Management 101: Understanding Organizational Leadership

Understanding what is Organizational Leadership

Vision. Strategy. Empathy. These are just a few of the characteristics you might find in a good leader — and leadership is a skill in high demand in today’s business world.

According to a 2016 poll published by leadership development platform Elucidat, 77% of companies are experiencing a leadership gap. Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends report found that 56% of the companies surveyed were not ready to meet their leadership needs. And a 2017 report from The Brandon Hall Group revealed that 83% of organizations say it’s essential to develop leaders at all levels.

With companies of all types and sizes focus on leadership throughout their organizations — not just at the top — degrees in organizational leadership are growing in popularity.

What’s the Difference Between Leadership vs. Management?

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) defines leadership as:

The process by which an individual determines direction, influences a group, and directs the group toward a specific goal or mission.

Further, SHRM explains leadership is not a position, but instead, a behavior. This is often what distinguishes managers from leaders. A manager might be at the top of an organizational chart; leaders are found all across, up, and down that same chart. Managers oversee people and processes, whereas leaders might inspire and coach colleagues at the same or other levels as them.

A leader can be a manager, but not all managers are leaders. A 2016 Gallup poll discovered only 18% of managers “demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others.” That same poll estimated that the lack of leadership costs U.S. companies more than $550 billion per year.

Is there a difference between leadership and organizational leadership, though? Kind of. Organizational leadership refers to the overarching field of a person (the leader) strategically guiding and managing a group of people (the organization) to meet a common goal. Organizational leaders focus on the company AND its individuals. They are business savvy, innovative, and they are also strong communicators associated with “softer” skills and characteristics such as vision, emotional intelligence, and ethics.

Traits of Leaders: Can Leadership Be Learned?

Some people are indeed born leaders, but SHRM stresses that “people can learn leadership behaviors.” That’s why degrees in organizational leadership are so valuable; these programs can help shape ambitious people into the leaders they wish to be.

According to SHRM, the ideal leader is:

flexible, proactive, analytical, strategic, culturally competent, and adept at competitive positioning.

SHRM also references a study by consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, in which the pair interviewed more than 300,000 business leaders. In this research, they found the following were the most important leadership traits:

  • Inspires and motivates others.
  • Displays high integrity and honesty.
  • Solves problems and analyzes issues.
  • Drives for results.
  • Communicates powerfully and prolifically.
  • Builds relationships.
  • Displays technical or professional expertise.
  • Displays a strategic perspective.
  • Develops others.
  • Innovates.

As you can see, many of these traits are personal, whereas we’d likely see more process-oriented items on a top management skills list. While some of the softer leadership skills may come naturally to people, other aspects, such as analytics, research, and cultural competency, can indeed be learned or improved upon in a leadership degree program.

What Will I Learn in an Organizational Leadership Degree Program?

In a bachelor-level organizational leadership degree program, you’ll fulfill general education requirements, learn general business and management principles, and then dive into more specific organizational leadership classes.

Some of the primer courses and topics you might take include legal aspects of business, principles of management, human resources and organizational development, public relations, and persuasion. When you get into your major coursework, specific organizational leadership courses at National University include:

  • Leading diverse groups and teams.
  • Adaptive leadership and change.
  • Conflict/negotiation for leaders.
  • Ethics and decision making.
  • Classic studies of leadership.
  • Research for leaders.

As in most degree programs, you’ll also complete a final senior project which allows you to bring together everything you’ve learned.

In an online degree program like National’s, you will explore leadership strategies, decision-making approaches, negotiating techniques, ethical implications of leadership choices, and individual and group dynamics. At its core, though, an organizational leadership bachelor’s degree program will help you define your own leadership style.

Uncovering the Leader in You: Types of Leadership Styles

You’ve probably heard people talk about the difference between a leader and a manager, but you might not yet be aware of how many styles of leadership there are. One of the most fulfilling parts of attending an organizational leadership bachelor’s or master’s program is to discover who you are, or who you want to be, as a leader.

Depending on who you ask or what list you reference, you might discover anywhere from six to 13 types of leaders. Here are just a few:

Transactional Leader

As its name implies, transactional leadership involves rewards and punishments in exchange for completing (or not completing) a task. A sales position — with a tiered commission structure — might come to mind when thinking about a transactional leadership environment. A rewards-based system can be motivating, and many workers might thrive in an environment with clear expectations and a set structure. However, this rigid style is not right for everyone, especially workers who would like to contribute ideas to their company.

Transformative Leader

Transformative leaders are known for inspiring innovation within their teams and, in general, for empowering and encouraging employees. In this environment, leaders trust their workers and give them plenty of autonomy. However, not all corporate environments embrace this type of leadership.

Servant Leadership

Servant leaders put others first. They’re called to lead organizations because they sincerely want to help employees or a company reach their goals. In servant leadership, it’s more important to the leader to develop employees rather than focus on elevating themselves. Morale is often high in these environments, but putting themselves last is not something that comes easily to all leaders.

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership is also called participative leadership because these leaders involve everyone’s voice. Teams led by democratic leaders often discuss ideas and equally contribute to decisions and tasks. Democratic leaders often make their team members feel valued; however, one of the cons of this style is that achieving consensus can sometimes be inefficient.

Autocratic Leadership

This style is the opposite of democratic leadership. Autocratic leaders make decisions on behalf of their teams. As authoritarians, these leaders tell their employees what to do and how to do it; they ask for little-to-no input. More rigid than other styles, autocratic leadership has the benefit of quicker decision-making and a clear chain of command. However, more creative employees may feel uninspired in this environment.

Bureaucratic Leadership

This leadership style could be defined as being “by the book.” The power in these types of positions come more with the formal job title rather than personal traits. For example, a bureaucratic leader usually comes into their position due to seniority. Companies that have this type of leadership style generally also have clear management processes in place. The stability of such a systematic approach is one of the positive aspects of bureaucratic leadership; however, this style also leaves little flexibility or creativity.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leaders are visionaries, and they’re known for their inspirational approach to getting a team excited about reaching a shared goal. Charismatic leaders are also often transformative leaders. These leaders have big personalities and a contagious spirit, and that’s a plus for many organizations. Because a charismatic leader often becomes the face of the company, turnover not only impacts internal morale, but it can impact the public image.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

The laissez-faire leadership style is considered “hands-off.” This type of leader will give their teams what they need to succeed but then will trust their employees to get things done. While they put much of the day-to-day in the hands of their employees, they still take full responsibility for their team. Many employees thrive in this independent environment, but it might not be the best leadership style for workers who aren’t self-starters. Laissez-faire leaders also run the risk of becoming too passive.

When you read through this list of leadership types, do you recognize yourself in one or more of these? If you’re looking to hone your leadership skills or if your goal is to find a more effective leadership style, an organizational leadership degree can help.

Careers in Organizational Leadership 

An organizational leadership degree isn’t reserved for people who want to become CEOs, directors, and top-level managers. Remember, according to SHRM, leadership is a behavior, not a position. Anyone in any workplace could become a leader, no matter their job title. Also, some people might not have an interest in moving into a management role per se, but still wish to contribute to an organization at a higher level or in a more strategic way. That’s why an organizational leadership degree is helpful for anyone at any stage in their career.

It’s also important to point out that companies and organizations of all kinds — and all of the departments and divisions within them — need leaders. No matter what your career interests or passions are, you could seek a leadership position. Still, we’ll look at a few common positions people might pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership:

  • Training and development managers.
  • Training and development specialists/corporate trainer.
  • Project manager.
  • Human resource managers.
  • Human resources specialists.
  • Sales managers.
  • Marketing manager.
  • Management analysts.
  • Management consultant.
  • Military officer.
  • Recruiter.

Remember: you don’t need to have “manager” or “leader” in your title to lead and motivate others. Earning a degree in organizational leadership can expand your career potential and help you excel in any position. Looking at degrees in organizational leadership might also be an excellent exercise for budding entrepreneurs.

Veteran Opportunities: Your Next Career Move

When people think of famous leaders, some of our nation’s notable military figures might come to mind. In fact, the strategic thinking used in business, and even sports, today is derived from concepts created in the armed services.

Founded by Veterans, National University has a strong Veteran and active-duty military student population, and organizational behavior is a popular program among this group. G.I. Jobs listed a few leadership-related positions on its “2018 Hot Jobs for Veterans” list, including:

  • Operations manager.
  • First-line supervisor – mechanics.
  • First-line supervisor – office or administrative jobs.
  • First-line supervisor – transportation/logistics.
  • Sales representative.
  • Financial sales.
  • Human resources manager.

If you are a military Veteran, opportunities in leadership could be awaiting you! Consider exploring an online degree in organizational leadership and how National University being a military-friendly college, helps Veterans reach their next challenge. If you are looking for information to better understand exactly, what is organizational leadership? Follow the previous link to check out our blog on the topic.

Advancing Your Education in Organizational Leadership

If you already have your bachelor’s degree or if you plan to continue to graduate school, a master’s in organizational leadership can help advance your knowledge, skills, and career. A graduate degree in this field dives even deeper into leadership theory and includes more advanced classes such as conflict and power dynamics, consulting and assessments, and developing groups and teams.

There’s a difference between managing and leading. If leading a company or team of any size appeals to you, National University’s Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership might be a good fit for you.

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