The Master of Science in Leadership

Masters of Science in Leadership

Brookings Executive Education (BEE) is proud to offer a unique and customized course of graduate study for the best and brightest in government: the Master of Science in Leadership (MS–Leadership) degree. This distinctive degree is one of the few offered in the United States for leaders in the public sector.

Many exceptional program features set this degree apart from other degree programs. First and foremost, the MS–Leadership degree is granted by the top-ranked Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis and delivered via Brookings Executive Education, creating a learning environment unlike any other. The curriculum is delivered through executive education, allowing students to enroll in courses as resources allow.

A Unique Approach

The complexity of our government seems almost unfathomable. How can public managers best prepare themselves to meet challenges? What mission-critical competencies do today’s leaders need? BEE’s MS–Leadership program provides managers and executives with new mind-sets, knowledge, and skills to lead in this multifaceted atmosphere.

New thinking is needed for government to solve today’s problems. Our research-based curriculum is demonstrating that learning to think differently can transform organizations. Created just two years ago, the MS–Leadership degree is proving to be an extraordinarily comprehensive and effective way to develop senior leaders.

The future of Senior Executive Service (SES) candidate development programs is questionable. Success is uncertain, costs are high, and measuring return on investment is difficult. Often, there is little verification that course content can be translated into actionable practice, a repercussion of a principles-based (versus solutions-based) curriculum. This unique MS–Leadership program remedies these shortcomings in an economical way and is producing leaders with the thinking skills required to resolve today’s government challenges.

Executive Education

The MS–Leadership curriculum is designed for experienced senior managers and executives in government. Therefore, content is structured around existing challenges that leaders grapple with, providing you with new knowledge and skills to navigate today’s complex environment. Cases are drawn from a government context and feature current issues to provide you with direct connections to the problems you encounter. Our faculty includes thought leaders from Olin Business School, recently retired federal executives, and other leading experts. Most courses include guest speakers drawn from high levels of government service, further connecting theory to practice. Award-winning instruction, combined with peer-to-peer networking opportunities, provides a premier educational environment.


Unlike other programs, BEE has taken the Office of Personnel Management’s Executive Core Qualifications (OPM ECQs) and created a class for nearly every competency in the framework. This provides you with a deep understanding of the underlying concepts, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate your proficiency in each executive competency. If you are preparing an application package for the SES, you can use the papers you write for each class to highlight your qualifications for executive positions. As a result, the MS–Leadership program is rapidly becoming recognized as a model of SES preparation and development.

A New Paradigm

With most successful leaders, it is “thinking” that ultimately determines their actions and behavior. Therefore, improving “thinking skills” must be the foundation for improving leadership. The MS–Leadership program boasts Olin Business School’s award-winning curriculum delivered through BEE’s new paradigm for executive success: Leading Thinking™. It instructs on how to find, frame, and formulate challenges through processes that overcome common biases and foster improved teamwork, shared learning, and innovation.

While the MS–Leadership curriculum links to OPM ECQs, it also extends BEE’s Leading Thinking™ model so that you are not merely instructed in certain behaviors. Instead, emphasis is on the thinking that drives leadership behaviors. This approach—called the STAR model—is advantageous for both you and your organization. You will learn how to Stop and Think before Acting, followed by Reflecting. Because the emphasis is on developing processes, not just on individual leadership behaviors, organizations become more robust through the leader’s implementation of the Leading Thinking™ processes.

Course of Study

The accredited MS–Leadership curriculum centers on a series of courses—Executive Pathways—that can be taken in any order over as much time as needed. Twenty-two short programs* are required, plus two one-week residential components (a foundational platform week and a capstone week). Executive Pathways programs are all held on weekdays in Washington, D.C. The two residential courses are held at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. The foundational platform should be taken early in the MS–Leadership matriculation. The capstone immediately precedes graduation and the awarding of the
degree. These two courses bookend the MS–Leadership program, providing students with a comprehensive development experience:

  • The platform course, Government in a Global Environment, provides you with an opportunity to attendcourses with mid- to senior-level corporate managers from the United States and China, thereby learning about cutting-edge management practices and establishing a global network.
  • The capstone course not only integrates the content from the 22 modules, but also addresses the distinctive qualities of executive-level leadership and focuses on the mind-set needed for senior leadership positions.

To receive course credit, you are required to write a short five- to ten-page paper within nine months of attending a course. This provides time for you to apply learned content to the workplace. Faculty members will provide feedback to reinforce the learning experience. A writing coach assesses each paper to guide you in creating clear, concise, and organized arguments. This paper then serves as agency documentation of the return on investment for class funding, and demonstrates that all four levels of the Kirkpatrick model for training—a standard approach to evaluation—are achieved.

*BEE currently offers 24 Executive Pathways courses, but MS–Leadership students need only complete 22. This allows technical experts in areas such as finance, technology, or human resources to waive courses addressing topics in their professional domain.