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Developing leadership

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This module offers you the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge leadership ideas in tandem with developing as a practitioner. You'll cover topics such as identity, person-based leadership, collective leadership, ethical leadership and aesthetic views of leadership. You’ll also learn how to be a more discerning and critically engaged consumer of leadership ideas in the workplace and, more generally, in society. The module follows a developmental approach, meaning that you’ll reflect on leadership practice in your working environment and/or the wider world and be well-placed to experiment with new concepts and practices as a result. 

What you will study

You'll learn about many of the major concepts of leadership, one of the oldest organisational concepts, with a history stretching back as far as the Ancient Greeks. Leadership is a practice and area of study that has persisted for so long for good reason: people find it incredibly appealing as an idea. At a very basic level, this is because leadership perhaps inevitably deals with big questions about the overall direction of a group, organisation or society. In addition, people tend, for good or ill, to find the idea of leaders exciting, even bewitching. 

You'll cover a broad range of ideas in this module: learn about various key concepts related to what it means to be a leader all the way through to far more recent accounts that hold that leadership resides more in the collective acts of people.

In more detail, you'll cover the following aspects of leadership.

  • Leadership as person: these are approaches that assume that leadership resides in individual leaders. These views try to generalise what it means to be an effective leader by studying the personalities and behaviours of individual leaders.
  • Collective leadership: these approaches assume that leadership is a practice conducted between people working together collectively in a group to offer direction.
  • Identity and power: you'll learn how leadership has become a desirable identity and how some people are (unfairly) deemed more suitable for leadership than others. You'll also learn how identities in groups can be refashioned to create leadership with more possibilities.
  • Leadership ethics: you'll learn about perspectives that try to understand what it means to be an ethical leader and also perspectives that help you understand ethical practices of leadership.
  • Leadership aesthetics: you'll learn how leadership can adopt an aesthetic quality that moves people. You'll learn how to interpret aesthetic presentations of leaders but also how to improve your leadership practices through aesthetic practices.

Key module practices

You'll be asked to follow these learning practices as you proceed through the module:

  • Understanding basic concepts of leadership. This is the important but more straightforward task of understanding what is meant by various key concepts, such as collaborative leadership, identity, and so on.
  • Noticing examples of leadership (good, bad and indifferent) in the world around you, in the mass media and in your daily lives.
  • Collecting examples of leadership – in the form of texts (written records of what people say) in order to notice how people talk leadership; pictures, photographs, paintings or sketches so that you can notice how people visualise leadership; audio and video, so that you can notice how people enunciate and visualise leadership.
  • Reflecting on these examples in relation to the concepts that you encounter in the module: their strengths and weaknesses. You'll reflect on the effect some concepts seem to have – or that they could have - in organisations and in society, whether or not they are helpful, harmful or somewhere in between. 
  • Self-reflection: targeting your practices, assumptions and views. You will be asked to think in some depth about what you hold to be significant and important in terms of leadership, which inevitably means reflecting upon your values and even your own background. In turn, you'll be asked to reflect upon how your sense of self and sense of what you find valuable in others translates across into your practice – in leadership terms and as a follower.
  • Experimenting with leadership concepts. Firstly, you'll be asked to experiment in terms of your thinking. This means trying to think outside your normal zones of comfort: for example, if you are someone who usually holds leadership to be something tied very much to charismatic individuals, you will benefit from trying to think about leadership as something tied to a collection of people or to a practice, instead. You'll be asking yourself: what does it mean to see a particular person, practice or group in a different way? Secondly, experimenting means really trying out new ideas in your own environments. This could mean experimenting with new ideas and practices in a paid working environment, in a voluntary environment or more informally in your everyday lives. By experimenting with leadership ideas in real life we come to see their potential because these are ideas that are based on real human interaction – or at least they should be.

You will learn

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • understand and describe key aspects of leadership
  • critically analyse and discuss various key approaches to leadership
  • find and discuss information in the media or in your own lives in relation to key concepts of leadership
  • critically reflect on your own beliefs and practices in relation to leadership
  • critically reflect on your own working environment in relation to leadership
  • communicate an approach to leadership rooted in an understanding of yourself and your working environment
  • experiment in your own lives with different approaches to leadership
  • reflect on and describe your learning in relation to key employability skills.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 2 module, and if you have no previous experience of studying business management, it is strongly recommended that you first study An introduction to business management (B100) (or an equivalent).

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

You’ll be provided with six printed module books, each covering one block of study. You’ll also have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials online that you are strongly encouraged, but not obliged, to attend.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying B208 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Developing leadership starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination

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