Graduate Programs in Leadership Development

Nov 27, 2018

Leadership development helps individuals gain or improve skills necessary for leading organizations and groups. Graduate programs in leadership development teach the art of motivating and influencing people to help organizations achieve goals.

Professionals who work in fields such as business, education, healthcare, and non-profit management can enhance their leadership skills by enrolling in a graduate program in leadership development. Aspiring leaders can earn master's or doctoral degrees in leadership development. Students learn to inspire confidence in others and to motivate individuals and organizations toward positive change and achievement of shared goals. Graduate programs in leadership development may be offered under titles such as organizational development and leadership studies.

Leadership Development Program Courses

Individuals enrolling in a leadership development program can expect to take courses that address issues related to leading people in diverse environments. Degree candidates participate in classes that address the foundations of leadership, conflict management, ethics, global leadership, organizational change, and related areas. The following are examples of some courses common to graduate programs in leadership development.

Introduction to Leadership

Individuals enrolled in the introductory course receive an overview of leadership in organizations. Students are introduced to leadership best practices. Topics covered may include the difference between leadership and management, leadership theories, and the role that power and influence play in leading organizations.

Budgets and Finance

The budget and finance class teaches students the essentials of budgets, funding, and audits. Participants learn the importance of allocating resources strategically to accomplish organizational goals. Students also learn to manage the challenges associated with budgets and finance.

Conflict Management

In the conflict management course, students learn the importance of fostering collaboration and building partnerships. Participants explore conflict management theory and processes. The course teaches leaders to apply what they learn to deal effectively with challenges that arise due to conflict.

Ethics in Leadership

This course focuses on the ethical challenges and moral dilemmas that leaders encounter. Students study the history and theory of ethics. Ethical decision-making and developing a professional code of ethics are additional areas examined in this course.

Global Leadership

The global leadership course addresses the competencies necessary to be a successful global leader. Topics addressed include cultural awareness, communication, and workplace diversity. Students learn to analyze organizational issues and problems from a global perspective.

Organizational Change

As aspiring change agents, students in this class learn about theories and models of organizational change. Participants learn to motivate change while being mindful of the impact of change on individuals and the organization. Helping organizations adapt to change is another important aspect of this course.


The internship or externship gives a student the opportunity to practice leadership skills in a community or organizational setting. Some programs may allow a student to use his or her current work setting to fulfill the internship. Regardless of the setting, students participating in internships are required to work a minimum number of hours in accordance with program guidelines.

Capstone Course

The capstone course is the final course in a master's program. With departmental approval, the student designs and implements a special project related to leadership development. A successful written paper report or portfolio is typically required and describes activities, project evaluation and outcomes.


The dissertation is the final course in a doctoral program in leadership. Doctoral candidates conduct research in a specific area related to leadership development and write a comprehensive paper on their findings. The dissertation must be defended before a committee prior to graduation.

What Are the Admission Requirements for Graduate Programs in Leadership Development?

General admission requirements for graduate programs in leadership development typically include a bachelor's degree for master's programs, a master's degree for doctoral programs, an application, official transcripts, a standardized graduate admissions test such as the GRE or GMAT, an essay or statement of purpose, references, a resume, and the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) for international applicants. Some programs may require interviews for doctoral candidates.

A master's degree or doctorate in leadership development is an option for professionals in any field. The coursework emphasizes leading people and facilitating organizational change in positive ways, which are useful skills for leaders in areas such as business, education, healthcare, and non-profit organizations.

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