Top 19 Courses On Leadership
Leadership is not an exclusive club reserved for those who were “born with it.” The traits comprising the raw materials of leadership can be acquired. Link them up with desire and nothing can keep you from becoming a leader.
The popular conception is that leaders are born, not made, but the truth is that leadership is a skill like any other. Sure, it might come more easily to some people, but we can all develop and improve our leadership skills. Moreover, we should. Whether it’s business, school, sports or family, whether we’re managing a small group of volunteers or a Fortune 500 company, we are all called at some point to lead.
What do leaders do? They create an inspiring vision, motivate their followers to engage with that vision, and build a team that can achieve it. But while some traits that are fundamental to leadership of any kind, there are also nuances that depend on your particular situation. Leadership is essential in many lines of work, whether you're interested in marketing, project management, or even interior design - they all take leadership of a certain kind, but may call for different leadership skills.
Regardless of what kind of leadership role you’re stepping into, or even if you’re simply trying to wrap your head around what effective leadership looks like, one or more of the best leadership courses below will help you achieve your vision.
1. Seth Godin's Leadership Workshop (+Acumen)
Over the course of about 45 minutes, Seth Godin, thought leader and author, delivers his 9 Leadership principles, along with a series of reflection exercises designed to help you create a leadership plan for your personal situation. Among other topics. Godin address learning to lead from any level in an organization, understanding the difference between authority and responsibility, and being able to articulate a compelling vision for the future.
This course is less about practical strategies and more about a philosophy of leadership. It’s a great place to begin formulating a vision of what you want your brand of leadership to look like and why.
2. Leadership Foundations: Leadership Styles and Models (Lynda)
This course is about the same length as Seth Godin’s but it approaches leadership from a less philosophical and more practical perspective. It delivers a basic understanding of what leadership is, along with different types of leadership (situational, collaborative, and servant leadership, to give a few examples) along with traits associated with leadership, such as charisma, empathy, and authenticity.
Like all the courses on the Lynda platform, this one can be downloaded for offline viewing. It also comes with interactive transcripts of each lecture along with an integrated note-taking tool.
3. Foundations of Everyday Leadership (Coursera)
Part of the University of Illinois’s online MBA program, this is the first of 7 courses you can take toward earning a certificate in Strategic Leadership and Management. Not surprisingly, it has a more academic orientation than other online courses, consisting of a combination of video lectures, readings, case studies, and quizzes.
By the end of the course, students will understand why leadership skills are critical to organizational success, how to use those skills to work more effectively with others, and be able to apply the foundations of effective leadership skills to everyday situations.
You should allow a month to work through the four modules, which include individual and group decision making and managing motivation.
4. How To Be An Awesome Boss (Creative Live)
How to Be an Awesome Boss is aimed at business managers who need to lead effective teams but who are also working within a broader corporate hierarchy and culture. As such, it focuses on the nitty-gritty, day-to-day leadership skills that you’ll need to accomplish your goals and make your vision a reality. It covers topics like how to motivate your team, how to give feedback, and 5 ways to make your team hate you. (Fortunately, it includes 5 ways to make your team love you as well.)
The course consists of an hour and a half of video content, which can be streamed or downloaded. The videos are delivered in simple lecture format, so you won’t miss out if you choose to listen to them rather than watch. Transcriptions of each video are also available.
5. How To Realize Your Leadership Potential (Creative Live)
This course promises to “cut straight through the leadership fluff and provide … simple and high-impact actions … enabling you to develop yourself and your team simultaneously.”
And that’s what it delivers.
Unlike many other courses, it puts equal emphasis on personal development and leadership development. As a result, there are modules on assessing your leadership intentions, managing your time, and building relationships, in addition to topics such as increasing team engagement and giving feedback.
Material is delivered in video lecture format which can be downloaded for offline viewing/listening. The total time commitment for the videos is about 2 hours, though there are a series of exercises that may take longer. Class materials include a 360 Self-Assessment, a Leadership Checklist, and a Relationship Transition Questionnaire.
6. Think Like A Leader With Brian Tracy (Udemy)
If I’d had to narrow this list down to one course, instead of 10, this is the one I would have chosen. Brian Tracy, author of dozens of books on business, leadership and personal development, takes students through his 8 core pillars of effective leadership, blending specific strategies, such as learning how to delegate and maximize productivity, with lessons on mindset, vision, integrity and more.
Each of the ten modules takes between 20-30 minutes. They’re broken down into a series of short (2-4 minute) videos, and each module includes an exercise in which students are given a prompt and asked to journal their response.
Regardless of the type of organization in which you want to lead, Think Like a Leader will prepare you with both the tools and mindset necessary to make your vision a reality.
7. Demystifying Culture & Leadership: Strategies for a Successful Business (Skillshare)
This course proclaims itself for “entrepreneurs, people ops professionals, start-up employees, and everyone curious how great companies run.” If you fall into one of those categories, you’re in luck!
This course approaches “leadership” by demonstrating the effects of good leadership—the ways that leadership creates company values, fosters engagement, and nurtures great managers. It also includes a section on how leaders can use employee feedback effectively to create more fair and inclusive environments.
This is a short course—just 47 minutes total—but the videos are long enough to go into some depth of detail. The Resources section includes a bibliography of suggested readings and related courses that might be of further interest.
8. Strategic Planning (Universal Class)
This course takes a long view of leadership, walking students through the process of creating and implementing a strategic plan that will guide their organization into the future. Participants will learn how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their organization, understand its risks, and prioritize its needs.
Unlike many other online courses, this one has no video lectures. The content is delivered entirely in reading assignments. Each of the 14 lessons includes an assessment exam, and a final exam is given at the end of the course.
9. Organizational Thought Leadership (Lynda)
It’s not just individuals who lead, but organizations as well. How can your company build trust with customers, employees, shareholders and the community at large? This course shows you how to create a thought-leading organization by identifying your niche, taking a stand on key issues, developing your brand voice, and building the right skills throughout your organization.
The course is just over an hour and a half long and is broken down into 5 modules, each with 2-5 short video lectures. It comes with a pdf workbook with an extensive series of exercises designed to help you create a strategy specific to your organization’s needs and goals.
10. Leading Change (Lynda)
No industry is immune to disruption. The changes wrought by technology, globalization, and automation mean that any organization, in any field, needs leadership that can inspire and manage change.
Leading Change is an advanced-level course that demonstrates the importance of actively leading your organization rather than reactively responding to changes. It addresses developing a change mindset, helping individuals and teams embrace change, dealing with resistance, and identifying the best people for key roles when enacting change.
At a little over an hour, this is a relatively short course but there’s an insane amount of value packed into its 5 modules. As with all Lynda courses, there are transcripts available for each video and the entire course can be downloaded for offline viewing.
11. Leading People and Teams Specialization — Coursera
One of the most obvious places to find courses on almost any perceivable subject is Coursera, the largest MOOC platform in the world. The “Leading People and Teams Specialization” is a 5-course specialization that inculcates important leadership skills such as managing talent, leading teams, influencing without imposing, inspiring and motivating, with leaders from different industries teaching the courses; students also receive feedback on their work from leaders of “Fortune 500” firms.
Students will have to get through assignments and a hands-on project to successfully complete the specialization. Though you can enroll for free, you’ll have to pay to receive a certificate; financial aid is available. You can start with any course you like and even stop your subscription halfway. The course, provided by the University of Michigan, is ideal for beginners and will take around 5 months to complete.
12. Leading With Effective Communication — edX
Another great option when it comes to free-yet-effective online leadership courses is edX. This offering from edX is a 4-week introductory course to leading that tackles a wide variety of leadership-related topics. These include effective communication, approaches, inclusive leadership, working through any obstacles while communicating, strategies to create transparency in communication and building effective relationships as a result of these.
Though the course is a part of an edX Professional Certificate, you can enroll in it for free. It is provided by Catalyst, a leading non-profit organization that aims to build more inclusive workspaces and impart knowledge on dealing with changing trends in the industry.
13. Effective Approaches to Leadership: A CEEL Module — Harvard University
Leadership isn’t only necessary in business settings; it’s highly essential even in fields such as sports and education. This course from the highly-reputed Harvard University focuses on adaptive leadership and its importance in early educational environments; students develop skills such as solving problems in collaboration with colleagues and innovative ways to address any challenges in educational settings.
This course, part of the Certificate in Early Education Leadership offered through Harvard’s Zaentz Professional Learning Academy, is a great option to build core leadership skills and knowledge. It’s a 3-week intermediate-level course (runs from a particular date only and not open through the year) that’s led by instructors and earns you a CEEL on completion.
14. Sustainable Business Strategy — Harvard University
Another great course from Harvard University, “Sustainable Business Strategy” deals with the increasing challenges we’re facing on a global scale and how to deal with them, such as income equalities, social injustice, and climate change. This course teaches students how to be leaders who run sustainable businesses and help solve the global issues that we’re facing. Learning takes place through online case studies that are interactive (concerning industry leaders such as Unilever and Walmart); additionally, the lectures help in understanding the roles of customers, investors, and the government and how these can impact business models.
The 3-week course is an introductory course (runs from a particular date only and not open through the year) and is, therefore, ideal for beginners. It’s self-paced and students earn a certificate of completion after finishing the course.
15. What Great Leaders Do — Alison
This is a course that delves into and displays the habits of highly successful leaders and how these habits helped shape them. Offered by Stanford University and led by Professor Bob Sutton, the course outlines the habits of effective managers while also outlining the habits that lead to failure. These will help students develop strategies better and become better group leaders.
The course consists of 2 modules — one lecture module and one assessment module. Students receive a certificate of completion.
16. Leadership and Management Certificate Program — Wharton University
One of the leading universities worldwide, Wharton offers an online program that aims to help executives, regardless of their position in the organizational structure, achieve success, through lessons taught by the Wharton faculty. Flexible paced, with flexible start and end dates, the program is especially great for those in mid or senior leadership positions, helping them advance their career and reach new heights.
The program is 4 to 6 weeks long and consists of 4 courses (students can opt to take just the course and not the entire program), centered around leading and leadership trends of the century, how to efficiently manage talent and encourage it, managing firms on a global scale and developing strategies for management.
17. Leadership Stories: Literature, Ethics, and Authority — MIT OpenCourseWare
The fact that MIT offers more than 150 of its graduate and undergraduate courses for free through the OpenCourseWare platform is not very well-known, but if you want MIT education sans the tuition fee, this is it! Through the platform, students gain access to the Sloan School of Management, with access to a range of free leadership and business courses.
This graduate-level course (as taught in 2015), in particular, is innovative and fresh, using stories to understand ethics. Accordingly, students study novels, plays, films, and works of fiction and non-fiction to better understand authority, professionalism, ethics, work-life balance and questions surrounding individual identities, gender, and culture. All the course material, including reading and assignments, are up on the site and can be downloaded.
18. Executive Leadership Certificate Program — Cornell University
This leadership program from Cornell University helps students identify and learn approaches to building efficient, high-performance teams and how to be more authentic as leaders. The course imparts students with a mix of soft tactics and a strategic mindset so as to be successful leaders, as well as negotiation, influencing, and communicating.
The 4-month program consists of 6 core courses (each 2 weeks long) and 2 electives that students can choose based on their preference. The course is instructor-led and is great for mid-level and senior-level managers as well as Vice Presidents.
19. Certificate in Organizational Leadership — Villanova University
The “Certificate in Organizational Leadership” offered by Villanova University is a 3-course program that imparts leadership skills that are essential in a business setting. These include fiscal responsibility and planning, motivating and communicating with employees and building efficient teams, as well as strategies and tools required to lead the organization including innovation, adapting to change, promoting diversity and inclusion and emphasizing equity.
Students are required to complete “Strategic Organizational Leadership”, “Maximizing Team Effectiveness” and an elective course (out of the 5 offered by Villanova) to receive a certificate of completion. Each course of the program is 8 weeks long (except if you opt for “Essentials of Project Management” as an elective, which is 4 weeks long). The course starts on particular dates and doesn’t have rolling admissions.
Go Forth And Lead!
Whether you’re just wrapping your head around the concept of leadership or you want to develop and refine a role you already have, the courses above are an excellent way to get started. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re a born leader or not—we all have the potential to lead, and there’s no time like the present to begin learning how.