Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Dr. Mark Burbach

Date of this Version

Spring 5-1-2023


Mott, B. (2023) The role of gender and curiosity on transformational leadership: A mixed-methods study. [Unpublished master's thesis] University of Nebraska Lincoln


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark E. Burbach. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Brooke C. Mott


Environmental leaders are tasked with finding innovative solutions to dynamic environmental challenges. Leaders must gain and use new knowledge and experiences that motivate resolving gaps in one’s knowledge (i.e., curiosity) and thereby find forward-thinking solutions. Although curiosity is an integral part of human existence, it may be experienced in various ways. Studies have shown that men and women may possess different leadership styles. Nevertheless, the influence of curiosity on leadership between genders has not been as readily explored. Women exhibit unique characteristics for successful leadership in many contexts, but they are often underrepresented in natural resource management overall. Characteristics of human curiosity and those of women leaders are similar to qualities of transformational leaders in successful environmental stewards. This present study employs explanatory mixed methods to investigate the role of curiosity in transformational leadership and seeks to understand the influence of curiosity and leadership in women environmental leaders.

We assessed gender, trait curiosity, and transformational leadership scores of participants in the year-long Nebraska Water Leaders Academy. Regression analysis found that curiosity was a strong predictor of transformational leadership while gender was not, from both participant and rater perspectives. Thematic analysis of interviews with women environmental leaders produced seven themes that characterize the essence of the roles of curiosity and transformational leadership influence their experiences. Participants expressed constant awareness of stereotypical gender roles and how they reinforced power imbalances. These imbalances both limited and supported elements of women’s curiosity and leadership. Their people-oriented curiosity supported communication, relationship building, and perspective gaining which have been identified as strengths of women leaders.

Adviser: Mark E. Burbach