In a complex world where poverty, wars, climate change, shortage of food and energy, and inequality in developmental opportunities have deprived many individuals of a prosperous life, one critical learning outcome for all undergraduates is the capability to contribute to a better world. Developing students into leaders and global citizens of tomorrow is therefore a core mission embraced by many universities. This study examines undergraduates’ overseas volunteering experience, a kind of experience at university oriented to developing leadership and global citizenship among students. Unlike previous studies which have mainly focused on leadership outcomes from extra-curricular activities in general, the present study looks specifically into how students’ perceptions of the leader-follower relationship within their volunteer service team influenced the quality of their service for community members and their own growth. Interviews were conducted with 34 students, 12 of whom holding leadership positions in service teams. Data analysis revealed that a close, collaborative leader-follower relationship was related to quality service, long-term commitment to service, and the development of interpersonal, communication and organisational skills. In contrast, a distant, hierarchical leader-follower relationship negatively impacted on service quality and student growth. Students’ perceptions of how a leader/follower should fulfill his/her role were influenced by: 1) prior leadership/followership experiences in volunteer groups and other local/international student organisations, 2) campus student culture, and 3) mentorship obtained from staff members of university and community organization. The paper will draw on the findings to put forward issues for further research and practical implications for student development.
|Publication status||Published - 2012|