What is organizational leadership, or OL,it is a broad discipline that deals with developing strategic plans to help organizations set and accomplish goals — goals that rely on managing team members’ strengths and talents efficiently. For example, leading a team of specialists to optimize a company’s website is a common, everyday example of how organizational leadership occurs in the real business world.
Vital to all types of businesses and industries, organizational leadership roles differ from other types of leadership roles, such as general management or executive roles, in several important ways that we’ll explore throughout this article. For instance, while you’re unlikely to find a job position with the title of “organizational leader,” you can find this type of role in positions like management analyst and HR manager — two of the OL careers this guide will cover.
In an OL role, you’ll find yourself using skills like problem-solving and decision-making to increase the efficiency and enhance the performance of your organization, whether it’s a healthcare facility, education services provider, non-profit organization, or government entity. In contrast to other types of executives, in your OL role, you’ll be focused on setting — and reaching — strategic goals by managing your team members in an engaging and inspiring way.
But why does organizational leadership matter, and why consider formally studying this field? What do students learn about in organizational leadership programs, and what does a career in OL involve on a day-to-day basis? Continue reading as we explore the answers to these and other questions about organizational leadership and OL degree programs, along with some essential skills that will help you to thrive in this specialty area.
Why Is Organizational Leadership Important?
Organizational leadership is essential to modern organizations, from government agencies to private corporations, for a wide variety of reasons. Here are just a few of the ways that organizational leadership roles can impact the success and efficiency of local businesses, global chains, non-profit agencies, startups, financial and educational institutions, and other types of organizations:
- Creating a culture where team members collaborate to solve problems and deliver innovative solutions
- Ensuring that team members have adequate resources to complete their goals and reach their targets successfully
- Improving morale among team members
- Improving the speed and clarity of communication between departments or individuals, along with improving transparency
- Promoting an atmosphere of greater inclusivity and equity in the workplace
- Setting clear standards and criteria for team members to emulate and follow
7 Essential Skills for Organizational Leadership
Like any career, a career in organizational leadership involves duties and responsibilities that will require you to use certain skills throughout the course of your workday. For instance, not only will you need to possess strong leadership skills — which, needless to say, are essential for OL — you’ll also need some professional skills and traits which might seem a little less obvious, such as having a commitment to and embodying authenticity in the workplace.
Keep reading to learn about seven of the key foundational skills you should cultivate if you want to pursue a successful career in or related to OL.
1. Good Communication Techniques
All effective leadership is built on a solid foundation of communication. In an organizational leadership career — which we’ll discuss five examples of below — you’ll constantly be coordinating and collaborating with multidisciplinary teams. This requires you to be comfortable presenting complex information verbally and in writing; discovering and resolving team members’ concerns; and setting clear targets for your team members.
2. Able to Motivate Others
A skilled leader excels at motivating their team members to work hard, exemplifying the values that they expect others to demonstrate (such as adaptivity). In fact, bringing team members’ strengths into alignment with organizational goals is a key component of OL. Learn about some suggested strategies for motivating your employees and team members.
3. Be A Team Player
Being a leader requires you to be a team player, because you’ll need the ability to inspire, motivate, dialogue with, and learn from a diverse range of people. That means soliciting feedback; making yourself approachable and accessible; ensuring your employees have the support and resources they need to be effective; and knowing how to best leverage the strengths of each of your team members.
4. Being Authentic
Data shows that authenticity matters in leadership — but what are some ways that you can exemplify authenticity in the workplace, and encourage your team members to do the same? Some suggestions include polishing up your active listening skills, actively seeking feedback from others, identifying and exemplifying a core set of personal values, and holding yourself accountable even when things don’t go as planned — another key trait we’ll discuss in a few moments.
5. Adaptive and Agile
Even with the best of planning, unforeseen problems and challenges will arise — and when they do, you need to be prepared with an adaptive and agile mindset.
6. Responsible and Accountable
In any organizational leadership role, you’ll need to hold both yourself and your team members accountable for reaching the targets and accomplishing the goals you have set. As a leader, you’ll also need to be exceptionally dependable, since you are ultimately responsible for managing the performance of your team.
7. Strong Planning and Organizational Skills
It likely goes without saying that a leadership position requires you to possess strong organizational skills, which are essential for coordinating not only individuals and departments, but also data, information, and reports. A disorganized, unprepared leader sends mixed signals to their team members and can’t set targets or expectations clearly, underscoring the need to be efficient, focused, and on top of your details — even when the atmosphere becomes chaotic or stressful.
How Can I Develop My Organizational Leadership Skills?
In the last section, we reviewed some important skills for organizational leadership careers, such as communication, adaptivity, and accountability. The next question is, how can you acquire those skills, then ensure they stay current and sharp in a rapidly evolving business world?
Whether you’re an experienced professional or new to the industry, there are numerous ways that you can develop and maintain stronger OL skills — starting today. Here are eight examples to help you get started.
- Gain Knowledge – It’s useful — and for some positions, even mandatory — to have a degree in OL or related fields. Not only is enrolling in a degree program an efficient way to acquire the knowledge and skills you need, but it will also help you meet more employers’ education requirements, opening the doors to further opportunities.
- Build Expertise – Gain the hands-on experience you need to take the lead on complex and challenging projects at work. For example, the Master of Science in OL at National University requires students to work individually or on teams to conduct research and develop and present original ideas as part of their capstone project.
- Set Expectations – Let your manager know that you are interested in a leadership role — then demonstrate that you possess the skills, confidence, and drive required to manage diverse teams strategically.
- Professional Development – Keep learning with webinars, conventions, certifications, and courses, like enrolling in an online business certificate program you can complete on your own schedule.
- Volunteer – Actively seek out volunteer opportunities that are related to your goals and interests.
- Find a Mentor – Your employer and/or the admissions office at your college or university can help you connect with mentors or job shadowing opportunities, which you can also explore online.
- Informational Interviews – Ask people in leadership and management roles how they developed their careers in order to progress upward.
- Address Unconscious Bias – It’s everyone’s responsibility to promote an equitable work environment and work to eliminate workplace bias — especially an organization’s leaders, who set expectations for employees and exemplify the company culture. The five main types of workplace bias, which you can learn more about, are:
- Affinity bias, or favoring those whom we perceive to be “like us” while ignoring or rejecting those that seem dissimilar from us
- Attribution bias, which involves falsely attributing successes (or failures) to aptitude or character, as opposed to external factors
- Confirmation bias, which occurs when we focus on data that aligns with our expectations or beliefs — while ignoring anything that challenges or disproves the narrative we’ve already constructed (commonly referred to as an “echo chamber” or “bubble”)
- The “Halo Effect,” which is the phenomenon of letting one positive attribute favorably sway our opinion about the person’s other trait
- The “Horns Effect,” which is the inverse of the Halo Effect — in other words, letting one negative perception unfavorably (and unfairly) color our perceptions of that person’s other abilities or aptitudes
Why Should I Get an Organizational Leadership Degree?
What is a degree in organizational leadership, and why get an organizational leadership degree? Let’s begin by answering the second, and arguably more important, of those two questions.
There are many benefits and advantages to holding an OL degree at any stage of your career, from advancing further up the ladder at your company to getting started with an entry-level position. For example, some job postings may specify that a bachelor’s or master’s degree in OL or a related field is required. Additionally, obtaining your degree — not only in OL, but in any type of field or major — can increase your earning potential, as data shows.
To backtrack and answer the first question, there are several types of OL degrees, such as undergraduate and graduate degrees. For example, National University offers both a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Organizational Leadership, along with a Master of Science (MS) in Organizational Leadership, both of which you can read more about below. The degree that’s right for you depends on factors like whether you already hold an undergraduate degree, how much time you’re able to commit, and what sorts of career goals you’re trying to achieve. For example, you may need a master’s degree for certain types of job positions, which is further discussed in the section on career outlooks.
Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership (BSOL)
The Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership (BSOL) is an accredited degree program that challenges undergraduate students to develop and define their personal leadership styles and skills, placing a strong emphasis on diversity, conflict management, and organizational innovation. Core coursework in our BSOL program includes topics like Legal Aspects of Business, Leading Diverse Groups and Teams, Adaptive Leadership in Change, Advanced Group Dynamic Theory, and Classic Studies of Leadership, culminating in the Leadership Capstone Project. The program requires the completion of 180 quarter-units, equivalent to 45 standard units, and may be completed on-site or online.
Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL)
Students have the option to complete the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) at National University on-campus or 100% online, providing flexibility and convenience for adult learners with busy schedules. The program is WASC-accredited and can be completed in as little as 12 months, providing students with a springboard to accelerate and elevate their careers. To graduate successfully from the MSOL program at NU, students must complete a minimum of 54 quarter-units. Required coursework covers topics like Leadership in the 21st Century, Conflict and Power Dynamics, Global Development, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, and Analysis and Decision Making, along with a supervised capstone project.
The Organizational Leadership Career Outlook
A bachelor’s or master’s degree in organizational leadership prepares students for a broad range of careers in fields such as business and finance, including a range of managerial and leadership roles. Earning additional relevant certifications, though optional, can greatly enhance a job candidate’s marketability and competitiveness within certain industries or specialties, such as a Certificate in Human Resources Management or Certificate in Nonprofit Management.
Continue reading as we explore five careers you can pursue with a degree in organizational leadership, from work in sales and education to positions as an analyst or manager. We’ll discuss earning potential and salary data, job growth and career outlook, and a few of the key job duties or responsibilities that are typically associated with each role.
As a management analyst, you’ll consult with corporations and other organizations to help them increase their efficiency, tackling tasks like breaking down revenue and expense reports; interviewing employees to gather feedback; identifying the organization’s unique needs and challenges to be addressed; and providing new and effective solutions to organizational issues, like the need to manage inventory. Depending on the employer, you’ll generally need a bachelor’s degree or higher to work as a management analyst, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The BLS also reports that management analysts earned a median salary of exactly $93,000 as of 2021 — more than double the national average of $45,760. Not only do management analysts have ample earning potential, there’s also an exceptional opportunity for growth within this field, with the BLS projecting an 11% change in employment from 2021 to 2031. This rate is described as “much faster than average,” which is, by comparison, only 5% (“the average growth rate for all occupations”).
Postsecondary Education Administrator
The role of a postsecondary education administrator, according to the BLS, is to “oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities,” typically on a full-time basis. Unsurprisingly, this sort of leadership role involves a wide range of duties and responsibilities, including but not limited to reviewing student applications; meeting with and speaking to prospective students; and analyzing data to determine important standards like the maximum number of students to admit.
According to the BLS, postsecondary education administrators earned a median salary of nearly $97,000 as of 2021, adding that “the highest 10 percent earned more than $190,770” per year. The field is expected to grow at a rate of 7% over the coming decade, which is slightly faster than the national average rate of 5%.
Unlike most of the other careers on our list, this field generally requires a master’s degree to enter. Pursue your degree in OL, a Master of Arts in Education (MAE), or Master of Science in Higher Education Administration at National University; or, use our Program Finder to explore more accredited online and on-campus graduate degree programs.
Human Resources (HR) Manager
The role of a human resources or HR manager is to help corporations and other organizations implement better, more effective procedures for hiring, onboarding, and resolving employee conflicts and concerns. Job responsibilities also include managing employee benefit programs, supervising support staff, and helping to mediate disciplinary issues.
According to the BLS, human resources managers earned a median salary of more than $126,200 as of 2021, with the top 10% of HR managers earning over $208,000 annually. The HR management industry is expected to grow at a rate of 7% over the next 10 years, which is slightly faster than the 5% national average. In short, this is a position that has a robust job market with high earning potential.
The role of a sales manager is to lead and oversee salespeople and sales departments at organizations of varying sizes. In a sales manager role, you’ll be analyzing data to build strategies for improving sales; setting targets and making projections for the sales of various products; resolving sales-related customer complaints; and implementing strategies to build your customer base, among other sales-related tasks and duties.
Sales managers earn a median salary of more than $127,400, according to data from the BLS. However, the top 10% of sales managers were reported by the BLS as earning more than $208,000 annually. In terms of job growth and career outlook, the BLS projects a 5% change in employment in this field over the coming decade, which is as fast as the national average (also 5%).
Administrative Services Manager
A background in organizational leadership provides a solid foundation for a career in the field of administrative services management, which involves planning and overseeing a wide range of tasks and activities that keep organizations running smoothly. For example, an administrative services manager might be responsible for duties like supervising employees, keeping detailed and accurate records, creating deadlines for various departments, setting goals and targets, and ensuring that equipment and machinery is functional and up-to-date.
According to the BLS, the median salary for an administrative services manager was nearly $99,300 as of 2021, the most recent data available. However, the top 10% of administrative managers earned close to $167,000, the BLS also reports. The field of administrative services management as a whole is expected to grow at a 7% rate during the coming decade, which is slightly faster than the 5% average rate.
Ready to Pursue A Degree in Organizational Leadership?
Whether you’re looking to change or advance your career, the organizational leadership program at National University provides flexible yet fast-paced learning options designed for adult learners. From transfer and international students, to military veterans and service members, you’ll find online and on-campus courses to sharpen your skills, forge new connections, and push your professional development further. Start your academic journey by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, or build on your undergraduate degree by applying to our graduate OL program.
Learn more about majoring in organizational leadership at National University, from required coursework and internship opportunities to financial aid and admission requirements. Contact our admissions office today for detailed information, or start your application online using our secure portal.