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What Does It Really Mean to Be a Leader?

A woman in a yellow dress stands in a conference room filled with coworkers, facing a screen with a videocast of another conference room of professionals.

What is a leader? According to W.C.H. Prentice’s “Understanding Leadership,” leadership is “the accomplishment of a goal through the direction of human assistants.” A successful leader, Prentice argues, “marshals human collaborators to achieve particular ends… A great leader is one who can do so day after day, and year after year, in a wide variety of circumstances.”

Simple enough, right? Prentice doesn’t think so. He points out that human beings are not machines. They don’t respond to direction and incentives mechanistically; a strategy or tactic that works to motivate one individual may completely fail with another. Further, even the most carefully considered and meticulously executed plans don’t always work out. Great leaders need the agility to adjust to ever-changing circumstances and the complexity of their subordinates.

What characteristics engender that agility? According to Bill Green, CEO of LendingOne, effective leaders embody nine attributes: self-awareness, knowledge, decisiveness, fairness, enthusiasm, integrity, endurance, creativity and imagination.

You can develop your leadership skills in the online Master of Business Administration at The University of Tulsa Collins College of Business, whose learning objectives include developing the leadership and management skills to evaluate, recognize and manage organizational behavior to optimize both individual and team performance in organizations. This 100% online degree program boasts small classes led by world-class faculty. It can be completed in 24 months with full-time enrollment from any location where you can access the internet.

Does the TU MBA program’s leadership training meet Prentice’s and Green’s definitions? Let’s take a look to find out.

Marshal collaborators to achieve particular ends

According to Prentice, the crucial test of leadership is whether it produces results. Do a leader’s actions result in their desired ends?

When you pursue your online MBA degree from TU, you’ll take a course entitled Leading and Managing Organizations, in which students explore how to motivate employees by understanding what drives their inclinations and actions. By learning how personality, motives, organizational culture and negative factors, such as stress, impact workplace performance, you’ll know how to optimize performance and remove impediments to success. By mastering these concepts, you’ll learn which leadership skills motivate teams to unite and accomplish a desired goal.

The TU MBA faculty teach leadership from real-world work experience. Your instructors will include business and government leaders who have successfully led companies and organizations. Dean Kathy Taylor, for one, served previously as mayor of Tulsa and as Oklahoma’s secretary of commerce. She has also served on numerous corporate boards and as an executive with an international transportation company. Taylor is just one of many TU team members who bring high-level executive experience to TU.


Green defines self-awareness as the capacity to understand one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and warns leaders who attempt to hide their weaknesses that doing so is counterproductive. Only by acknowledging weaknesses can an effective remedy be found, he asserts. A successful leader knows and acknowledges their flaws so they can address them.

The ability to recognize one’s weaknesses requires both an accurate appraisal of one’s skills and limitations, and the self-assurance to admit them without fear of losing others’ confidence. An online MBA from The University of Tulsa can help you develop that self-assurance. It provides a firm foundation of essential business skills and leadership development knowledge.


At its core, an MBA is about accruing the knowledge and skill set you need to work proficiently across all functions of your business. You may not keep accounts or develop marketing plans or manage supply chains, but, at the very least, you will need to understand them all well enough to make critical decisions about their operation.

Through its broad core curriculum and electives, an online TU MBA provides the cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills you need to lead effectively. You’ll undertake a range of MBA courses, including Preparing, Understanding, and Using Financial Statements; Computer Information Systems; and World Economy.


Effective decisiveness results from mastery and practice (true, you can be ineffectively decisive by being impulsive and stubborn, but that likely won’t get you too far in the business world). To act decisively, you need confidence in your understanding of a situation and the ramifications of your choices. That’s mastery, which comes through learning and practice.

Which is what the online MBA at The University of Tulsa delivers: an expertly crafted curriculum that provides the knowledge and skills you need to assess a situation and choose the optimal path forward. TU’s core courses are designed to produce strategic, analytical managers who use data and best practices to deliver value for all of an organization’s stakeholders. In short: It produces MBA students who have mastered business practices and theory.


You might think fairness isn’t necessary in the dog-eat-dog business world. Green would disagree. He argues that fairness is essential to objectivity, without which you fall back on subjectivity, which, he warns, “is very difficult to scale.” By establishing clearly articulated principles and practices for your organization, you’ll communicate expectations to workers. This will empower them to proceed confidently, thereby improving efficiency and workplace morale. You’ll learn how to implement such policies in The University of Tulsa online MBA’s Issues in Business Ethics and Leading and Managing Organizations courses.


“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” according to the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Great ideas and foolproof plans wither on the vine unless you can inspire others to embrace them and put in the hard work to see them through to realization. Enthusiasm boosts determination, productivity, teamwork and positivity, all of which enhance business outcomes.

You can’t fake enthusiasm, but you can build the business leadership skills and knowledge to bolster confidence, an essential component of enthusiasm. The online TU MBA will enable you to conceive, plan and execute a strong business plan. You’ll know you’ve done your due diligence and that will inspire the enthusiasm you need to sell your plan to investors and motivate coworkers to actualize it.


Business ethics is one of three goals listed among the TU MBA’s learning objectives; the program aims to produce graduates well-versed in business ethics. According to the program goals, students learn ethical decision-making models and how to apply them to business situations, as well as to anticipate and head off potential ethical challenges.

The curriculum dedicates an entire class to business integrity. Issues in Business Ethics takes a hands-on approach to ethics, incorporating experiential exercises, case studies and class discussions to engage students in questions of ethics and integrity.


Endurance comes from strength, which comes through practice. Think about hitting the gym; each set of reps increases your stamina just a little bit more. It doesn’t happen overnight – you’ve got to put in the hard work. In the end, it pays off. You can work longer, harder, more efficiently and more effectively.

An MBA is the ultimate workout for prospective business leaders. In pursuing your business education through The University of Tulsa’s online MBA program, you’ll flex every business muscle by studying across all core business disciplines: accounting, executive leadership and management, business computing, marketing, economics, operations management, human resources, financial management and strategy. A capstone project in which you solve real-world problems will enable you to synthesize what you’ve learned over the life of the program.

Creativity and imagination

Like endurance, creativity and imagination emerge from hard work and mastery. Great scientists, great musicians, great business people: They are all able to envision something new because they immersed themselves in what came before, learned it and pondered how to improve it. Think of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, which posits that creativity springs from mastery acquired through intensive practice and repetition.

An online TU MBA immerses you in the crucial issues driving modern business. As you consider them from all angles, you’ll develop the critical thinking skills and practices that produce creativity and imagination. You’ll expand your horizons through coursework in Foundations of Business Analytics and Corporate and Business Strategy, learning new ways to perceive and analyze problems so you’re positioned to develop the next great idea. You’ll be prepared for the leadership roles that await you.

Train for your future in leadership with a TU online MBA

The online MBA at The University of Tulsa trains tomorrow’s business leaders through a comprehensive, ethics-driven management curriculum. You can pursue this graduate program on a full-time or part-time basis. Part-time students often remain in their jobs so they can continue earning while they learn. As an added benefit, they can apply what they learn in school immediately in their workplace. Whether you study full time or part time, an online MBA from TU can help you achieve your career goals by enhancing your knowledge, skills and credentials.

You can complete your online MBA in 24 months with full-time enrollment. The program is designed to meet the needs of busy professionals, providing maximum flexibility through a combination of asynchronous and synchronous content. And the benefits don’t end at graduation. TU’s CaneCareers provides one-on-one assistance if and when you decide to seek a new position, during or after the program.

All applicants to TU’s online MBA in Energy qualify for merit-based scholarships; there’s no need to submit a separate application. Need-based scholarships are available to applicants who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Veterans may qualify for up to 100% paid tuition through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The University of Tulsa is the leading university in energy in Oklahoma. If you’re looking to advance in the energy business, or in any other, an online MBA from TU can jumpstart your efforts by bolstering your leadership skills. Does that sound appealing? Apply today.


Learn more about The University of Tulsa online MBA program