Why rising managers should say 'yes' to this specialist degree.
The Master's degree in Leadership is a focused program of study designed to reinforce and extend skills in leading others. Typically more concise and reflective than an MBA, it is suited for well-established professionals in any discipline who are seeking greater responsibilities.
Participants learn to strategise, communicate, and structure the work environment to achieve high performance. The program balances introspective learning and increasing self-awareness with an outward-looking approach to harness the human resources at your disposal.
The program is of greatest benefit when your career is transitioning from professional practice to executive roles. At this stage, maximising your value to a company is less about your daily professional productivity and more about how you inspire others and lay the platform for their excellence.
What Is This Degree?
The structure of a Master's in Leadership program is flexible. It is suitable for people from different backgrounds with managerial aspirations. You could be an experienced practitioner in business, healthcare, engineering, or any other field.
Generally, students will examine leadership fundamentals, strategy, and innovation. You learn to lead teams, drive organisational change, and apply research for practical solutions. The focus is on developing critical skills like strategic thinking, communication, and problem-solving.
Electives allow customisation of your studies to areas like digital leadership or change management. Through projects and case studies, students apply theory to real-world scenarios, preparing for advanced roles. The program combines online learning and hands-on experience, making it adaptable to individual career goals.
An introduction to core theories and concepts in leading and managing. Aimed at program beginners, it lays the groundwork for advanced studies. The course includes readings, videos, interactive forums, and practical activities. It encourages self-paced learning, allowing students to apply insights to their own growth.
Leadership and Professional Development
This subject blends career and personal growth with professional skills. It starts with personalised 360-degree feedback. This shapes the development path students follow. They compile an e-portfolio to track skills progress. The unit focuses on self-assessment of leadership styles and enhancing communication for better professional networks. Assessments include a 2500-word reflection and a similar-sized portfolio, each worth 50%.
Leadership Research Methods
Learn to apply research methods to workplace challenges. The subject explores qualitative and quantitative approaches, ethics, literature reviews, and planning. It requires 150 hours of study, including lectures, podcasts, and discussion boards on the online platform.
Leadership Research Project
Students conduct independent research with an academic supervisor's support. You pinpoint an organisational leadership issue, review relevant literature, devise a study method, and present findings. You also interpret results and offer conclusions and recommendations, tackling real-world leadership challenges systematically.
Digital Transformation Leadership (Elective)
A short course on leading digital projects within teams or entire organisations. It spans six weeks and includes live online sessions with industry experts. Participants learn to set customer-centric strategies, identify skills, process, and technology needs, and influence governance to manage risk and drive change. Key skills include strategising for long-term goals, developing organisational momentum, and shaping governance for digital transformation success.
Innovation and Organisational Change (Elective)
A short course offering tools and insights into strategic innovation and diagnosing organisational change needs. Participants learn to develop change programs using models like Ansoff and Balanced Scorecard, and to craft business plans. Post-course, they can apply these models, evaluate innovation frameworks, plan change management for stakeholder support, and create strategic business plans. Assessment involves a 2500-word strategic change program plan.
The Master's degree in Leadership offers benefits beyond what you can obtain from a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which is the most common master's degree for managers and leaders. Here are five of the major pros.
The program tends to offer more electives than other master's degrees, supporting a personalised study plan and breakthroughs in leadership development. A fixed core curriculum of 8-12 subjects is common among MBA degrees in Australia, whereas leadership masters might have only four core subjects. Individual subjects also tend to draw on participants' workplace experiences, making learning relevant and immediately applicable.
Leadership masters tend to be cheaper than MBA degrees because of their shorter duration. Additionally, some business schools add premiums to the tuition fee per subject for MBA courses, inflating the cost of an MBA.
4. Salary benefits
Large salary gains are achievable if the degree enables you to move up the office hierarchy. Rising from the role of professional to manager, for example, or from manager to senior manager, is generally associated with significant pay rises. Australian job seekers who consider themselves simply to be 'Managers' earn in the range of $115k to $135k per year, with a median annual salary of $125k.
5. Unique value
Employers recruiting for executive roles may be impressed with the leadership skills in your master's studies. You may be seen as more ready for high-level roles than candidates relying on technical qualifications. While MBAs develop business and management skills, leadership programs offer highly focused preparation for the top jobs.
Specialising in leadership for your master's studies is a bold choice that is not for everyone. Here are three key cons to consider before committing.
1. May be premature
If you lack experience, the degree might not be immediately useful. Timing is key. If you have crucial gaps in your technical or management skills, you may benefit more from addressing those first.
2. Intangible enhancements
Leadership skills are vital but not easily quantified. Without other evidence of professional development, your CV or resume could look a little light even after earning the degree. It is not a replacement for learning your craft.
3. Need for complementary skills
Success with a leadership program also depends on strong job performance and inherent abilities. Without these, the graduate degree alone may not advance your career. You are effectively backing yourself to grow as a leader when you choose this course.
Types of Leadership Masters
You can study for a postgraduate leadership degree without literally enrolling in a Master of Leadership. Specialised degrees in Leadership are available that place the training in the context of a work discipline.
Whether you're an engineer, medical scientist, HR officer, nurse, or teacher, you can learn principles and strategies to be a better leader. These programs enhance your managerial capabilities and prepare you for senior roles within your professional field. Popular types of leadership masters include:
Each program adapts leadership principles to the demands and challenges of the specific field. This ensures you gain relevant skills to lead effectively in your area of expertise.
Is the Degree Worth It?
We asked Andrew Lancaster for his thoughts on the merits of this graduate degree. He is the founder of Unicurve and was acknowledged by the Industry Department in 2010 as "A highly respected leader who shows sound policy judgement and inspires those working with him."
He observed, "I learned leadership to a large extent by observing the leaders above me in the public service. Their ideas and fluency in talking about management were always impressive. I eventually discovered that everyone I admired had undertaken formal leadership training. I was learning indirectly from programs they had completed and were putting into action."
If you're succeeding as a professional and want to add executive polish and strategy to your total package, a Master's in Organisational Leadership is worth it. Your program can be selected and customised to be impactful. Graduates gain insights and communication skills to perform better as a leader and be selected for senior roles.