What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership?

a business leader explaining strategy to his colleagues
a business leader explaining strategy to his colleagues

From educational institutions to Fortune 500 companies, strong leadership makes a critical difference in organizational success. But many workplaces need more strategic vision, experience burnout among current leaders, and do not offer adequate development for leaders. In fact, the DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2023 found that confidence in leadership has plummeted, with leader quality ratings reflecting the biggest drop in a decade. 

Professionals who want to be part of addressing the leadership crisis with purpose and meaning can gain the skills they need through a doctorate focused on innovative organizational leadership.


What Is Organizational Leadership? 

Organizational leadership is a management approach that prioritizes empowering individuals as they strive to reach a common goal or achieve a shared mission. Skilled organizational leaders apply leadership theories in the real world, applying best practices and strategies to the workplace. 

The need for skilled professionals in leadership roles is profound. For example, DDI forecast states that:

  • Only 40 percent of leaders report that their company has high-quality leaders 
  • 72 percent of leaders feel “used up” at the end of the day (up from 60 percent in 2020)
  • Just 15 percent of leaders feel prepared to prevent employee burnout

Leaders and employees need purpose and connection at work. They otherwise suffer from low worker satisfaction and high turnover rates. But here’s the good news: meaningful leadership can make a remarkable positive impact. DDI reports that leadership tasks like effective coaching, clear development paths, and objective assessments make a measurable positive difference in the workplace. 

A doctorate in organizational leadership equips professionals to step into leadership roles empowered with the skills and tools organizations need to thrive.


Pursuing a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership: PhD vs. Ed.D.

Professionals who are interested in a doctoral program addressing leadership practices will find that there are two options: a PhD or Ed.D. While the two organizational leadership programs are both rigorous, authoritative, and terminal degrees, they differ in important ways. 

PhD programs are primarily designed to equip researchers and academics, while EdD programs prepare professionals to apply their learnings in the workplace. While an individual with a PhD in Organizational Leadership is mostly likely to work at an academic institution, a research organization, or a think tank, a professional who graduated from an organizational leadership program with an EdD is more likely to pursue a leadership role in the private sector, a nonprofit organization, a school district, or government. 

The programs also differ in terms of program length and coursework. While an EdD in Organizational Leadership will take around three years, 60 hours of coursework, and a capstone project, thesis, or a Dissertation in Practice, a PhD will require four to six years, around 90 hours of coursework, and a dissertation. 


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Enhancing Leadership Qualities through an Ed.D.

While technical skills are critical in the workplace, study after study reveals that the “soft skills” leaders demonstrate are just as—if not more—important. Soft skills, or leadership qualities, include communication, problem-solving, and listening. Through coursework that covers various leadership theories, interactions with faculty and classmates, and applicable projects that apply to a problem of practice within one’s current career, students in a doctoral program in leadership can develop and hone such qualities. 

Coursework in an Ed.D. in Leadership will likely include opportunities to develop leadership qualities such as:

  • Ethical Leadership
  • Professional Collaboration
  • Community Engagement
  • Adaptability
  • Cultural Intelligence
  • Decisiveness

Ed.D. students are empowered to engage leadership as holistic forward thinkers positioned for maximum impact by developing traits like these. 


Developing Skills through an Ed.D. in Leadership

While high-quality leaders bring their own personalities and styles to the table, some skills define effective leaders. Competencies learned in an organizational leadership program, such as change management and research skills, can directly positively affect one’s work environment.


Leadership Skills

High-quality leaders have a robust skillset to draw upon as situations, and even crises, arise. The modern leader needs to be agile, adept at managing conflict, and able to work globally. During a doctorate in organizational leadership program, professionals develop skills that empower them to lead effectively. 


Systems Thinking

Systems thinking refers to understanding how a whole entity—such as a school, business, or community—works together. Rather than focusing merely on one department or project, for example, a leader who is strong in systems thinking will consider the holistic impact of a decision. 

In an organizational leadership program, professionals learn how to analyze and understand complexity to make the best decision for the whole system.


Change Management

If the past several years have made anything clear, it’s that the world, and therefore the workplace, can change in an instant. Organizations need agile leaders equipped to help their organizations transform and adapt. Coursework in a doctoral program in leadership will include the study of leadership theories that empower leaders and organizations to navigate change.


Crisis Response

When the unexpected occurs, people naturally look for leaders in their professional and personal lives. Students in an organizational leadership program will study literature and best practices for understanding and mitigating crises. Since an EdD emphasizes real-world applications, students often engage in activities that enhance their understanding of crises that arise in the workplace.


Employee Development

Ever-changing workplaces require adaptable leaders. Through an Ed.D. program, students learn how to transform as leaders to initiate transformation throughout their organizations. By studying how to prioritize growth and personal development, students discover how they can model the values they desire to see in their employees.


Coaching and Mentoring

During a doctoral program in organizational leadership, students carefully study coaching and mentoring processes that empower individuals and teams toward strategic growth. They consider the various dynamics of a coaching or mentoring relationship, such as processes, approaches, and benefits. Through coursework incorporating theories into experiential practice, aspiring leaders gain effective skills that will apply throughout their careers.


Research Skills

Effective leaders can analyze data and anecdotal feedback for key insights and learnings that can influence future decisions. The research skills developed in a doctoral program in leadership equip professionals to succeed in their academic work. They can also be applied to the workplace where new questions and problems regularly arise. A few of the research skills included in an Ed.D. program include assessing and analyzing theories, articulating a theoretical framework, and communicating research findings.


Assessing and Analyzing Theories

When challenges or problems arise in the workplace, skilled leaders consider multiple viewpoints and discern the best course of action. Learning to discriminate among alternative research viewpoints during a doctoral program develops the professional’s ability to assess and analyze various theories to make an informed decision for their situation.


Articulating a Theoretical Framework

In addition to assessing and analyzing theories, Ed.D.-equipped leaders can describe and explain theoretical frameworks relative to their field. During a doctorate in organizational leadership program, students design and conduct systematic studies using quantitative and/or qualitative research methods and learn how to articulate a theoretical framework based on literature review and their own research.


Communicating Research Findings

As a degree program with real-world emphasis, a doctoral program in organizational leadership emphasizes applied research. Students learn to communicate their research findings in the context of current issues and the practical constraints of the real world. They also become equipped with the best modes of communication for any given setting, such as a written report or data visualization.


Technology Integration

Modern leaders do not need to be computer experts, but they must be committed to lifelong learning when it comes to technology. Through an organizational leadership doctoral program, students discover how technology has affected schools and organizations, learning from the past to inform future applications. They develop skills in identifying how technology applications could improve effectiveness, facilitating transparent communication, and setting strategic plans and policies for technology. 


Ed.D. Careers 

An Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership can equip professionals for leadership roles in various workplace settings. Some of the sectors where graduates of a doctoral program may work include:

  • Education: K–12 school leaders, postsecondary administrators, deans, college professors, and provosts
  • Business: corporate trainers, chief learning officers, and human resources directors
  • Civic and Government: education policy analysts, leaders of grantmaking organizations, and directors of nonprofits
  • Healthcare: healthcare organization management, health policy, health research

Skilled leaders are needed in every area of industry. Graduates of organizational leadership programs bring critical skills, qualities, and insights to these roles. 


Inspire Change with Marymount's Doctorate in Leadership & Organizational Innovation

Do you want to be a strong leader who drives meaningful change in your workplace or community? Are you ready to enhance your qualities and skills according to best practices and strategies? If so, the fully online Doctor of Education in Leadership and Organizational Innovation from Marymount University could be the next step in advancing your career.

The online Ed.D. program at Marymount is built for working professionals. Expert faculty lead our flexible program that offers coursework designed to help students engage with the complexities of modern leadership. 

“One of my favorite things about the Ed.D. program at Marymount University is the focus on building capacity for leadership,” says Marymount Ed.D. student Samantha Koury. “Certainly, that includes adding to our toolkit of concrete resources and learning different leadership theories and frameworks, but most importantly, it involves self-awareness and self-reflection.”

Fellow student Johnathan Harris echoes Koury’s statement, noting that the Marymount program is “innovative and not afraid to be bold and brave.” He highlights the program's relevance as well, saying, “This is a REAL-TIME Doctor of Education program. For example, my co-worker who is in the program with me was able to work together on several assignments that were immediately put into practice.” 

Like Koury and Harris, you can develop real-world leadership skills to create meaningful change in your workplace through pursuing an Ed.D. from Marymount University’s online Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation program. Connect with an enrollment advisor to get started


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