Home Media SCU Leavey Blog Developing Leadership Skills Through an Online MBA Program: Courses, Projects, and Mentorship

Developing Leadership Skills Through an Online MBA Program: Courses, Projects, and Mentorship

27 Mar
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Leadership is the driving force in any successful organization. Leaders don’t just direct others—a true leader inspires, motivates, and empowers individuals to reach their full potential, contributing to the growth and success of the business. While leadership skills can be cultivated on the job, Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs offer the perfect learning environment in which to practice and refine these skills, especially if you are looking to move into upper management and C-suite positions.

This post explores ways in which online MBA programs hone and heighten professional skills through leadership-focused courses, projects, and mentorship opportunities.

Leadership Development in Online MBA Programs

High-quality online MBA programs offer comprehensive curricula, interactive learning opportunities, personalized support, networking, and hands-on practical experiences. Designed for working professionals seeking to elevate their career trajectory, an online MBA program offers the flexibility, practicality, and robust curriculum needed to cultivate the skills required for effective leadership.

Building and Managing Teams

In the business world, leaders are responsible for creating and managing effective groups of colleagues. They identify talent, delegate tasks, and create opportunities for growth and professional development. Research has shown that many leaders are afraid to delegate tasks as doing so might be seen as a weakness. Assigning tasks to employees based on their skill sets, however, allows leaders to focus on and complete their other important tasks.1 The ability to delegate tasks effectively is a sign of a strong leader.

Creating an Attractive Company Culture

If a business is to have a future, it has to be a place where people want to work. Leaders who create and nurture work/life balance and an atmosphere of trust, respect, support, and encouragement will inspire their teams to perform at their best. This can also attract top talent and foster employee retention. According to a 2023 article published by Forbes, almost half of all job seekers consider workplace culture to be an important factor in choosing to accept or decline an offer of employment. In addition, the benefits of an appealing company culture go further than staffing: By hiring and retaining top talent, companies can increase their revenue by up to 33%.2

Communicating Effectively

Communication is essential for successful leadership. Leaders must communicate their vision, expectations, and opinions clearly and effectively. This helps them build strong relationships with employees, colleagues, and collaborators outside of the organization. The following habits contribute to effective communication:3

  1. Active listening: Listen and reflect before responding. Focus on what others are saying without interrupting. Paraphrase what you’ve heard to ensure comprehension and validate the speaker’s perspective.
  2. Acknowledgement: People are more likely to support leaders who acknowledge their ideas and responses. Effective leaders take the time to explain the rationale behind their decisions.3
  3. Demonstrating empathy: Empathy—putting oneself in others’ shoes to understand their experiences, feelings, and perspectives—fosters trust, collaboration, and stronger relationships. Failing to be empathic can cause employees to shut down and stop communicating.
  4. Gathering information: When employees and colleagues offer opinions, effective leaders ask for more information. Being curious and approachable encourages people to share challenges that may have been unknown otherwise. This builds a collaborative rapport between leaders and their teams—and between people, overall.

Leading Through Innovation and Change

It’s hard to overstate the importance of strong leadership in times of change. Whether adding or reducing staff, adopting new technology, modifying processes and workflows, moving to a new workspace or employment structure, or evolving to meet new developments in the industry, the leader who can navigate through the unfamiliar with grace and confidence is a tremendous asset.

Effective leaders anticipate and respond to what comes. This means being adaptable and open to innovation and creativity—including experiment, risk, and learning from failure. If employees are dissatisfied, wise leaders listen and put forth the effort to change what they can.1

Teaching Leadership Online

An effective online MBA curriculum will offer theories, frameworks, and empirical research on leadership and team dynamics. Graduate degree programs may include courses specifically focused on leadership development and leading organizations, particularly during times of innovation or change. Among other topics, these courses are likely to cover leadership theory, strategic leadership, organizational behavior, emotional intelligence, communication skills, and conflict resolution.

As part of a strong university education, students learn to put theory into practice through case studies, interactive learning opportunities, mentorship, and capstone leadership projects.

Case Studies

Case studies in an online MBA curriculum can expose students to real dilemmas and decisions that businesses face. They typically follow a set format:4

  • Subject: The business/company being featured in the case study
  • Challenge: The business problem the company was facing prior to implementing a solution
  • Objectives: The organizational goals that the company was hoping to achieve by solving the problem or overcoming the challenge
  • Solution: The process or product that solved the problem or helped the company meet its objectives
  • Outcomes/Results: What was achieved through implementing the solution

Analyzing case studies allows students to apply theoretical concepts to real-world situations and encourages the development of critical thinking and ethical decision-making skills. Research has shown that students are more successful at recalling concepts that are presented in the format of a case study.5

Interactive Learning

Online MBA leadership courses often utilize advanced interactive learning tools and technologies. They engage students in and enhance the educational experience, and prepare them for a world of business practices that require technological expertise.6 Interactive learning—including virtual discussions, group projects, and problem-solving activities—fosters collaboration, communication, and teamwork skills, which are essential for effective leadership.

Mentorship and Guidance

Some online MBA programs offer executive coaching or mentoring programs. Through them, experienced professionals and faculty members can provide personalized guidance and coaching to students, helping them identify their strengths and areas for growth as leaders.7

Mentorship offers an individualized approach to learning. An MBA mentorship program can provide a structured framework and a safe space in which students can be free to experiment and make mistakes. Mentorship can also enhance leadership effectiveness. Mentors and their students can work on communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, and other leadership skills, helping learners gain a deeper understanding of effective leadership practices while refining their own leadership styles.6

MBA Capstone Projects

Capstone projects integrated into an online MBA curriculum give students hands-on opportunities to work in leadership roles. These real-world challenges provide valuable, career-applicable experience and strengthen practical skills, as they require students to apply their academic knowledge in business settings. They often require students to interact with professionals in the industry. This can lead to networking opportunities, which are important for career development.8

Gain Top-Level Leadership Expertise

The Online MBA program from the Leavey School of Business provides you with the knowledge, experience, and connections to become a true business leader: a Silicon Valley Professional.

Led by a faculty of experts, this flexible, online degree curriculum gives you the choice to pursue a broad-based MBA or complete a concentration in data science and business analytics, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship and new ventures, or leading innovative organizations.

You can redefine your career and your future. Start by scheduling a call with an admissions outreach advisor today.