Using Intellectual Inquiry to Drive Solutions

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

The Leadership Prize program will be going on hiatus for the 2018-19 academic year.  We will not be accepting new applications this fall as planned, but will be redesigning the prize in anticipation of returning in 2020.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Key Characteristics of the Leadership Prize

  • The Leadership Prize is a $10,000 prize that supports a) the intensive study of an issue worthy of study, b) the development of a plan of action to help address the issue, and c) the implementation of the solution plan or a test of the solution plan with reportable results.
  • Applications are due in October of the fall semester of the applicant’s junior year.  The prize will support work starting in the subsequent spring semester and the following academic year (3 semesters total).
  • Leadership Prize projects are mentored.  Applications must identify and gain the commitment of a faculty mentor who is well-suited to provide substantive and methodological guidance over the course of the Leadership Prize project.
  • Leadership Prize applications will be judged on the importance of the societal issue to be studied, the connection of the applicant to this issue, and the issue’s richness and potential benefit from new examination.  Applicants are encouraged to explore new ways to look at their issues and avoid issues whose solution is obvious and merely lacks resource support.
  • The “leadership” in the Leadership Prize is the way we transition from acquiring knowledge to using that knowledge in direct efforts to effect solutions.  The best Leadership Prize projects will use the fruits of their study to, at least in part, implement new solutions to challenging problems.

The Three Elements of Completed Leadership Prize Projects

  • Intellectual Inquiry: Leadership Prize projects begin with extensive research examining the nature, causes, and consequences of a live problem about which candidates are deeply passionate.  Leadership Prize research should not merely report current thinking or review accepted practices.  Instead, Leadership Prize research seeks to identify new and interesting plans for examining an issue “with new eyes.”  The result of this research project is a well-developed, and indeed novel, understanding of a problem’s root issues, potential approaches to solve the problem, and the obstacles to its solution.
  • Proposed Solutions: Based on conclusions from the inquiry into the problem, Leadership Prize projects will ultimately propose and justify an evidence-based solution to the problem. This section of the project will compare and contrast multiple solution plans and use evidence developed through intellectual inquiry to justify a selected course of action. Further, the proposed solution will be vetted against likely obstacles to its implementation. The best solution will be both effective in addressing the underlying reasons for the problem and practical in its application.
  • Implementation and Results: Depending on the scope of the researched problem, implementation could take the form of a pilot program designed to test the efficacy of the proposed solution or a fully formed effort to enact the solution. The implementation section will describe a plan to implement the proposed solution and measure and evaluate the results of that implementation. Instrumental to the success of any implementation plan is an understanding of the leadership approaches that would be most successful in gaining follower support for the plan and follower effort towards its execution. To this end, the implementation plan should draw from the awardee’s earlier study of leadership theory to identify the leadership practices that will enhance implementation effectiveness.

Selection Criteria

A selection committee will evaluate all applications to assess the appropriateness of their topics, the quality of their proposed plans, and their feasibility given time and resource constraints. The following criteria are designed to guide their evaluation, but not to be so restrictive as to constrain creative, original, or diverse proposals. Overarching criteria include:

  • Quality and significance of the issue: The application will present a plan to understand and address important societal issues that benefit from new study. These are not issues whose solution is obvious, but simply lack the commitment of resources. Leadership Prize projects instead provide support for new examinations of issues that may illuminate novel solutions.
  • Quality of intellectual examination of the problem: The application reflects a significant depth of understanding of the problem, argues persuasively why this problem is important, and explores why its solution is worthy of effort. The application also articulates how the project properly balances problem significance with its potential for solution and reflects a deep and sophisticated knowledge of multiple understandings of leadership.
  • Focused plan of study: The application describes an appropriately designed and focused plan of study. This plan includes descriptions of potential supporting educational activities (workshops, conferences, study abroad, and course work) and leadership development activities.
  • Project feasibility and budget: The application offers an appropriately detailed accounting of the resources needed to complete the project and an accounting of the potential ways in which funds will be spent.

Prize Amount and Use

Each Leadership Prize is $10,000, to be used over the spring semester of the recipient’s junior year and the fall and spring semesters of his or her senior year at Elon. A maximum of $6,700 may be used as a tuition scholarship, while the rest should be used to support research expenses, the costs of supporting experiences, and leadership development expenses. No more than $5,000 of the $10,000 shall be used in the junior year.

If you have additional questions, please contact Dr. Robert Moorman, Frank S. Holt, Jr. Chair in Business Leadership at