What Is Organizational Leadership?

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Effective leaders inspire and motivate their co-workers, and they help their colleagues accomplish their goals. In the context of a business, this can be referred to as “organizational leadership.”

Understanding the expectations for leaders is important for those working in management or any other business leadership role. In this article, we’ll explore a detailed definition of organizational leadership.

Organizational Leadership Definition

So, what is organizational leadership exactly? The idea of organizational leadership describes leaders who take an active role in working with their teams and organizations. These leaders set strategic goals for their company and motivate their teams to accomplish them.

Being an effective leader is about more than delegating tasks or telling others what to do. It requires problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as the ability to think strategically. These individuals are trustworthy, organized, compassionate, and possess many of the other positive qualities of managers.

Organizational Leadership Theory

For those studying organizational leadership, several leadership theories have attempted to further explain why certain individuals have succeeded in leadership roles. Some common organizational leadership theories include:

  1. Behavioral theories, which are based on the idea that great leaders are made – not born – and they have learned to be effective through teaching and observation.
  2. Management theories, which focus on transactional leaders who use systems of rewards and punishments in attempts to motivate their teams and optimize their entire group’s performance.
  3. Relationship theories, which explore the connections between leaders and followers, including leaders who focus on the performances of individual team members and want each of them to fulfill their potential.
  4. Situational theories, which focus on flexible leaders who direct their attention to their environment and determine which leadership style is most appropriate for their situation.
  5. Trait theories, which assume that the most effective leaders inherit certain personality traits, such as extroversion or self-confidence, and that the strongest leaders are most often born and not made.

Degrees in Organizational Leadership

Business degrees of all kinds are useful in many different careers, but a degree in organizational leadership can be especially well-suited for managers and other business professionals in leadership roles.

Here at Columbia Southern University, we offer online organizational leadership degrees at both the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. We’ll use those two programs as examples of what students may find in an organizational leadership degree program.

Organizational Leadership Bachelor’s Degree

At CSU, our Bachelor of Science in organizational leadership is designed for students seeking to explore fundamental concepts about how leaders can best interact with their businesses and employees. Some examples of classes included at the bachelor’s degree level are:

Organizational Leadership Master's Degree

For students at the master’s degree level, CSU offers an M.S. in organizational leadership. The master’s degree program explores advanced concepts, including how leaders can help their teams navigate through the near-constant changes of the modern business landscape. Some of the courses offered in our master’s degree program include:

  • Business Ethics.
  • Crisis Communication Management.
  • Current Issues in Leadership.
  • Foundation for Research.
  • Project Stakeholders.


Organizations of all kinds need managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy is projected to add 906,800 jobs across all management occupations between 2020 and 2030.

There’s a difference between management and leadership, however. Managers perform an important role, but leaders can transform their organizations or even entire industries. Business professionals who study organizational leadership can make a lasting impact.

At CSU, our online degree programs provide students with education to help them adapt to an evolving business world. For more information about our online business degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, visit our website.

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