What Is Organizational Leadership and Why Is It Important?

Organizational leadership, while nuanced, is exactly what it sounds like. It entails directing and coordinating individuals within an organization to achieve its goals or mission. Whether you’re seeking to achieve higher levels of management or leadership, or you’ve reached a ceiling at your workplace and are looking for the next step, organizational leadership might be the right next step for you.

Definition of Organizational Leadership

More specifically, organizational leadership is a multi-faceted job requiring experience with planning, time management, and an understanding of company values and goals. Ironically, most companies don’t usually use the title “organizational leader” as you’ll see.

What Do Organizational Leaders Do? 

Organizational leadership jobs are impacted by the company one works for and the actual position. Despite being an important skill, “organizational leader” is not the actual title most often given. Organizational leaders are initially termed “high potential” employees (HiPos). As they move up the ranks in a company, business, or nonprofit, they then enter organizational leadership roles with managerial and director-level titles such as dean, provost, general counsel, chief financial officer (CFO), etc. 

The actual day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of an organizational leader include managing and motivating a team, utilizing a problem-solving mindset to address any problems that may arise, setting team goals and coordinating with other departments as broader organizational goals are being pursued. 

The importance of organizational leaders is bolstering teamwork, promoting cooperation, and setting reasonable goals by making the most of the unique skill set found in their team.

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Examples of Organizational Leadership in the Real World

As mentioned above, applications of organizational leadership aren’t usually found within a job labeled “organizational leader” but in other titles. Specifically, these types of jobs can be found in education, human resources departments, private companies, health care, nonprofits, and government agencies. 

A possible example of organizational leadership is managing a team project researching how a company can improve its website search engine optimization (SEO). In this scenario, the leader figure will help coordinate individuals and their strengths, encourage inclusivity, and ensure a plan is set with each person taking on the responsibilities to see it through. 

Some important traits for organizational leaders include:

  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Clear communication and good listening
  • Inclusivity and fostering safe environment for employees
  • Goal oriented
  • Respect and courtesy 
  • Creative in utilizing team’s strengths

Organizational Leadership Education and Degrees

The type of organization you want to work for usually determines the right degree to pursue. Within larger companies, employers typically look for candidates with a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL). Other times, you can start out with your bachelor’s degree and pursue further education based on how you want to move up the ranks. In addition to education, many professionals also pursue a certification or executive program to fill in any gaps as they move into leadership roles.

Some potential career pathways include:

Earn your bachelor’s degree

Typically, a business or management degree is ideal for someone pursuing a career in organizational leadership. The skills and knowledge gained from these degrees can set you up for success in the next step. During undergrad, students can reach out for informational interviews with professionals working in an organizational leadership positions.

Continue your education with a master’s degree

MAOL programs typically take about a year to a year and a half, though sometimes people will pursue an MBA over an MAOL. Deciding which track to take can be tricky, check out this article that compares these two pathways. Ultimately, these programs build upon your bachelor’s knowledge and demonstrate the ways in which you can apply them in real-life scenarios

Determine which size or specialty organization you’re interested in.

This step is crucial as it will determine whether you continue your education or hop right into the career world (though sometimes you can complete online courses while working). Either way, from here you can continue to a doctorate degree in a field such as law with a juris doctor degree (J.D.) or begin working up the ranks within human resources. 

Take opportunities for professional development

While working within an entry-level position, there are additional ways to manifest organizational leadership skills. Some examples include volunteering to work on certain committees or teams within the organization, taking the lead for new initiatives, and seeking out a mentor currently working in an organizational leadership position. All these small steps can add up to a resume chock full of experience and knowledge about what it means to take the lead and coordinate a team.

Earn Your MAOL in San Diego!

PLNU offers an M.A. in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) that will prepare you for stepping boldly into leadership at any level and organization. This program is catered for busy working individuals and offers two delivery options: online or in person. With your MAOL you’ll be set on the path to achieving your career goals.

Learn more about how you can get your MAOL through Point Loma Nazarene University. You can also contact a PLNU counselor for more information.

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