Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Swortzel, Kirk A

Committee Member

Barrett, Jason R

Committee Member

Newman, Michael E

Committee Member

Threadgill, Paula I

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Agriculture Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


The purpose of this study was to describe the perceived leadership style of the University of Missouri Extension Service county staff and their level of engagement and study the relationship between variables. Administrators with University of Missouri Extension Service can utilize this information to better serve Extension Staff and ultimately people throughout the state of Missouri.

The Vannsimpco Leadership Survey was used to measure the perceived leadership style of county level staff. The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) was used to measure work engagement on three constructs: vigor, absorption, and dedication engagement. Demographic characterizes of county level staff was also collected. An online survey utilizing Qualtrics achieved a 44% response rate (N = 448).

University of Missouri Extension county-level staff were female working in the Youth and Family discipline. These individuals were between 51 and 60 years of age and had worked for University of Missouri Extension for less than five years. Participants reported democratic leadership as the most perceived leadership style while laissez-faire leadership was the least perceived style. Autocratic and autocratic-transformational leadership was significantly impacted by length of service with the Extension service. Participants aged between 41-50 years old showed increased democratic-transformational leadership perceptions. Additionally, an increase in length of service resulted in a decrease in transformational leadership. Research found that county level staff maintained strong levels of engagement while performing their duties. Also, research found there were no significant relationships between perceived leadership styles and levels of work engagement.

The implications from this study include potential in-service trainings to provide county Engagement Specialists with approaches to improve leadership traits and employee engagement. The themes gained from this research may offer definitions of leadership and employee engagement which could be utilized in future research.

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