Topic outline

  • Course Introduction

    All managers are leaders.  All leaders are managers.  Which of these statements is true?  Neither.  The words are often confused, even in academic settings, because we think that both leaders and managers are in charge of a specific task or group of people.  However, there are many differences between the two.  One such distinction is that a manager may not be in charge of people at all.  For example, a manager may be in charge of data, including its acquisition, analysis, and dissemination.  Or consider the fact that a leader may have no formal power; many of history's greatest leaders only had power "earned” from their peers instead of power granted by another individual or group.  Think of our country's founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, who went against the British government to draft the Declaration of Independence--the situation created the "team,” and from that the recognized leaders emerged.  All of these distinctions will be explored in this course.

    Not only will this course distinguish between managers and leaders, but it will provide you with some of the resources to be both a competent manager and a good leader.  Whether you want to run a doctor's office or a company with thousands of employees, management and leadership skills are the keys that open those doors.  Many believe that the highest positions are given to those that know the most about the business, but in reality those positions are reserved for leaders whose leadership skills transcend business acumen.  These skills are difficult to teach in any setting, so it is important to study them carefully and look for real world situations in which to practice them.

    The structure of this course focuses mostly on leadership, because a good portion of management skills are reserved for technical knowledge in a position.  This course will begin with an introduction that will help further the distinction between leadership and management, and then you will be introduced to major theories and models of leadership and of leadership development from a variety of perspectives.  Next, you will be introduced to the process of decision-making in a variety of leadership settings.  You will then study the processes of leading independently, or without direct authority.  The final unit will focus on managing groups and teams.  You may not be a leader after concluding this course, but you certainly will have a better understanding of the qualities of leadership.  Perhaps you will discover there is a leader right at your fingertips.

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  • Unit 1: Introduction

    What are management and leadership?  What is the purpose of studying how to lead a team?  Aren't all leaders born and not made?  If that is the truth, then millions of people are wasting their time trying to improve their leadership skills.  Fortunately, trying to become a better leader is not a waste of time.  While it is true that some leaders are born, most are made by studying what makes an effective leader.

    In this introductory unit, you will explore the four pillars of good management: management, leadership, groups, and teams.  Management and leadership are often used interchangeably; the same applies for groups and teams.  Management is about allocating resources; leadership is about empowering people.  A group is a collection of individuals with a similar interest.  Teams have a similar goal, but teams work together.  A good leader will help a group and become a team.

    To prepare you for this course, this unit concludes with a look at some great leaders in history.  These four individuals are selected for their broad experiences and abilities to manage groups and teams.  The spectrum goes from sports team management to inspiring political movements, and from brilliant corporate management to excellence in military and national leadership.

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  • Unit 2: Leadership Theory

    People have studied leadership since ancient times, and theories of leadership have been around for centuries (Plato, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, etc.); however, it wasn't until the 20th century that the modern theories began to take shape.  Today, researchers study leadership the same way that they study other aspects of psychology: they seek to get a better understanding of people's behavior and motivation.  

    The problem with some of these theories is that they tend to contradict instead of complement each other.  They seek to identify one set of rules or behaviors that turns someone into a leader.  The reality is likely a combination of all the theories and some ideas that have yet to be defined.  It is best to study these theories with an open mind and understand that they each have their own merits.  Remember that emphasis should not be placed on any one theory.

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  • Unit 3: Change Management and Decision-Making

    The most difficult task for a manager is implementing changes without disrupting the whole business.  Changes to the normal business operation will have supporters and protestors.  It is important for a manager to understand the point of views from both sides.  Sometimes the changes are minor, such as a new benefits plan.  Other times major changes must be made, such as moving the operations across the country and laying off employees.  The only certainty with change is that you cannot please everyone, but a good manager will anticipate reactions and focus on effective communication.

    Both major and minor changes are often the result of a decision-making process.  There are many different ways to approach a decision, and each method has an appropriate time and place.  Decisions can be based on dictatorial edicts, on a leader's decision derived from consultation with subordinates, or on a more collective process where everyone can develop and agree on the final outcome.  These methods will be presented in this unit.  In addition, one must also address the real probability that decisions, regardless of the process by which they are derived, will be clouded by any of a number of biases.  We present the most critical of those biases, including anchoring, "groupthink” and selective perception in this unit as well.

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  • Unit 4: Leading Without Formal Authority

    While many students of this course will go on to manage teams, organizations, and companies, everyone will have opportunities to lead without being granted any actual authority (called "legitimate power”).  To leverage these opportunities, you must know what types of power exist and when to use them.  For example, having expert power allows someone to step-up, because they have the most knowledge about a specific subject. 

    Leading without authority goes beyond power; the ability to influence without manipulation, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills are all important aspects of gaining power and leadership without having direct authority over a group or team.  After studying these topics, you will be able to recognize when a leader takes over a situation and to determine who may be the best leader for a given situation.

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  • Unit 5: Managing Groups and Teams

    Whether your power base is legitimate or otherwise, you may find yourself potentially in a leadership position within a group or team.  But what is the difference between a group and a team?  This was touched on in the first unit, but further distinction is needed here.  Groups are often formed organically.  Think about a group of car enthusiasts: they come together because of a similar interest.  There may not be an underlying goal other than to share ideas and discuss topics of mutual interest.  Teams are formed more strategically.  For example, think about a professional sports team; management carefully selects and trains players, and together they work toward the common goal of winning games.  

    Teams should function in the way a group does: with a more relaxed atmosphere, which will allow each contributor to feel comfortable in his or her role.  Maintaining this atmosphere can be difficult, because teams sometimes work in very stressful environments.  This is why building a good team with great dynamics is so important and so challenging.  A team that functions well together will be more productive than a team that does not have a good dynamic.  Thus, this unit will enable you to explore the world of teams and groups.  You will learn about the internal processes that underlie team/group formation and maintenance as well as the role of leadership in these types of settings.  The unit opens with a discussion of diversity.  While the value of diversity in an organization is not restricted to team processes, scholars and business practitioners both agree that team performance is improved by a diverse membership.

    As stated throughout, this course will not make you a good leader or member of a team, but it can give you the tools that will help you recognize what makes a team effective and identify the players that serve best as leaders.

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  • Optional Course Evaluation Survey

    Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.

    Link: Optional Course Evaluation Survey (HTML)

    Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to contact@saylor.org and/or our Discourse forums.

  • Final Exam

    Quizzes: 2