Leadership has always been a critical element of organisational success, but only recently has its value been adequately recognised in an educational context. The scope of this MSc covers defence and the wider security sector.


  • Start dateJanuary
  • DurationMSc: up to five years part-time; PgDip: up to four years part-time; PgCert: up to three years part-time
  • DeliveryThere are a variety of assessments including assignments and exams
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusCranfield University at Shrivenham

Who is it for?

This course is only open to applications from UK MOD personnel.

This MSc is designed to appeal to those interested in or involved with leadership. Its primary audience will be those with personal experience of leadership practice and who are keen to expand and improve their knowledge and understanding of leadership theory and practice.

Why this course?

The scope of the MSc covers defence, the wider security sector and public services.

Upon completion of the MSc you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of the variety of approaches to leadership;
  • Be aware of and develop a critical understanding of the nature of your own leadership;
  • Describe the causes of leadership success and failure;
  • Plan and lead successful organisational change;
  • Have the practical knowledge and skills to be able to analyse widely different contexts and situation;
  • Develop leadership in others;
  • Develop a critical analysis of contemporary leadership theory and practice;
  • Have the knowledge and skills to understand and shape the development of leadership in war, conflict and crisis situations;
  • Design and conduct a research project to address pertinent organisational issues in leadership studies;
  • Develop an area of specialisation through the conduct of an in-depth investigation;
  • Critically appraise and apply leadership studies ideas, theories and concepts to a specific organisational context;
  • Develop a critical analysis of the research methods and philosophies that underpin leadership studies.

Informed by industry

The advisory panel consists of senior representatives from defence and the wider security and defence industry sectors. It includes a former Defence Minister among the defence stakeholders.

Course details

The Defence Leadership MSc is a three-year part-time Executive MSc made up of 13 taught three-day modules delivered in seven schools; three schools in years one and two.

Module 13 (Research Methods) is at the beginning of year three and is a precursor to the research based dissertation which completes the schedule of study.

Course delivery

There are a variety of assessments including assignments and exams

Individual project

A 20,000 word research-based project selected by you and focused on an aspect of leadership.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Introductory Studies and Critical Thinking


    The module will ensure that students have the requisite study skills to perform effectively at Masters' level.


    Indicative module content: 

    •  overview and content of MSc defence leadership course,
    •  structure and role of higher education (HE) in the UK,
    •  critical thinking and the formulation of arguments,
    •  creative thinking,
    •  typologies of knowledge and referencing systems,
    •  assignments - how to research, reflect and write assignments,
    •  theories of learning - how to assimilate taught material.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

explain the role and function of HE and the requirements of Masters' courses,
critically assess and apply effective learning philosophies,
utilise techniques to assist in learning and assimilation of taught material,
exhibit the capability to identify and analyse complex problems,
synthesise data to reach and implement appropriate conclusions after seeking out relevant quantitative and qualitative information,
engage in both reflective and reflexive practice.

Leadership Studies - Classical and Modern


    To provide an introduction to Classical & Modern Leadership Studies, and their impact on the conceptualisation of leadership in defence.

    Indicative module content:

    origins of leadership,
    classical leadership,
    contingency theory,
    transformational and transactional leadership,
    adaptive leadership,
    communications and rhetoric,
    the romance of leadership,
    social identity theory,
    development of leadership concepts in defence.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

develop a coherent argument for explaining the historical trends in leadership studies,
describe the divergent approaches to leadership,
compare and contrast the most important trends in leadership, especially within the defence sector,
summarise the role of language, narrative, communications and rhetoric in leadership,
interpret the development of leadership theory in defence,
debate the comparative advantages and disadvantages of various forms of leadership, classical and modern, with particular reference to defence,
critically discuss the rhetorical techniques of leadership.

Strategic Management in Defence


    The module will develop knowledge and understanding of the key academic concepts in strategic management where students are invited to test the relevance of module content in a defence environment.

    Indicative module content:

    •  relevance of new public management (NPM) to strategic management and the defence environment,
    •  detailing and analysing the MOD strategic planning process,
    •  history and key thinkers in the development of management theory, eg Fayol, Taylor, Ford, Drucker, Porter and Mintzberg,
    •  defining the strategy process: analysis, options and implementation,
    •  identifying linkage between leadership and strategic management.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of the module students will be able to:

appraise the key academic theories involved in strategic management,
critically evaluate the potential relevance of these theories in a defence context,
critically analyse commercial situations to determine the relevance of particular theories,
generate and evaluate debate on the relevance of leadership theories to the defence context,
develop academically grounded arguments to support a particular stance.

The Psychology of Leadership

Module Leader
  • Rebecca McKeown

    The module will provide a grounding in psychological aspects of leadership in the context of complex organisations and defence.

    Indicative module content:

    •  fundamentals of psychology and cognition,
    •  intuition and unconscious processes,
    •  leadership in complex adaptive systems and the comprehensive approach,
    •  cognitive fitness for leadership.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

distinguish the basic dimensions of human behaviour,
relate key psychological theories to leadership behaviour,
recognise different cognitive strategies and appreciate strengths and weaknesses for different situations,
explain how the principles of behaviour relate to organisational structure, context and output, with reference to the operational and business aspects of defence,
debate the relevance of complexity theory to leadership in defence,
assess the value of key psychological approaches for understanding leadership,
evaluate the potential benefits of cognitive training for supporting effective leadership.

Defence Sector and Organisational Behaviour


    The aim of this module is to introduce students to the disciplines of organisational behaviour, as they apply within the defence sector.

    Indicative module content: 

    the history and contemporary developments in the structure and organisation of defence, in particular the MOD, but also the defence supply base,
    the nature of groups, group performance and cohesiveness; situational factors in human behaviour,
    organisational culture, power and resistance in organisations, organisational structures and design, organisational decision making.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

•  evaluate the available literature concerning group behaviours within the context of their implications for defence,
•  critically discuss a range of theories relating to the structure, culture and power relations in defence,
•  assess the dynamics of a working group and its environment to inform their own input for the purposes of leading that group,
•  analyse the structure and culture of defence, to identify possible dysfunction or conflict, and to identify appropriate corrective action,
•  recognise organisational barriers to effective decision-making and planning in defence and devise techniques to overcome them.



Programme and Project Management


    This module aims to establish a baseline of student knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of project, programme management and portfolio management. It will introduce key principles, processes, tools and the techniques underpinning project and programme management and will raise awareness of associated issues, with particular emphasis on leadership challenges in defence.

    Indicative module content:

    •  the strategic context of project and programme management,
    •  portfolio management and application in defence reform,
    •  programme management and managing successful programmes (MSP),
    •  project management BoKs and methods,
    •  project life cycle,
    •  multi-cultural management,
    •  scheduling,
    •  budget and cash flow,
    •  estimating and risk.
Intended learning outcomes On completion of this module students will be able to: 

describe the basic theoretical concepts that underpin effective project management and its links to programme management and portfolio management,
critically assess the relationship between business strategy, portfolios, programmes and projects,
apply the lexicon or project, programme and portfolio management,
evaluate project management tools and techniques, and be aware of their intelligent application and limitations,
assess appropriate use of a range of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills to a variety of project scenarios,
recognise what is meant by appropriate governance (including leadership) in project and programme management and be able to define the responsibilities of key players,
be aware of published guidance on project (APM, OGC, PMI), programme (MSP) and portfolio (MoP) management.

Leading Change and Innovation


    To engage with the key academic thinking in the linked fields of planned change management and innovation. To examine the current MOD policy and the linked issue of continuous improvement.

    • Management planned organisational change, with a particular focus on the work of Kurt Lewin
    • Innovation; examining the current focus on the role of innovation for organisational success and its links with continuous improvement, creativity and entrepreneurship.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Appraise the key theories relating to change management and innovation
  • Critically evaluate the linkage between change management and leadership
  • Evaluate the significance for organisations of developing sound change management processes
  • Critically analyse the strategic nature of developing innovative practice within organisations.

National Security: Resilience and Crisis

Module Leader
  • Dr Bryan Watters

    To provide an understanding of the role of leadership in the development, prevention and resolution of challenges to national security, including terrorism and civil crises.

    Indicative module content:

    national and international security,
    global trends,
    resilience as a social science concept,
    people and crises,
    the mass media landscape,
    natural disasters as national security issue,
    disaster management,
    organisational resilience in the UK,
    health protection and crisis,
    terrorism and counter terrorism, 
    leadership resilience in crises.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

analyse the history and contemporary manifestations of leadership in relation to national security issues,
evaluate the utility of alternative leadership approaches to civil crises, particularly when the military are used to assist civil authorities,
critically assess and apply the typology of tame and wicked problems to contemporary national security problems,
critically analyse the development of academic theory and its application to the management of disruptive events that impact on national security,
apply typologies of situations and their appropriate leadership styles to a variety of contemporary situations.

Global Security: Culture and Complexity

Module Leader
  • Dr Bryan Watters

    To provide an academic perspective on the nature and role of key international security and defence organisations and the importance of culture and place as a context for leadership.


    Indicative module content:

    •  key bilateral and multilateral stakeholders,
    •  bureaucratic, administrative and legal challenges to strategic leadership in guiding the development of national security strategy,
    •  the role of culture and international political economy on strategic planning and international interventions,
    •  decision-making frameworks: methodologies supporting different leadership styles in a range of multinational contexts,
    •  culture as an important driver of transitional change.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

•  describe the key players in the global security and defence arena and their inter-relationships,
•  critically evaluate the contemporary developments and disputes concerning the nature of strategic cultural analysis and its relevance to leadership,
•  define the role of ‘bureaucratic culture’ in the development and implementation of national security policy,
•  reflect upon and critique the utility of cultural analysis, and a range of other analytical tools, for the purposes of wider strategic planning,
•  compare and contrast the role of different academic disciplines to the analysis of culture,
•  apply different decision-making approaches across a range of different contexts,
•  undertake relevant strategic analysis (underpinned by a strong cultural element) of a wider security or defence organisation, a bilateral government ministry or country defence department, of their choice, using appropriate conceptual frameworks.

Global Security: Emerging Challenges

Module Leader
  • Dr Anastasia Filippidou

    To provide theoretical perspectives and methods of analysis for understanding the nature of contemporary security threats, the tools needed for in-depth examination of emerging challenges, and the measures needed to deal with adverse global outcomes.


    Indicative module content:

    introduces the traditional threats as well as new and (re)-emerging security challenges,
    transnational security issues that have global implications,
    strategic actions and policy developments designed to deal with challenges,
    noteworthy opportunities for co-operation and collaboration among and within various stakeholders. 


Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

acquire an understanding of how security threats are defined and addressed,
understand the dynamics by which decision makers prioritise security threats,
appreciate the ethical, political, and social dilemmas of security policies,
think critically about the nature of developing global security needs,
evaluate the utility of current leadership theories and models to equip leaders to lead during emergent challenges,
articulate informed opinion about pros and cons of policy making dealing with emerging challenges,
assess the impact to the UK of emergent global security threats,
debate the utility of leadership theory to the challenges leaders face as a result of emerging threats to global security.

Leadership Development in Defence

Module Leader
  • Dr Bryan Watters

    To provide frameworks for understanding the rationale for leadership development, and its relationship with leadership theory.

    • Definition(s) of leadership development  and the role of competency models
    • History of leadership development and the current landscape
    • Models of leadership development; the 3 element model: strategic, imperative/strategic, choice/evaluation
    • Implementing leadership development -  lessons from experience
    • The developing role of coaching and mentoring in the work place
    • The role, structure and utility of leadership development in defence.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Explain the history and current debates concerning leadership development, particularly in defence
  • Reflect on and appraise their own leadership journey
  • Evaluate the utility of various leadership interventions such as ‘sheep dip’ programmes, coaching and mentoring, lectures, private reflections, ‘encounters’, experiential and experimental methods
  • Analyse the actions and behaviours of other students and understand how to engage with them in constructive dialogue
  • Define, and engage with, their personal leadership development process.

Contemporary Defence Leadership Studies

Module Leader
  • Dr Bryan Watters

    To develop knowledge and understanding of the contemporary academic concepts in leadership, and to contrast this with emerging conceptualisations of leadership in the UK Armed Services, those of an ally and MOD.


    Contemporary research including but no restricted to:

    • Leadership and gender
    • Followership
    • Ethics
    • Toxic leadership
    • Distributed leadership
    • Leadership in the public and not-for-profit sectors (UK and US centric)
    • Critical and post cultural approaches to leadership

    Current conceptualisation of leadership in the UK Armed Services, an ally and MOD, including the work of the Defence Academy – Leadership and Management Division

    Examine a leadership case study.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

  • Describe the key contemporary academic theories involved in leadership and, separately, those pertaining to, or influencing leadership in Defence
  • Assess military leadership theory within the broader developments in the non military field of research
  • Justify academically grounded arguments to support a particular theoretical stance on leadership
  • Critically evaluate the potential relevance of contemporary leadership  theories in a defence context
  • Critically analyse contemporary leadership theory  to evaluate its  relevance and utility
  • Develop the ability to debate the relevance of contemporary leadership theory  in a defence context.

Research Methods


    The module will equip students with the appropriate knowledge and understanding to complete their dissertation.

    • Philosophy of social science research
    • Framing the research question
    • Conducting the Literature Review
    • Research Methods: qualitative and quantitative
    • Data Analysis & relevant software tools; eg SPSS and NVivo
    • Writing up research findings.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should have the skills and knowledge to conduct a significant piece of primary research in acquisition or related disciplines. This process will involve students in practical engagement and therefore development of a number of specific skills and knowledge sets:


  • The importance of research philosophy in framing research projects
  • How to assess critically social science research outputs in terms of their validity, reliability, and generalizability.


  • Project management
  • Knowledge of relevant sources for key academic work on the topic area
  • Interpersonal skills to generate relevant primary data; eg by interviews with key stakeholders
  • Analytical skills to interpret data against a conceptual framework
  • Framing defensible arguments using either inductive or deductive logic.

Teaching team

You will be taught by Cranfield's leading experts with capability expertise, industry knowledge and collective subject research, as well as external speakers from industry and defence. The Student Academic Support lead for the MSc in Defence Leadership is Emily Harris and the Course Director is Dr Bryan Watters. The teaching team includes:


The MSc of this course has been accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) at the Level 7 Award in Strategic Leadership.

At the start of your year two studies, you will be invited to take up Student Membership of the ILM, the cost of which will be borne by Cranfield University. Membership lasts for approximately twelve months, during which access is provided to ILM online resources. Upon successful completion of year two, or the postgraduate diploma stage, you will be awarded ILM Level 7 in Strategic Leadership and become eligible for corporate ILM membership at the level of Fellow.

Your career

This qualification will take you on to a thorough understanding of defence leadership in its widest setting, within and beyond the defence sector, in theory and in practice.

How to apply

Applicants may be invited to attend an interview. Applicants based outside of the UK may be interviewed either by telephone or video conference.