The working world of today is vastly different than it was 30 years ago. In fact, it isn't the same as it was even a decade ago. Technology brought with it more layers of business, which can include overseeing a website or dealing with international clients. In the ever-changing world of business management, what can you do to ensure that your company is doing the best it can to maintain order and organization?


Organizational leadership focuses on both the micro and macro levels of a business and helps to make improvements to the processes of the greater organization.

Importance of Organizational Leadership

To maintain order in an increasingly high-tech world, it’s critical to have employees who understand organizational leadership. Those who have a degree, certificate or other background in organizational leadership are more than managers. They are people who excel at whole-system thinking and are quick to understand how all the parts of a business come together to make a whole.

Studying Organizational Leadership

There are numerous programs that you can attend to get a certificate in organizational leadership. In addition, it’s possible to obtain degrees like a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in organizational leadership.

With a degree of this kind, you can serve a very valuable role to many companies. Have you ever heard the phrase, "You can't see the forest for the trees"? Organizational leadership focuses on both the trees and the forest of which they are a part. Workers with this background can inspect parts of the whole to improve them and can advise the larger picture or, essentially, focus on systems thinking.

Definition of Organizational Leadership

Organizational leadership is an area of study that focuses on both the micro and macro levels of a business. This makes those who studied it excellent as HR staffers, consultants and marketing professionals among countless other positions. Any organizational leadership employee should be focused on what is vital to your business and what is essential to your employees.

Example of Organizational Leadership

Take, for example, a new organizational leadership graduate named Robin as she starts her new job in health care. She was hired by the health network that oversees a group of three hospitals in the same city. She was told by HR that she would have a lot of work ahead of her.

Employee satisfaction has been steadily dropping over the past five years. The hospitals are facing a staffing shortage now due to many staff members leaving for private health care, universities or other health networks. Robin's job is going to entail finding out how to retain these employees while keeping the health network's main interests intact. Robin's first task is to look at the high-level scores for employee engagement and happiness.

Robin learns that one of the hospitals is worse than the other two by a fair bit, so she figures that she will have to drill down there first. Keep in mind that Robin isn't there to get rid of anyone or to suggest money-saving tips. Her primary goal is to find out what makes employees leave so it can be fixed within the larger organization.

Organizational Leadership and HR

Continuing the example with Robin, say that Hospital A is one of the newer facilities, yet it has the worst employee satisfaction score. The first person Robin visits is the hospital's administrator. The administrator explains to her that there was an issue with how an employee firing was handled.

The general feeling of the staff is that this employee was fired because his boss wanted him out. The employee had a lawyer speak to the hospital's HR team, and they settled out of court. That particular director was fired, but the problem left behind has festered. Employees believe that this happens a lot because the directors are only focused on themselves.

There are also rumors that had the employee not utilized a lawyer, the situation would have kept happening. Robin doesn't know if these rumors are true, but it is good to know in her position. Robin asks the administrator for the records of employees fired for the past five years and for a list of all the departments that work for the hospital.

Drawing Conclusions About HR

In this example, Robin notices that there have been a lot of firings in that particular department. She also notes that the other departments weren't as bad but were above average for the area and the industry. The red flag that she sees in her review of the firing records is that there was a sharp decline after the date of the lawsuit. The people fired at that time were not directors, but they worked closely with them.

Next, Robin needs to talk with employees of the hospital. There are several ways that she can go about this — she could ask people to meet with her in her office, for example. Robin chooses to first walk around the hospital and listen to what employees say and how they act. This took time, but she got what she considered to be more "real" information that way.

Why would Robin want to collect data in this manner? It goes back to what her degree taught her and the purpose of the position that she took. Robin sees her job as helping both the employees and the organization as a whole to work better. Getting to overhear what they are doing and how they interact with each other gave her an idea of which departments were happy and which ones were not.

Organizational Leadership Employee Meetings

In this example, Robin finds that the least-satisfied hospital department is the sterile processing division. Before moving on, Robin contacts the administrator to obtain his assistance in getting a meeting with the director, managers and employees. Robin stresses in her meetings that she doesn't want to point the finger at anyone; she is there to help.

The manager who is handling the director responsibilities says that she feels overworked, and she's let some of her core job functions lag behind the director's duties. The manager also says that she wasn't given an interim title or pay, just the work that her director had done before he was fired. The employee states that she feels like she is being punished for someone else's bad behavior and admits that she is looking for other jobs.

The rest of the staff feel like they aren't getting firm directions because the manager doesn't have time to give them. This in turn spawns rumors that the whole department is going to get fired. The fear of firing makes the employees tense, and they begin to make more mistakes than they usually would. This in turn makes the whole hospital lag and be jerked around due to the poor leadership in the sterile processing department.

How to Treat Information That Is Gleaned

Robin takes this information to her administrator and suggests that they either borrow staff from other locations or that someone at a higher level step down into the position of the director while they are looking to hire. She stresses that if someone from higher up in the food chain steps in to help, it would reflect positively on leadership and could go a long way toward fixing the problem of the staff thinking that higher-ups don't care about them.

Organizational leadership is therefore essential because it helps to gain information from all sides of a scenario and determine the best approach to move forward. In this example, Robin was able to speak with employees at various levels within the organization and develop a thorough strategy for keeping all parties satisfied and the company running smoothly.

Organizational Leadership Degrees

The example of Robin auditing the inner workings of a health network represents a high-level, straightforward version of what organizational leadership is and how it can help a company. The methodical thinking required to pinpoint the problems within an organization is half of what an organizational leadership professional does. The other half is human-focused leadership that values the individual as much as the whole.

To learn how to marry these two schools of thought, you could get a degree in organizational leadership. Many colleges offer courses both on campus and online. Some locations only offer certificates in organizational leadership, while other universities offer master's-level degrees.

To know what program would be best for you and your life, you will have to do some research. For working professionals with a robust work history that involves management, a certificate may be all that you need. People who have not yet entered the workforce may find value in pursuing a master's degree or a Ph.D. to make up for their lack of experience.

Four Types of Leadership Styles

When looking at an organization in an effort to lead it to greener pastures, it is helpful to understand different types of leadership that management may be implementing. Some strategies may be more effective than others depending particularly on the type of business and the personalities of all of the workers involved.

1. Autocratic or Authoritarian Leadership

Autocratic or authoritarian leadership is a centralized style in which the leader doesn’t consult others. These leaders are fully responsible for all choices that are made by the department. This sort of manager will provide close supervision and can be exacting in the demands from a subordinate. This style of management has fallen out of favor over the years due to collaborative management styles.

2. Democratic or Participative Leadership

Democratic leaders consult subordinates, such as in the form of a morning huddle. Other things on which democratic leaders focus are one-on-ones where they work with their employees and help them to grow. This style of management is widely preferred to autocratic management, as it gives employees more freedom and allows them to see their manager as one of the team instead of an outside force.

3. Laissez-Faire or Free-Rein Leadership

These leaders take the least responsibility and are minimally active with their employees. The thought process behind this strategy is that their staff are experts and thus will work best on their own. While this can foster a relaxed atmosphere, without clear direction, employees and organizations can flounder.

4. Paternalistic or "Head of Household" Leadership

Paternalistic leadership is much the same as the "head of household" mentality. The leader might consult an employee before making a choice, but in the end, all decisions are made by this leader. A paternalistic leader will offer good working conditions and safety for all employees. This method of management works best in cultures where this sort of management style is expected and conformity is valued.

However, many employees could quickly feel stifled by their lack of control under paternalistic leadership. This could repel innovative and ambitious employees. For this reason, it's imperative to know where you will be working and the general culture of the area before implementing any paternalistic changes.