What's the difference between a Master's in Leadership and an MBA?

Master's in Leadership

by Dee Masiello

Dee Masiello

Dee Masiello is the assistant dean of graduate faculty and academic affairs. She helped launch Northeastern's online MBA program in 2006. 

Let’s say you know you want to go into management or leadership. In today’s business world, the lines between the two can seem blurred. What’s the real difference? Which program will best help you meet your goals?  

Both degrees will help you develop your problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities, but they get there differently.

Here are some questions you may want to consider.

1. Do you understand how businesses work?

An MBA is a general management degree that provides you with an understanding of core concepts necessary to run functional areas like marketing, finance, and accounting. It will also help you develop the analytical abilities required to make strategic integrated business decisions. 

2. Do you want to inspire and motivate people?

A Leadership degree offers competencies that enable you to understand the tools necessary to inspire, develop, and motivate individuals and teams in support of strategic organizational growth. These skills may include developing emotional intelligence, learning how to motivate others, or building consensus. 

3. Do you want to explore a specialty?

An MBA combines a general focus on management with an additional option of completing a dual degree such as an MS in Accounting/MBA, an MS in Finance/MBA, or an MBA|JD. You can also specialize by concentrating on areas such as innovation and marketing. And for those with mid-to-senior-level business experience, an Executive MBA is designed to leverage what you already know. 

4. Do you want to learn business fundamentals,  strategy and skill-building?

In a graduate Leadership program, you learn many of the same core principles as you would in an MBA program, but the focus is more on the people than the business. You also concentrate on topics like leadership theory, cultural implications of leadership, and influence.

5. What kind of skills are most applicable to your career path?

MBA programs emphasize learning through data, case studies, and analyzing problems in different areas of an organization. You learn how decisions support the strategy of an organization, which provides you with specialized training in the operations of a business. In a Leadership program, you learn to execute on ideas and lead others towards a goal. You focus on building up a business by harnessing the power of the people at an organization. 

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Northeastern University is a top-tier research university that offers high-demand graduate programs aligned with the needs of industries around the globe. With a combination of online, hybrid, and on-campus degree programs in BostonSeattle, and Charlotte, Northeastern gives you the best of classroom and online experience while providing you the freedom and flexibility to learn on your schedule.  

See our program offerings to learn more about our degrees. Contact one of our Enrollment Coaches toll free at 877-668-7727 for more information.

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