“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan

Encouraging Better Leaders

Few things are more important to organizational success than leadership. Leaders are people who set direction, guide followers toward an inspiring vision and create something new. They help us visualize what might be achieved if our efforts are combined. Leaders provide guidance, direction and control—sets of actions that lead a group of people or an organization to success. Without these actions, organizations can quickly dissolve into conflict, with each person following a separate path or implementing a different solution to a shared problem. Leadership keeps us moving in the same direction and working toward a common goal.

Earning advanced degrees and certifications on the topic enhances higher-level leadership development. Attending and participating in leadership conferences, guiding other leaders and closely observing the behaviors of competitors will help one on the journey to the most effective leadership. That’s why the College of Liberal Studies is proud to be home to bachelor’s and master’s degrees offering comprehensive education in Administrative Leadership that can be completed 100 percent online.

Of Global Importance

Leadership continues to be a popular topic in circles of government, business, religion, education and family life—and for good reason! We live in a global world that is constantly changing. Effective leadership helps our country triumph in times of adversity, enables organizations to fulfill their missions and helps businesses achieve success. The absence of good leaders does just the opposite, however. Without leadership, organizations grow confused, stagnate and, ultimately, fail. To safeguard against this, organizations in a modern setting must address many challenges by employing people who are capable of guiding, directing or controlling their followers effectively. Most importantly, these individuals must also have the skill set to drive others toward a common good and build upon the skills of the people they lead. 

True leaders leave nothing up to chance.

The question of how to develop these skills is often prompted by where great leadership is taking place today. Some would argue that perhaps we no longer have leaders of the same caliber as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. or Ronald Reagan. A more likely complication, however, lies within the nature of the world itself. The society we live in today is much more complex than it once was, making effective leadership a more challenging task than it immediately appears. Leaders must consider a multitude of factors when making decisions for others, and there often isn’t a clear line between right and wrong. 

To lead effectively, true leaders leave nothing up to chance. They do not assume that their way is the only—or even the most correct—way of doing things. They are open to suggestion and enthusiastically accept teaching that can help them develop behaviors that will help their followers and businesses grow. Leaders understand that refining their skills is a process that could very well continue throughout the course of their lives.

Trent Gabert, Associate Dean Emeritus of CLS, knows this well.

“No one is ever a finished leader, nor is the work of the leader ever finished,” he said. “Leadership is a continuously developing process and adapting to change is a necessity of every leader.”

Applying Fundamental Knowledge

Being able to determine these factors is just one area that CLS’s Administrative Leadership programs emphasize. The bachelor’s and master’s degree programs feature a blend of theoretical foundation and practical application that, together, prepare students for myriad challenges faced by leaders today.

No one is ever a finished leader, nor is the work of the leader ever finished.

These degrees help students develop the communication, strategic planning, analytical, project and team management skills that are essential for professionals seeking a competitive advantage in the workplace. Core areas of the program include ethics, management, motivation, goal setting, conflict resolution and several organization-focused initiatives designed to teach students what makes their followers tick. Using real-world strategic methods and thinking, students are taught how to approach challenges from multiple perspectives. 

Learning crucial skills before jumping into a leadership role allows students to save time and avoid costly mistakes. CLS military advisor, Daniel Casey, attests to how valuable this can be.

“There are a lot of things in leadership theory that are scientifically proven, and every one of our courses is based upon solid academic research,” he said. “Take conflict resolution, for example. There is more than one way to resolve or identify a conflict. Rather than learning 100 ways not to resolve a conflict effectively, you’re presented with the tools to learn conflict resolution before we ask you to apply it.”

Developing Real-world Skills

For those who believe that the best way to learn leadership is simply to dive in headfirst, the internship component of the program offers college credit for hands-on experience. While not required for degree completion, gaining real-world experience is strongly encouraged by CLS advisors. Casey believes that internships are the best way to apply fundamental principles gained in leadership education to the real world.

“It allows the student to take the theory that they’ve already learned and apply it to a real-world situation,” he said. “That’s really how you take the theory and blend it in with the practice.”

The goals of CLS’s Administrative Leadership programs are quite simple. We want to empower our students to become better leaders and to learn how to inspire others to do the same. We do this by giving them the practical knowledge and theoretical foundations necessary to grow in their fields, and as people. Our graduates will thrive as leaders in a complex world, ready to take on any challenge that comes their way. 

Mary Wuestewald
Mary Wuestewald specializes in digital and content marketing at OU Outreach. In 2015, she earned a master's degree in Strategic Communication from OU’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She currently contributes to Insight magazine, the CLS blog and CLS social media efforts.

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