Your Guide to Organizational Leadership Degrees with a Focus in Training and Development

Written by Scott Wilson

training & development

One of the best moments you will ever experience as a leader will come when you assign a task to a team member and they immediately dive into it, doing everything exactly in accordance with best practices.

The real gratification in that moment comes with knowing that it’s the result of having put your heart and best efforts into developing and training that team member for exactly that moment.

That’s what training and development looks like as a leadership skill. Some leaders are naturals. They have the knack for sharing their knowledge in ways that make it easy to pick up and remember. And they have the built-in impulse to lift up their staff, to train and empower them as individuals who work toward their own team goals as much as the overall goals of the organization.

Whether you are a natural at this part of the leadership game or not, just like your staff you can benefit from formal training. You’ll find the exact blend of skills you need in organizational leadership degrees and certificate programs that offer a focus in training and development.


Strong Leaders Serve Both the Individual and the Organization Through Training and Developmental

team trainingIt’s always fallen to leaders to offer guidance and direction to their teams. That’s just part of what leadership is.

But overall training and development has not always been on the leadership skills radar. In many cases, both historically and contemporarily, organizations have relied on more specific and separate training programs to bring staff up to speed. They fall under the purview of human resources or get outsourced to corporate training companies and even colleges or unions. In the old days, leaders expected to get a fully-trained employee, ready to fit into the team like a Lego brick snapping into place.

Two things have started to change that perspective.

First, it ignores the unique dynamic of any particular team. Although everyone may filter through the same training program, it’s clear that every individual has their own special strengths or particular weaknesses. Even with identical training, their performance may ultimately be better or worse in any particular part of their job than any of their peer.

And recognizing and planning around those differences is one of the great strengths of good leaders. Understanding synergies and putting people together in ways that best reflect their combined skills and advantages is how great teams are made. So leaders themselves have good reasons to want to take on training responsibilities for their own teams.

Second, researchers and psychologists have started to see the value in supporting and assisting each individual employee working toward their own goals as part of their training. While corporate training tends to reflect the needs of the corporation, individuals aren’t motivated by that alone. They view what they learn in the context of their own career path.

That means effective organizational leaders use training as a way to help develop staff to achieve their own goals as well as overall organizational goals. It provides for a more motivated, more aligned, and more invested team. And that makes for a team that gets things done.

Training and Development Skills Make Leading Easier

creative team meetingThat alignment of goals and skillsets isn’t just a benefit to your team or even to your organization. It actually makes your job as a leader easier when you have staff you can count on, who have developed both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to get the job done.

So how exactly what are the skills that organizational leaders need to cultivate well-trained, highly-motivated teams?

For starters, there is plenty of overlap between just general leadership skills and the skills used by expert trainers. If you want to excel at either, you’ll need to cultivate talents like:

But leaders need to do more than just effectively present concepts and coursework. They need to align those training concepts with overall organizational goals and strategies. That makes it important to add in skills like:

And of course developmental work for leaders includes organizational as well as individual development. So you have to be able to tie big picture industry and organizational analysis and innovation back to the particular skills and talents your team needs.

Leaders Manage Both Organizational and Individual Development Processes

organizational trainingDevelopment happens at both the individual and the organizational levels. Leaders are responsible for both.

Individual development focuses on the talents, needs, and growth of people within your organization. Their aspirations and talents are all unique. The way they align with the overall organizational goals may depend on both hiring processes, individual growth paths, and changes in your industry.

Organizational development (OD) is a systematic process for improving organizational effectiveness and problem-solving. It concentrates on the systems and processes of the organization, which can include training and accommodating individual skills.

Every good leader has to bring these processes together, but also recognize where they split up. Organizational development may conflict with individual development. Fostering growth for your team might require altering organizational plans. It takes an expert eye for assessment and strategic planning to bring both developmental systems together.

Training and Development Degrees for Organizational Leaders

team sharing ideasFor all the reasons just discussed, pretty much every degree option you will find in organizational leadership will include courses in training and development work. It’s considered part of what makes organizational leadership distinct from other kinds of leadership frameworks.

But that doesn’t mean there is any shortage of degrees that have a special emphasis in training and development processes.

It can be tricky to nail down the right degree for your leadership career, however, because training and development are skills that also exist entirely independent of leadership roles. There are many programs that offer an education in training skills or even in organizational development that might not actually align with organizational leadership training.

You can find plenty of the best available education in training processes and how to build change capacity and effectiveness through organizational structure through those programs. But they will leave out many of the other elements that really juice up your leadership potential, such as:

Training and Development Concentrations for Leaders Are Usually Offered at Advanced Degree Levels

development trainingFor the most part, you’ll encounter OL specializations in training and development at more advanced levels of study in the college world. Graduate programs like a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) with a Training and Development Concentration are an exact fit for your needs as a senior-level executive. You’ll also find programs that lean toward either OD or individual development, with titles like MAOL with a concentration in Talent and Organizational Development, or an MAOL with a concentration in Life and Career Coaching.

As you can see, not all of these degrees say “training and development” right on the label. In some cases, there is an assumption that training is part of development, or development includes training education. So you’ll find programs called Master’s in Organizational Leadership and Learning, or Master of Organizational Change Leadership that also include a strong emphasis on training and development education.

Speaking of education, training and development has particularly caught fire in the world of educational leadership. Programs like a Master of Learning, Leadership, and Organizational Development or a Master of Education in Training and Development are common. You’ll find many degrees at more varied levels of study than elsewhere in the organizational leadership world, including top-level professional programs such as the Doctor of Education (EdD) in Organizational Leadership and Development.

Schools of education also offer leadership focus options in training and development at earlier stages than some other fields, like the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Learning with a Leadership, Training, and Organizational Development track or a Bachelor’s in Organizational Training and Development. These degrees may actually emphasize the training and development role, offering leadership coursework as a specialty or elective options to the program.

There are also opportunities to find unique training and development emphases, such as a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Supervision with a Training and Development Emphasis in Energy Education.

The human resources field also has a pretty obvious need for and connection to training and development studies. So degrees such a Master of Leadership and HR with a Workforce Development Concentration can also bring you the right combination of skill focus in training and development.

Both in and outside the world of education and HR, it’s also very common for leaders to put a new shine on their developmental skills through certificate programs. These are college-level studies, offered by accredited universities, but offer a faster and more focused training regimen than a full degree.

That makes them cheaper and easier for brushing up specific skills through quick post-baccalaureate Training and Development Certificates, or a graduate certificate in Professional Development.

You’ll also find a subset of certificate programs that are all about training leaders. Although in one context, you are the leader who is being trained, in another you are also a trainer of leaders on your team. So a Leading Leadership Development Certificate or a Leadership Education and Development Certificate can both bring you new skills and teach you how to transfer those skills to others.

Online Certificate and Degree Programs Make Training Programs for Leaders Easier To Find and Finish

young woman studying at homeIn both the degree and certificate world, you’ll find more and more options today that are offered in flexible online formats as well as traditional, on-campus studies. Some degrees combine the two, creating hybrid options that include both formats.

Either way, any kind of remote learning is a terrific option for anyone building leadership skills and climbing the ladder to high-level positions in their field.

That’s because you don’t have to put your life or career on hold just to get the training and development education you need. With schools across the country available from your living room with an internet connection, you can select the perfect fit for your needs without making a major life change.

And with asynchronous courses, you can complete your studies any time of day or night that is most convenient. For a mid-level executive with a growing family, that can mean the opportunity to fit in online homework before getting breakfast for the kids, or finishing up a streaming lecture on your phone while waiting to pick them up after soccer practice.

Understanding the Curriculum Required To Learn Training and Development Leadership Skills

training on a laptopThe actual coursework that you find in training and development programs for leaders will draw from the same kinds of classes, whether you take them as part of a master’s degree or in a certificate program. Of course, a full master’s program will fit in a lot more of these subjects, and in more depth, than a quick certificate can. But certificates may intentionally focus on only one or a few of these subjects specifically to build your skills in that area.

Some of the core classes you will need to polish up your leadership training and development skills include:

Leader Development

One of the keys to success in organizational leadership overall is that it includes the process of developing leadership in the ranks of your organization. It’s a virtuous cycle that gives people more autonomy, results in better decision-making, and creates paths to senior leadership for the future. So most training and development programs include dedicated coursework on how to cultivate leadership skills themselves, not just in yourself, but within your workforce. You’ll learn how to assess leadership potential and encourage independent thinking and decision-making skills.

Continuous Improvement Processes

A key idea in both organizational and individual development is that it should never stop. Every day, in some way large or small, your team should be getting better. The idea of continuous improvement processes puts this concept right into your training and operations, creating the proverbial virtuous circle: an ongoing, repeating cycle of improvement that leads only to more improvement.

continuous improvement processes

Mentoring and Coaching

A lot of the development process requires the soft touch of direct interpersonal interaction. To really get the best out of people, to find where their aptitudes and interests are, you have to be able to gain their trust and offer them the right advice at the right moments to encourage and propel them. Classes in mentorship and coaching skills teach you how to make those connections and to use them to bring out the best in each member of your team.

Managing and Developing Training Programs

Although organizational leaders of every stripe work on their interpersonal skills and empathy to become effective trainers, the reality is that most large organizations can’t rely entirely on that personal touch. Instead, they have to find ways to convey the same information and skill development through formal training programs of their own. Coursework in this area teaches you have to develop a curriculum, create materials, and offer guidance to instructors for when you can’t take a hands-on approach to training yourself.

Organizational Development

The effects of structural and cultural dynamics within any organization have critical impact on performance. An area of expertise has developed around structure and process design to influence those dynamics to create a positive organizational climate, culture, and boost business strategies by aligning the overall system with the goal. Many training and development programs include at least some coursework in this field to build your understanding of larger factors influencing business success.

Because most training and development degrees for leaders are offered at an advanced level, you can expect opportunities to participate in internships or other practical real-world chances to show off what you’ve absorbed. These can put you in genuine training and development opportunities in your industry, with active leaders serving as mentors and guides along the way.

You’ll also typically have to complete a capstone project or a master’s thesis (or doctoral dissertation, in EdD programs). These require a great deal of independent research and unique ideas and practices that you design and support yourself. It’s a way to leave an indelible stamp on your expertise through your, studies, something that will set your training and development style apart from anyone else.

Just as the leader that you will become will have been heavily influenced by your professors and mentors along the way, you’ll become that person for the next generation of leaders rising through your organization. The ultimate verdict on your success in a leadership role will be their success stories as future leaders. Your skill in training and development will ensure that those stories will all be amazing.