MS in Leadership Development

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By combining theoretical knowledge, practical exercises, and real-world case studies, this program equips students with the essential tools and skills to become influential leaders capable of driving positive organizational and societal change.

Program Options

Students are strongly encouraged to start the program in the fall term, but courses are offered all three semesters and students may begin the program in any term.  

On campus in person.  Courses are offered in the Fall and Spring semesters and follow a format of 3 non-consecutive weekends, Friday night and Saturday. 

Online. Being mindful of work-life balances, summer courses are offered in a synchronous online format. With advisor approval, students may be granted the option of substituting one online course for one of the leadership development courses offered in the fall and spring terms.   

Course Schedules


The following components make up the degree

  • Core - there are four foundational courses required for all students
  • Concentration - students select from two concentration areas and take at least three courses within their chosen track
    • Leadership Concentration
    • Talent Development Concentration
  • Electives - students take an additional two courses from either concentration area
  • Capstone - the capstone course is taken at the end of the program and allows students to reflect on their leadership journey and apply their learning to a project or research study 

Core Courses

All students will take 12 credits of core courses.  This equates to four, 3-credit courses.

MSLD 201:  Understanding Self and Others

MSLD 202:  Leadership in Organizations

MSLD 204:  Ethics and Leadership

MSLD 206:  Analyzing and Communicating with Data

In addition to the core courses, students will take an additional 5 courses with at least 3 of those courses coming from a selected concentration.

Leadership Concentration

The focus of this concentration is to strengthen the leader’s ability to obtain results through others.

You will gain knowledge on topics such as personality, influencing others, engagement, and intercultural relations. You should select this option if you are interested in becoming a stronger, more inspiring, and more innovative leader.

All listed courses are 3-credit courses

MSLD 203:  Organizational Politics and Influence

MSLD 205:  Global Leadership

MSLD 207:  Inspiring and Involving Others

MSLD 208:  Leading Change

MSLD 209:  Innovation and Future Thinking

Talent Development Concentration

Talent development professionals must help others reach their full potential.

Available on campus only.  If you select this concentration, you will combine critical leadership courses and four courses specifically related to the field of Talent Development. You will gain skills in learning technologies, instructional design, facilitation, and performance consulting.

All listed courses are 3-credit courses

MSLD 212:  Learning and Technology

MSLD 213:  Performance Consulting

MSLD 214:  Designing, Developing, and Facilitating Learning

MSLD 215:  Needs Analysis and Evaluation


The capstone is a 3-credit hour experience completed near the end of the MSLD program.

MSLD 210:  Capstone Experience

Completed near the end of the MSLD program, this course acts as a capstone project to the student’s graduate school experience.  Students may select among two options: (a) an original (basic or applied) research project or (b) an approved project directly related to leadership development. Prerequisite: 24 hours of MSLD courses. 

Students have the option of participating in an international experience as part of their capstone experience.  See International Opportunities for details regarding this trip.  


Student Opportunities

The Leadership Development curriculum offers opportunities for students outside the graduate program.  An undergraduate concentration as well as a dual program option with Pharmacy are outlined.  The Leadership Development Program also offers an international experience for students and alumni.  

4+1 MSLD Program for Undergraduates

Drake undergraduate students can complete their undergraduate degrees and a Master of Science in Leadership Development (MSLD) with concentrations in Leadership or Talent Development in five years. 

About the Program

The Drake University’s Masters of Science in Leadership Development (MSLD) program is designed to serve emerging and aspiring leaders in business, industry, and non-profit organizations who are interested in developing their leadership ability or developing the leadership capacity in others. Join other working professionals, from different industries and disciplines, in an interactive and collaborative learning environment.  

Gain the skills you need to become an inspiring and effective leader.


The following components make up the degree 

  • Core - there are four foundational courses required for all students
  • Concentration - students select from two concentration areas and take at least three courses within their chosen track
    • Leadership Concentration
    • Talent Development Concentration
  • Electives - students take an additional two courses from either concentration area
  • Capstone - the capstone course is taken at the end of the program and allows students to reflect on their leadership journey and apply their learning to a project or research study 

How the 4+1 Program Works  

Students would formally apply to the MSLD in their junior year. Students would complete up to three MSLD courses prior to their undergraduate graduation. During the students' fifth year, they would complete the seven remaining MSLD courses. Since the MSLD is a part-time program and courses are offered on weekends, students could start working full-time even before they finish their master's degree.


Courses are offered on weekends (Friday evenings and Saturdays) and are complemented by online materials. This flexible scheduling allows students to pursue full-time employment wherever they choose while completing their degree. The MSLD program can be completed in one year. This length offers students a cost-effective master's degree that will increase their employability and career advancement. Students can start taking courses before they graduate with their undergraduate degree. This allows valuable networking opportunities with graduate students who are already in the workforce. This mentorship strengthens the content learned in the classroom.

PharmD Students

PharmD students can complete a dual PharmD and MSLD degree by adding only eight graduate courses! 

You will work with professionals from various industries (for-profit, not-for-profit, higher education, and health) and gain valuable leadership competencies.  Pharmacy students interested in teaching may, with the MSLD advisor's approval, substitute some of the leadership requirements for Talent/Training and Development courses such as Performance Consulting and Designing, Developing, and Facilitating Learning.  Visit the PharmD/MSLD website for details.

Adult Learning & Talent Development

The Adult Learning & Talent Development field provides skills that translate to any career field.  

The School of Education offers a Talent Development concentration for undergraduate students.  All majors are welcome.  Visit the Talent Development website for details.


Course Descriptions

Course descriptions for all courses offered in the MSLD program.  

MSLD 201: Understanding Self and Others

In this course, you will discuss your preferred leadership and team style and carve a vision for your future growth and development. The course heavily focuses on the importance of personality in human and work relationships. You will learn about the Five-Factor Model, a serious personality model preferred by personality researchers. We will have in-depth discussions on the model and its applications to strengthening leadership competencies, building relationships, building strong teams, and developing others. Students complete a Big Five personality assessment and a 360-competency review. They also practice coaching others using the Big Five model and work on application case studies. At the end of the course, students receive a Certification for the Narrative Big Five, a valid and reliable Big Five personality assessment.

MSLD 202: Leadership in Organizations

This course serves as a foundational investigation of personal and organizational leadership with an emphasis on developing leadership talent. The following foundational topics in leadership are included: Overview of key leadership theories; differences between management and leadership; followership, influence, and power; and research-based practices on leadership development.

MSLD 203: Organizational Politics and Influence

Today's organizations are challenging, complex systems where success depends on the ability to navigate the political and communication environment.  Organizational leaders must effectively work with others to accomplish individual and organizational goals. This class will examine tools and techniques for identifying and effectively interacting with organizational and political challenges and realities. A variety of communication challenges, strategies, and techniques will be examined. Topics include conflict resolution styles and models, negotiation, organizational politics, influencing processes, and the language of leadership.

MSLD 204: Ethics and Leadership

The study of ethics is the study of moral philosophy and the ways in which moral dilemmas are evaluated and, ultimately, resolved.  Throughout this course we will focus on exploring the perennial question, "What is right?"   Through processes of shared inquiry, we will explore the theoretical foundations for making ethical choices and examine implications for contemporary workplace, environmental, and sociopolitical challenges.  In particular, we will emphasize the nature of moral and ethical leadership, review and critique our professional Code of Ethics, and discuss best practices for developing moral leaders.

MSLD 205: Global Leadership

This course explores the complexity of leadership in organizations within a cross-cultural and global environment. Topics include definitions and dimensions of culture, cultural awareness and development models, intercultural communications challenges, connections between national and organizational cultures, and diversity in the workplace.

MSLD 206: Analyzing and Communicating with Data

This course prepares students to become critical consumers of research reports in the fields of leadership and organizational learning. Students learn fundamental concepts on research design and implementation including an introduction to qualitative and quantitative research methods, a discussion on the design of research assessments, and a preliminary review of basic statistical analyses. Discussions on validity, reliability, and various types of research bias help students separate solid from sloppy research. Ethical and legal considerations are also addressed.

MSLD 207: Inspiring and Involving Others

This course helps students strengthen their ability to foster an engaging and meaningful environment for their followers. Topics include emotional intelligence, employee engagement, psychological safety and meaningfulness, availability of resources, person-environment and person-work fit, career development / growth, group dynamics, trust, collaboration, and building synergistic and collaborative teams.

MSLD 208: Leading Change

Leaders must not only deal with change effectively but also help their followers thrive in a constantly changing environment. This course will focus on the challenges and opportunities of organizational change. Topics include systems thinking, adaptive leadership, organizational diagnosis, and effective change leadership interventions.

MSLD 209: Innovation and Future Thinking

This course helps students hone their ability to recognize future trends, consider possibilities, and generate innovative solutions.  Additionally, students learn how to foster a culture of innovation, one that tolerates risk, rewards experimentation, and accepts failure as a catalyst for growth.

MSLD 212: Learning and Technology

This course introduces critical assessment, collaboration, and learning technologies.  Since technology changes constantly, students will also learn how to continuously identify and gain proficiency in new tools.  Ethical and legal considerations related to the use of technology in the workplace are also addressed. 

MSLD 213: Performance Consulting

This course helps students explore the field of human performance improvement.  Students will gain critical skills in applied organizational research, learning to identify performance improvement gaps and to propose appropriate interventions.  Topics include data collection methods, the HPI model, data analysis, and best practices in internal and external consulting.

MSLD 214: Designing, Developing, & Facilitating Learning

This course provides an overview of how to design, develop, and facilitate effective learning experiences for adult learners.  Design and development topics include writing instructional objectives, selecting appropriate training methods, and designing and developing instructional games and simulations. Facilitation topics include the rationale for selecting various facilitation methods and approaches for engaging learners.

MSLD 215: Needs Analysis and Evaluation

This course focuses on organizational needs analysis and evaluation processes. Students will gain practical data gathering skills to analyze performance needs and evaluate learning interventions. Each student will use at least two of the approaches discussed during the course to conduct a needs analysis or an evaluation project within a real organizational setting.

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