Leadership development influence on leader self-efficacy (LSE) : an explanatory sequential mixed methods study with civilian federal employees in the Department of Defense.


Practitioners across industries have been unable to derive reliable returns-on-investment from leadership development as it relates to the effectiveness of the training on leadership performance (Lacerenza et al., 2017). Research has identified leader self-efficacy (LSE) as a key predictor of leadership performance, but the literature fails to identify external or developmental antecedents of LSE (Dwyer, 2019; Hannah et al., 2008). While the great man concept of leadership is antiquated (Boyce et al., 2010; Day et al., 2014; Lord et al., 2017; Quigley, 2013), more is known about internal predictors of LSE (e.g., personality, values, etc.). A key factor in this shortfall in knowledge is the inconsistent definition and measurement of LSE (Anderson et al., 2008) and the complexity of leadership itself (Day & Dragoni, 2015; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). This study explored potential formal developmental antecedents of LSE. The researcher used an explanatory sequential mixed methods design and Bandura’s self-efficacy framework (Bandura, 1977) to understand the experiences of leadership development learners and the factors influencing changes in LSE. Quantitative pre-course and post-course tests assessed fluctuations of LSE for 10 learners. To understand how leadership development influences LSE, learners who experienced the largest changes in LSE were interviewed. In addition, to determine what connection course content had with a learner’s LSE levels, the author observed course instruction and audited classroom materials using Bandura’s (1977) self-efficacy framework as a guide. The results showed that a significant increase in LSE from pre-course to post-course survey occurred. In the qualitative and mixed methods phase of this study, the results showed that the significant increase in LSE aligned with time on course topics, learner engagement, instructor activity, and type of cognitive activities used. The use of realistic scenarios, peer interaction, feedback, and a spaced-learning (bolstered by supervisory support) was key to the course’s success in improving learner’s LSE. Practitioners will use the outcomes of this research to identify which pedagogical and contextual activities influence LSE. With a grasp of what external antecedents influence higher levels of LSE, practitioners will possess a blueprint to develop more effective leadership development courses and more successful leaders.



LSE. Leader self-efficacy. Self-efficacy. Leadership development. Learning. Mixed methods. Explanatory sequential mixed methods.