Executive Master of Leadership Blog

What You’ll Learn in USC's Executive Master of Leadership Program

[fa icon="calendar'] May 14, 2019 10:08:00 AM / by Susan Gautsch

USC Sol Price School of Public Policy banner at the 2019 commencement ceremony.

Throughout history humans have always paid homage to our leaders, from hieroglyphs giving reverence to ancient Egyptian pharaohs to holidays honoring US presidents. This is for good reason; without leaders we’d be lost when adapting to change, creating innovations, and effectively settling disputes. As the tides of culture and technology rapidly shift in the 21st century, leadership skills are now more sought after than ever.

Thankfully, through an Executive Master of Leadership (EML) program you will learn the leadership skills necessary to steer any organization through stormy seas and into clearer waters. With guidance from world-class professors and guest-lecturers, you’ll learn a wide variety of leadership skills through our EML curriculum.


Download the EML Brochure


Core Leadership Classes

Our four core classes take you on a leadership journey, starting by analyzing yourself as an instrument of change and ending by examining entire industries. Alongside a cohort of 20 to 30 peers from multiple sectors, you’ll engage in action-based learning through role-playing, self-assessment, case studies, in-class exercises, and discussions to strengthen your leadership competencies.

USC Sol Price School of Public Policy Executive Master of Leadership graduates at the 2019 commencement ceremony.Leadership Foundations: Competencies and Core Values

This first class will take you on a deep dive into self-exploration. Through a series of leadership assessments and group exercises, you’ll not only reflect on who you are as others see you, but who you are as you experience yourself.

Through this introspection, you’ll get a deep understanding of how you can create change on an individual level, all while becoming more emotionally aware and building collaborative relationships that inspire others.

How to Lead Individuals, Groups, and Teams

After laying a strong foundation as an individual, you will use that confidence to work with teams and diverse stakeholders. You’ll learn to take leadership within groups by broadening your understanding of team dynamics. A key component of this is understanding the different ways that people work, communicate, and solve problems.

Soon it will become clear that, as a leader, it’s your job to provide psychological safety while motivating everybody with your vision. You must be able to optimize your team to meet goals both as a collective and as individuals. By the end of the course, you’ll truly understand why the sum is greater than its parts.

Strategic Leadership of Organizations

Once you’ve enhanced your leadership skills, you’ll be ready to address one of the hardest parts of life: change leadership. Today, change is more prevalent than ever as technology develops exponentially. Whether these changes happen due to outside forces or internal ones, this course will help you address this reality and adapt on the fly to find the best possible outcomes.

Instead of being disrupted, though, maybe you're the disruptor. How do you create change? You’ll learn to anticipate how people respond to change and possible resistance points. Even though change is difficult, encouraging buy-in and mitigating fear is the key to 21st century change leadership.

How to Lead Transformations Across Sectors

In this final class, you’ll implement the skills you learned for leading change and creating buy-in within the larger context of industries, communities, and cross-sectoral partnerships. You’ll do this by putting your ethics, character, transformational leadership skills, strategic communication, and creativity into action in order to understand how shifts in policy goes beyond organizations to impact the world.


Typically, after completing the core coursework, you’ll take three electives that center on any area of your choosing. Some examples include:

  • Human Resources
  • Financial Management
  • International Development
  • Urban Planning
  • Information Technology
  • Health Management

At the end of the program, many students choose to take a class in strategic planning in order to integrate and implement the skills they’ve learned throughout the program. By the time they’re finished, our students are more than ready to lead us through the 21st century.


Download a brochure for USC's Executive Master of Leadership degree program.


Topics: Applying to Graduate School, Leadership Development

Susan Gautsch

Written by Susan Gautsch

Director of Online Learning at USC Price School of Public Policy

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