. Implications for these and other related findings are discussed.
An effective leader is a vital part of an organization's success. Through effective leadership skills, an individual may influence organizational productivity (Murnigham & Leung, 1976) as well as employee performance (Peterson, 2003), satisfaction (Foels, Driskell, Mullen, & Salas, 2000), involvement (Conger & Kanugo, 1987, as cited in Bachiochi, Rogelberg, O'Conner, & Elder, 2000), and dedication (Yan & Hunt, 2005).
Bachiochi, et al. (2000) found six main characteristics of an effective leader: background and expertise, task-oriented skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, liaison skills, and personal characteristics. These researchers theorized that a leader who possesses these six qualities may be more likely than another to be in a successful, thriving organization. Many other studies have also examined these six characteristics, concentrating on the influence a leader may have on an organization's success within many different establishments.
Background and expertise refer to a leader's knowledge of an organization as well as subject matter expertise. Task-oriented skills refer to the ability to plan, make decisions, delegate, solve problems, facilitate a process, and motivate others. Interpersonal skills are defined in relation to others and refer to the ability to manage conflict, influence others, mentor subordinates, and provide understanding and support. Communication skills refer to the ability to listen, provide feedback, and effectively communicate information. Liaison skills include the ability to network and make outside connections. Personal characteristics refer to self-confidence, dependability, and flexibility.
Research has provided empirical support for the importance of background and expertise (Podsakoff, Todor, & Schuler, 1983), task-oriented skills (Dobbins & Zaccaro, 1986; Hoyt, Murphy, Halverson, & Watson, 2003), interpersonal skills (Dobbins & Zaccaro, 1986; Osborn & Hunt, 1975; Putti & Tong, 1992), communication skills (Lawrence & Wiswell, 1993; Sagie, 1996), liaison skills (Anderson & Tolson, 1991), and personal characteristics (Foels et al., 2000). These studies show that each of the six leadership characteristics mentioned by Bachiochi et al. (2000) may have a significant impact on an organization's success within government, nonprofit, laboratory, and student organizations; however, little data is available on the impact of these leadership characteristics within a student organization.
Student organizations may differ from a business, government, nonprofit, and laboratory group in many essential areas. While typical organization leaders may be chosen specifically for their leadership ability or knowledge of the organization, student organization leaders may be chosen based solely on their willingness to fill the position. Where other leaders are paid for their time and work, student organization leaders may only receive recognition (e.g., a line on a curriculum vita). Student organization leaders may have no tangible motives for improving leadership skills and may be taking on leadership activities in an environment filled with additional pressures and stressors.
Few researchers have studied leadership within student organizations. Psi Chi is a national student organization with considerable impact. It is comprised of approximately 1,050 chapters across the United States and one chapter in Canada. Each Psi Chi chapter has a Psi Chi faculty advisor, a psychology professor who offers continuity for the local chapter and provides a model for leadership. The Psi Chi faculty advisor is responsible for training the chapter's student leaders, guiding the chapter's long-term development, providing chapter-specific information for student leaders, and directing chapter achievement (Psi Chi, 2005). Psi Chi faculty advisors may have a significant impact on their respective chapter through their involvement in mentoring students, training student leaders, and promoting Psi Chi activities and opportunities. Through the leadership qualities they employ, Psi Chi faculty advisors may significantly impact the student involvement, chapter activity, and member satisfaction within their Psi Chi chapter. The current study examines the relationship between Psi Chi members' ratings of faculty advisors on the six leadership characteristics outlined by Bachiochi et al. (2000) and three chapter variables: student involvement, chapter activity, and member satisfaction.Hypotheses
The central question in this research was: How do the leadership qualities of the Psi Chi faculty advisors affect the success of their Psi Chi chapter? We hypothesized that the amount of communication between a faculty advisor and his or her chapter president, as well as the number of years he or she had been serving as faculty advisor, would correlate positively and significantly with member satisfaction ratings, chapter activity, and student participation within the chapter. Our central hypothesis proposed that higher faculty advisor ratings on all six sub-characteristics (e.g. background, task-oriented skills) would correlate significantly with member satisfaction ratings, chapter activity, and student participation such that more favorable leadership ratings would be associated with higher member satisfaction, more chapter activity, and more student participation. METHOD
We, the researchers, invited Psi Chi chapter presidents throughout the nation to participate in this research study. We selected Psi Chi chapter presidents as the target sample because they were most likely to have close contact with the Psi Chi faculty advisor. Of the 1,025 Psi Chi chapters we contacted, 285 chapter officers completed the survey—a response rate of 27%. Most participants were Psi Chi presidents (N
= 274, 96.1%), while the remaining participants were other chapter officers (N
= 11, 4.0%).
Of the participants who completed the survey, 83.8% were female (N
= 239) and 15.7% were male (N
= 45); one person did not report gender. Participant ages ranged from 19-74 years (M
= 23.7, SD
= 7.3) and most participants were White/European American (N
= 250, 87.7%). The majority of participants were single (N
= 223, 78.3%) with a yearly income below $10,000 (N
= 174, 61.1%). Most participants reported a religious affiliation of Protestant Christian (N
= 90, 31.6%) or Roman Catholic (N
= 83, 29.1%). The majority were currently employed (N
= 219, 76.8%) and working from 3 to 55 hours per week, with an average of 19.5 hours worked each week (SD
= 10.55). Most participants were currently enrolled in school (N
= 279, 97.9%), in their fourth year of college (N
= 193, 67.7%), and majoring in psychology (N
= 281, 98.6%).
Of those surveyed, 74% of the participants were elected to the Psi Chi council by member vote (N
= 211), while 23.2% were appointed (N
= 66) and 2.8% were chosen through other means (e.g., asked to be on the council, moved into the spot of president after a previous president left, N
= 8). Of those who responded, 31.3% were from the Eastern Psi Chi region (N
= 89), 29.8% from the Midwest (N
= 85), 18.6% from the Southeast (N
= 53), 8.42% from the West (N
= 24), 7.72% from the Southwest (N
= 22), and 4.21% from the Rocky Mountain region (N
= 12). The proportion of respondents from each region is almost identical to the proportion of Psi Chi chapters by region.Procedure
Data collection began online in the fall of 2005. We sent an IRB-approved email invitation to participate in this survey to each Psi Chi chapter faculty advisor across the United States who then forwarded the message to his or her Psi Chi chapter president. Through a link in the email message, presidents were able to complete this online survey by logging onto to surveymonkey.com.
The questionnaire consisted of 75 questions. At the end of the survey, we informed participants that they were eligible to enter a drawing for one of ten $25 prizes. Participants were able to choose between a $25 gift certificate for their Psi Chi chapter and a $25 personal gift certificate from amazon.com.MeasuresBackground Variables
. Within the survey, we asked participants to fill out basic demographic information such as age, ethnicity, marital status, income level, religious affiliation, and employment. We also asked participants to give information concerning their student status, year in college, estimated date of graduation, major and minor, number of completed credits, and number of credits currently enrolled in. We asked participants to provide information concerning their Psi Chi membership, such as the Psi Chi region they are located in, their Psi Chi induction date, their current council position, and whether they were elected or appointed to this position.Faculty Advisor Characteristics
. We asked participants to fill out questions concerning their communication with the Psi Chi faculty advisor. Presidents reported the average amount of weekly communication they had with their faculty advisor and indicated the forms of communication used (e.g., email, in-person, telephone).
We measured participants' perceptions of the advisor's leadership through questions which assessed Bachiochi, et al.'s (2000) six leadership characteristics. Because a measure did not exist, we created one for this study. The measure had a subscale for each of the six major areas in which participants rated statements on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = strongly disagree
and 4 = strongly agree)
. We summed the ratings within each subscale to yield six subscale measures. We also calculated a total score. See Table 1
for the full scale. The researchers conducted reliability analyses for each subscale which ranged from .85 to .94 (see Table 2
). The total scale reliability was .97.Student Satisfaction
. We asked participants to express their satisfaction with their Psi Chi chapter. We assessed student satisfaction through 12 questions addressing: (a) the participant's pleasure with the number of Psi Chi activities held each year, (b) the amount of communication with Psi Chi members, and (c) the amount of chapter involvement in Psi Chi on a regional and national level. We asked participants to rate their satisfaction levels on a scale of 1 to 4, (1 = very dissatisfied
and 4 = very satisfied).
An overall satisfaction rating was then calculated by averaging the 12 items.Chapter Activity
. We asked participants to report their chapter activity in four broad areas: social, service, academic, and fundraising. These areas are consistent with Psi Chi national descriptions of appropriate chapter activities. Specific questions asked participants how many council meetings were held each month, how many Psi Chi activities were held each quarter/semester (social, service, academic, and fundraising), how often the Psi Chi council communicated with members each month, how many members were involved in research each year, and how many members attended Psi Chi regional and national conferences each year. Participants reported the number of activities held each month, semester, or year on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = 0 times,
2 = 1–2 times,
3 = 3–4 times,
4 = 5 or more times,
5 = I do not know).
We calculated an overall chapter activity score for each participant who provided a response between 1 and 4 by calculating the mean for those who provided data for at least 9 of the 11 items. Student Participation
. We asked participants to provide information about student participation in Psi Chi at their school. We calculated student participation by determining the proportion of Psi Chi members relative to the number of psychology majors at the school. Since many participants did not know this information, we asked participants to give their consent to allow us to find the total number of psychology majors at their university by giving their university name. We also asked for participants' consent to allow us to find the total number of Psi Chi members in their Psi Chi chapter through online searching or an email to Psi Chi National. RESULTS
There were a total of 323 surveys returned from surveymonkey.com.
From these 323 surveys, we deleted from the analyses incomplete surveys (N
= 38) and surveys in which the participant did not agree to the consent form (N
= 1). The final sample was comprised of 285 respondents.
Preliminary AnalysesStudent-Advisor Communication
. Survey questions concerning the number of times participants conversed with their faculty advisor revealed that 4.9% of participants communicated with their faculty advisor 0 times each week (N
= 14), 57.8% 1-3 times each week (N
= 164), 20.4% 4-6 times each week (N
= 58), 6.3% 6-8 times each week (N
= 18), 4.2% 8-10 times each week (N
= 12), and 6.3% 10 or more times each week (N
= 18). Common forms of communication consisted of email (N
= 274, 96.1%), in-person one-on-one (N
= 260, 91.2%), and in-person within a group (N
= 191, 67.0%). Less common forms of communication included telephone (N
= 66, 23.2%), mail, inbox (N
= 33, 11.6%), and Instant Messenger (N
= 3, 1.1%). Correlations revealed no significant relationship between frequency of weekly communication and member satisfaction, r
(285) = .11, p
= ns, or chapter activity, r
(285) = .04.Advisor Experience
. Survey results revealed that 20% of faculty advisors have been serving in this capacity less than 1 year (N
= 57), 42.8% 1-5 years (N
= 122), 7.7% 5-10 years (N
= 22), and 7.0% 10 or more years (N
= 20). Twenty-two percent of students were unsure how long their advisor had been serving (N = 64). Correlations revealed no significant relationship between faculty advisor experience (number of years as a faculty advisor) and member satisfaction, r
(285) = .06, p
= ns, or chapter activity, r
(285) = .10, p
Central QuestionsFaculty Advisor Characteristics
. The central question revolves around the correlation between faculty advisor characteristic ratings and member satisfaction, chapter activity, and student participation. We calculated average ratings for the six faculty advisor characteristics: background and expertise (M
= 12.50, SD
= 2.72, range = 4 to 16), task-oriented skills (M
= 13.78, SD
= 2.61, range = 4 to 16), interpersonal skills (M
= 21.19, SD
= 3.47, range = 6 to 24), communication skills (M
= 17.85, SD
= 2.62, range = 5 to 20), liaison skills (M
= 10.52, SD
= 1.74, range = 3 to 12), and personal characteristics (M
= 18.11, SD
= 2.56, range = 5 to 20), as well as a composite characteristic score (M
= 93.94, SD
= 13.88, range = 27 to 108).
. The average satisfaction rating was in the "somewhat dissatisfied" to "somewhat satisfied" range (M
= 2.72, SD
= .62). Participant satisfaction was lowest (M
= 2.5 or lower) on items asking about students' satisfaction with their involvement in research, their chapter's involvement on a regional scale, and their chapter's involvement on a national scale. Satisfaction was highest for the number of meetings held each month (M
= 3.26, SD
Each of the faculty advisor leadership characteristics was positively and significantly correlated with participant satisfaction ratings: background, r
(285) = .40, p
= .01; task-oriented, r
(285) = .37, p
< .01; interpersonal, r
(285) = .38, p
< .01; communication, r
(285) = .41, p
< .01; liaison r
(285) = .39, p
< .01; and personal characteristics, r
(285) = .39, p
< .01. The correlation with the overall leadership score was also significant, r
(285) = .44, p
< .01.Chapter Activity
. The mean chapter activity score was 2.03 (SD
= .39), equivalent to the response category of 1-2 activities per term. Each of the faculty advisor leadership characteristics was positively and significantly correlated with chapter activity: background, r
(253) = .29, p
< .01; task-oriented, r
(253) = .15, p
< .05; interpersonal, r(253) = .13, p
< .05; communication, r
(253) = .15, p
< .01; liaison r
(253) = .16, p
< .01; and personal characteristics, r
(253) = .14, p < .05. The correlation with the overall leadership score was also significant, r
(253) = .20, p
< .01. The correlation indicated that high ratings on advisor's leadership related to higher levels of activity.Student Participation
. It was difficult to get information about the number of psychology majors at the schools. This variable was not analyzed due to the small sample size and the apparent unreliability of these data. Consistent with Bachiochi et al.,'s (2000) theory, the six faculty advisor characteristics were highly intercorrelated (see Table 3
), suggesting that these separate dimensions of effective leadership are in fact part of one larger leadership construct. The overall leadership score was positively and significantly correlated with both student satisfaction, r
(285) = .44, p
< .01; and chapter activity, r
(285) = .20, p
< .01. DISCUSSION
Psi Chi faculty advisors may have a significant impact on the success of their chapter through the leadership characteristics they possess. Results from this study show that an advisor who possesses background and expertise in Psi Chi, task-oriented skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, liaison skills, and positive personal characteristics is more likely than a faculty advisor who does not possess these qualities to have high levels of both chapter activity and student satisfaction. Each of these six mentioned characteristics were significantly correlated with chapter activity and member satisfaction in individual Psi Chi chapters.
The reason for these relationships may lie in the responsibilities of the faculty advisor. The Psi Chi chapter faculty advisor is responsible for many things within the Psi Chi chapter (Psi Chi, 2005). However, since the faculty advisor serves primarily in an advisory role, he/she may not be involved in individual member recruitment among psychology students. The percentage of psychology students involved in Psi Chi may be strongly related to the characteristics of the student leaders, who are more visible to fellow students and more influential in recruiting members.
Results from this survey also show that there is no relationship between chapter success (chapter activity and member satisfaction) and the number of years the advisor has been a Psi Chi advisor. This suggests that personal characteristics, rather than experience, is a stronger factor in Psi Chi chapter success. Overall, this survey helped identify the specific characteristics of successful Psi Chi faculty advisors and how these characteristics, both individually and collectively, have influenced the general health of their respective Psi Chi chapter.
This information may be pertinent to current faculty advisors who want to improve their Psi Chi chapter. These findings suggest that faculty advisors who would like to expand their chapter's activity and student satisfaction may be able to improve their chapter through improving their own leadership skills. However, this assumes that leadership is a one-way influence within an organization, while leadership is more likely a two-way exchange between members and leader. This study was unable to take this two-way relationship into account. Future research on the bidirectional relationship of leadership may be helpful in understanding the effectiveness of both student leaders and faculty advisors in the success of Psi Chi chapters across the nation.
This research may also be relevant to psychology department faculty members and students who are looking for a new Psi Chi faculty advisor. By examining the leadership qualities of potential Psi Chi faculty advisors, the psychology faculty members and students may be able to identify a potentially successful and effective faculty advisor.
Finally, this information may be relevant to Psi Chi national leaders who want to provide extra help and support for Psi Chi chapter advisors. Through concentrating on improving leadership skills, national leaders may be able to help improve the overall quality of leadership in individual Psi Chi chapters. For example, the National Office personnel may consider having specific workshops for new and current faculty advisors in order to help them gain the skills they need to lead their chapter effectively.
Results from this survey provide interesting data that are outside the original hypotheses. This survey revealed that student satisfaction with Psi Chi is unexpectedly low, in the "somewhat satisfied" to "somewhat dissatisfied" range. Further analyses show that student satisfaction is lowest in three specific areas: student involvement in research within the chapter, chapter involvement in regional activities, and chapter involvement in national activities. These results raise concerns given the centrality of research and research presentation in the mission of Psi Chi.
Since student satisfaction in these areas is low, it is important for Psi Chi chapters to consider ways to improve student involvement in research within their chapters. Research involvement in psychology is crucial for undergraduate students in order to be competitive in graduate school admissions. In order to improve student involvement in research, Psi Chi student officers may:
- Become aware of the research opportunities available to them and their fellow students. The Psi Chi National Office has made announcements and resources available to students interested in research through the Psi Chi website (www.psichi.org/awards/completelist_awards.asp), Psi Chi Digest, chapter emails, and Eye on Psi Chi. Psi Chi chapters may consider providing the research information found in these resources on the chapter website or in emails to their members.
- Assist students in learning about the research process through discussion panels and online discussions. Such panels may cover such topics as how to get involved in research, how to apply for a research grant, and how to prepare for a professional presentation. Fellow student researchers at the college or university may be invited to participate in these panels or discussions.
- Consider hosting research presentations and/or a research conference for Psi Chi members. By allowing undergraduate researchers within various social science fields to present their research to Psi Chi members, Psi Chi leaders may spur an interest in research among members. Such presentations may give Psi Chi members an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the steps involved the research process.
- Help Psi Chi members become aware of upcoming regional and national psychology and Psi Chi conferences dates, locations, and registration deadlines by posting information on the chapter website or in chapter emails. Psi Chi chapters may also raise money to help cover the cost of members' travel or lodging expenses at these events. Attendance at a Psi Chi regional or national event is a valuable opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students because attendance at such an event may provide students with an opportunity to explore different areas in psychology, network with presenters, and/or present their own research to fellow psychologists.
Although these research findings may assist Psi Chi faculty advisors and student leaders in improving their chapter, the extent to which these findings may be generalized is limited. Since Psi Chi is a unique student society with specific goals, incentives, and members, these findings may not apply to other student clubs and societies. Further research on leadership within student organizations in general is needed. These research findings may also be limited by participation bias and a limited sample which does not represent the entire Psi Chi member population. Further research in this area may help to uncover additional information on leadership within Psi Chi and leadership within the unique context of student organizations.References
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49-66.Mary Ann Bailey
graduated magna cum laude from Utah State University with a BS in psychology and earned departmental honors in 2006. During the 2005-06 academic year, she served as Psi Chi president for the USU Psi Chi Chapter and received the Utah State Psychology Department S.T.A.R. award for excellence in scholarship, teaching assistantship, and research. She currently works in the Special Education and Rehabilitation Department at Utah State.Melanie Domenech Rodríguez, PhD,
is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Utah State University (USU). She has been the faculty mentor for the USU Psi Chi Chapter since 2002, and a RMPA Steering Committee member since 2003. As a faculty advisor, she has sought to assist the chapter and its members in achieving excellence. Since her involvement, members have applied for four Undergraduate Research Grants at USU and secured three of those. These grants have focused on students' cheating, Psi Chi membership, and campus racial climate. Members have also applied for two Psi Chi National Research Grants and obtained both. Consistent with this research focus, in 2003 the chapter held the first annual Psi Chi Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference to showcase Psi Chi-sponsored research as well as other students' research. Since her tenure as faculty advisor, the USU Chapter has risen to the level of Model Chapter. Dr. Domenech Rodríguez is an avid researcher and is currently examining the impact of a preventive intervention for Spanish-speaking parents of young children with challenging behaviors through an NIMH K01 award.