3 Reasons to Get a Master of Science in Leadership


While a Master of Science in Leadership is a relatively new degree, in a very short time it is being perceived as a 21st century alternative to MPA degrees. MS-Leadership is a course of study that offers participants an opportunity to enhance their experience and leadership skills. Organizations recognize that using personal and creative approaches to problem solving cannot be replaced by the latest software.

After a quick Google search, I found quite a few catch phrases (i.e. be an effective leader) associated with MSL programs, but how does that really translate in the real world? To get more information on MSL degrees and why a government employee should consider pursuing one, I sat down with the Executive Director of Brookings Executive Education (BEE), Mary Ellen Joyce, Ph.D. BEE is a partnership of the Brookings Institution and Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). WUSTL Olin College of Business is one of the top ranked business schools in the Country and offers a MSL degree through BEE.

Question: What are the top three reasons why a government employee should consider pursuing a MSL degree?

Dr. Mary Ellen Joyce:

  1. The Skillset to Navigate and Manage Organizational Politics

The ability to lead and manage within the public sector is a unique challenge. Often times your goals and resources allocated to achieve them are narrowly defined, requiring you to operate within rigid constraints. A MSL will help you understand and think of new ways to navigate that process to be successful in your career and for an overall lasting impact. The ability to take what you are learning in the classroom and immediately apply it to your day-to-day responsibilities is the hallmark of a good MSL program. Students in our program showcase their successes in capstone papers where they highlight how they took what they learned in the classroom and successfully applied it at their organization. With the right combination of faculty, practitioners and experts an MSL student should walk away with the knowledge to build effective teams, inspire others and make well thought decisions.

2. Effective Leadership

As a public sector employee you are not driven by the bottom line. Mission and metrics tend to be your focus. You have to be able to effectively communicate what that means and what that looks like to those around you. Not just those who report to you, but also who you report to. The ability to effectively manage up, down and across is essential to career advancement. In addition, with the economic challenges and financial constraints that have become the norm in the public sector you have to be able to not just perform, but also motivate others in what can sometimes be a challenging environment.

3. Self-Evaluation & Improvement

Leadership is a very general phrase, but it is actually a very personal thing. We all have different strengths, weaknesses and experiences that contribute to our leadership style. A good MSL program will address this. For example, although we have a core of required courses our students also are free to choose elective courses based on OPM’s executive core competencies and areas of opportunity. This approach allows students to truly customize their experience and get the most of the program to truly develop and enhance their leadership abilities.

Thank you Dr. Joyce for your insight on how a MSL degree can help move our careers forward!

Kimberly Hall is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply


I enjoyed reading your article. I wish there were more leadership/management courses in the doctorate of education programs today as principals and vice principals have to run schools. Running a school seems to be more than being an instructional leader; you have to know how to manage people, get them to work, manage finances, have vision for your school, develop a 5 year plan, etc. I wish that the MBA, ED.d, and leadership programs like the one your mentioned would converge at certain points so that our countries schools as well would benefit from the information in these programs. Your article really is timely! I appreciate you writing on this topic.


I also wish they would also add to educational leadership degrees or leadership degrees in general:

strategic operations/planning courses , organizational behavior courses, nonprofit and forprofit finance courses, grant writing/development courses………

Kimberly Hall

Great points! Hopefully one day we’ll see more leadership/management components in programs like the ones you mentioned.

Brenda Dennis

Interesting article! I wasn’t even aware that MS-Leadership existed! Now…..if only education wasn’t so expensive!