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What is organizational leadership? Breaking down the basics

What is organizational leadership? Breaking down the basics.

You have your sights set on climbing the ladder to play a more integral role in your company. But how do you proceed? It’s possible that an organizational leadership degree could be exactly what you need to hone your leadership skills, helping you learn how to be effective in implementing organizational change, promoting teamwork and empowering your team to achieve success.

What is organizational leadership, exactly? Dr. Jalin B. Johnson, associate professor at UMass Global, offers clarification by explaining what relevant organizational leadership degree programs aim to do.

Effective is the key word,” Dr. Johnson offers. In organizational leadership programs, she says, “we are offering students the opportunity to look at leadership holistically. They leave with something tangible that can make them a more effective leader.”

You may be wondering whether a degree in the field can help propel you to new levels in your career. What is an organizational leadership degree exactly? And how can it impact your career? Read on as we explore the field and outline the different organizational leadership degree options to choose from.

But first, what is organizational leadership, exactly?

Generally speaking, organizational leadership takes traditional leadership skills to the next level by incorporating key aspects of human psychology. The basic premise of organizational leadership is to employ a management strategy that simultaneously works toward what is best for individuals and what is best for the company as a whole.

A basic organizational leadership definition involves synching individual employee goals with company-wide goals. Those effective in this area can help individuals understand and commit to their roles in fulfilling an organization's mission. 

Dr. Gale Mazur, associate professor in the School of Business and Professional Studies at UMass Global, recalls a former student explaining this idea perfectly.

“She said she came into the program as a good manager, but she was leaving the program as a very effective leader,” Dr. Mazur recounts. The student was already an adept supervisor who ensured tasks were completed, but she left the program understanding how to provide vision that helped employees feel more engaged.

Dr. Mazur explains that the ability to align people with the goals of the organization can be paramount in motivating and inspiring employees to bring that vision to fruition. In essence, impactful leaders must set the tone and direction of the company while working toward achieving organizational goals.

In their commonly cited paper, “The Nature of Organizational Leadership,” researchers Stephen J. Zaccaro and Richard J. Klimoski suggest the success of the collective whole is a major criterion for effective leadership. Every organization is comprised of individual parts that assist one another to work together as a system. The tenets of organizational leadership call upon leaders to learn how to capitalize on the strengths of individuals, manage around any weaknesses and use this focused management approach to accomplish what is best for everyone.

Zaccaro and Klimoski pose the idea that a great organizational leader impacts the routine activities of their companies, and also knows how to use their leadership skills in response to or in anticipation of non-routine events. This means effective leaders gain such an in-depth understanding of their organization and its employees that they can manage change within the system without disrupting it.

A closer look at organizational leadership degrees

If you’re looking to advance your business and leadership skills, you might be wondering what type of program you should be looking for. Dr. Mazur suggests considering what it is you’re looking to gain from a degree.

“If you’re looking for the basic skills to get a job in the business world, you’d probably be better suited for a bachelor’s in business administration,” she says. “But if you’ve found your niche and want to gain the additional skills you need to move ahead as a leader, you might consider an organizational leadership program.”

Dr. Mazur further explains that people are often hired for their technical skills, but later transition to management or leadership roles where the capacity to work well with people becomes more important. Organizational leadership programs help professionals hone those impactful people skills that can help them make the jump from individual contributor to effective leader.

What to expect from a bachelor’s in organizational leadership

Simply put, the undergraduate route would be right for you if you’re interested in organizational leadership but have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. That’s true even if you have work experience.

“I find more often than not that undergraduate organizational leadership students are people who have been in their field or industry for some time,” Dr. Johnson says, “and they have come to the point where they need to enhance their qualifications to advance.” She explains that these professionals are often told by their company they’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree to move ahead.

At UMass Global in particular, professionals from just about any field who are seeking a bachelor’s degree can benefit from the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership program.

“That’s part of the benefit of UMass Global’s organizational leadership programs,” Dr. Johnson divulges. “We are not industry-specific. We have different backgrounds. Across the board, we’re looking at how organizational leadership tools can be applied no matter your industry.”

At the baccalaureate level, UMass Global offers professionals a comprehensive curriculum that includes marketing, human resources, economics, organizational behavior, ethics, team building, finance, accounting and leadership.

With emphasis options like supply chain systems and organizational administration, the vast course offerings include the following:

  • Organizational Behavior
  • Leadership and Professional Ethics
  • Leadership in Diverse and Multicultural Organizations
  • Research and Analytical Thinking
  • Organizational Development and Change
  • Theory and Practice of Leadership

Students who would prefer an online, self-paced program may find what they’re looking for in UMass Global’s competency-based BBA in Management and Organizational Leadership program.

What to expect from a master’s in organizational leadership

When it comes to graduate-level programs, Dr. Mazur explains it’s common to see students who have several years of work experience and are now ready to take on additional leadership responsibilities. Some are even excited to take on executive roles.

“It’s not unusual to have students talk about being promoted midway through their program,” Dr. Mazur adds. “It’s because our program emphasizes putting what they’re learning into practice immediately. It really does give them a competitive edge.”

UMass Global’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program is great for professionals who want to explore leadership styles and strengthen their ability to focus on individual growth that leads to company success. It includes emphasis options ranging from business administration to human resources.

At the graduate level, you can expect some of the following course options:

  • Organizational Research
  • Democracy, Ethics and Leadership
  • Self, Systems and Leadership
  • Leading Organizational Change
  • Organizational Dynamics
  • Leadership and Team Development

The master’s program at UMass Global also enables military service members and veterans to apply their military experience toward their degree. In fact, those ranked E7 or above can earn their Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership in as few as seven classes.

Is an organizational leadership degree right for you?

Now that you have a clearer picture of the organizational leadership definition, perhaps you’re starting to see that a degree in this field can equip you with the skills you’ll need to achieve success. By learning how to meet challenges and accomplish goals — put forth both by individual employees and also by the organization as a whole — you can establish yourself as an impactful leader in just about any industry.

To learn more about your options and determine which organizational leadership degree path would be right for you, explore UMass Global’s Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership programs.

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