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Developing your leadership style

Developing a leadership style which is appropriate for your own context can be challenging. Leadership theories and ideas change over time and it can be difficult to know which to apply to your own practice. This course focuses on the introduction and evaluation of different leadership theories and styles which will enable you to understand how leadership is demonstrated within you own organisation and how your own leadership practice can be developed. It is suitable for managers in all sectors, at both first line and middle management levels. It will be particularly relevant for new managers but can also benefit experienced managers without previous management training.  

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code
This is a non-credit bearing course.
Study method
Distance Learning
Short course cost
See Registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This course is a concentrated overview and practice in some of the key skills and knowledge required to develop an effective leadership style and is based around a number of sessions of online study. These include learning materials in a variety of formats including articles and video clips. You will develop knowledge and understanding of different approaches to leadership which can apply across sectors and industries and enhance your employability. 
The areas you will study are:
  • Defining leadership. What makes it different to management? You will have an opportunity to explore your own thinking on what leadership is, and what makes it effective (or not).
  • Different theories about leadership - You will explore the relevance of these theories to your own practice.
  • Leadership for 21st century organisations. An introduction to theories which particularly respond to an environment in which organisations are characterised increasingly by flatter structures and complex matrix arrangements.  
  • Adaptive leadership which focuses on how individuals lead without or beyond authority to address complex problems.
  • The practice of leadership. 
You will be asked to complete a series of activities as you work through the course. These activities will help you to prepare a work-based activity, which you need to complete at the end of the course.
Through the activities, you will be able to demonstrate application of theories and approaches within your own work based context and you will also have an opportunity to identify where further personal development may be required. There will be several opportunities to relate what you are studying to your practice at work. Your work context and all aspects of your organisation and the people there form a rich learning environment. You can learn by comparing the ideas from the course with what is happening in practice. The work-based activity offers you the opportunity to practice using the tools in your own leadership situation and also enables you to identify and plan any further development areas.
The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in work-based learning:
  • The convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials, activities and support whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the dedicated website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline.
  • The support of an expert learning adviser who can clarify study materials, answer questions and help you relate the course to your specific needs.
  • A work-based activity helping you to connect the course to your individual and organisational context and needs. A learning adviser will review your work-based activity and provide personal feedback.
  • Certification of completion from the OU for those who complete the course. You can use this to demonstrate your continuing professional development (CPD) activity to your employer and/or professional body. (NB The course does not carry academic credit points.)

You will learn

After completing this course you should be able to:
  • Define leadership in different ways
  • Understand different theoretical approaches to leadership
  • Evaluate their relevance and apply them to your own context
  • Identify areas of further personal development to enhance your leadership practice
  • Plan the next stages of your own leadership development, drawing on the theories you encounter in the course.

Professional recognition

Successful completion of the course enables us to recognise your achievement of the course learning by issuing an OU certificate that you can use to document your commitment to continuing professional development in your personal portfolio, or to provide evidence to employers or professional body.

Learner support

Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a learning adviser. Other support is available via the course forum, StudentHome website and computing helpdesk.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

Work-based activity

The work-based activity for this course has been designed as an integrated ongoing activity that you submit at the end of your study. It will allow you to reflect on your learning and how to use it in your professional work.

Outside the UK

This course has been written primarily for a UK context, but will have relevance to other contexts.

Course length

This course will require around 25 hours to complete.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    Although there are no formal academic requirements to study any of our CPD courses, you are expected to have some experience in the field and the course assumes a familiarity with the subject.

    You can register and begin at any time during the life of the course. You can study at your own pace and submit your work-based activity at any date before the final submission date for the course.

    Please note that depending on when you register, you will have at least 6 months to submit your work based activity. Information about your final submission date is available when you register for the course. If you feel 6 months may not be sufficient time for your study and submission, please contact us to discuss your study options, including current final submission date before you register.

    Course length

    This course will require around 25 hours to complete.


    Start End England fee Register
    At anytime Flexible - see Entry requirements for more detail £305.00 Register

    Ways to pay

    Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

    Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

    The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2021/22 academic year. Fees for short courses starting in the 2022/23 academic year or later may increase in line with the University’s strategic approach to fees.

    What's included

    All learning materials, exercises, study support and the work-based activity are delivered entirely online.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.