Leadership Dissertation Topics

Leadership is a fascinating topic that spans many disciplines, including Management, Politics, Sociology, and Psychology. This makes it a very popular dissertation choice for undergraduates and postgraduates alike.

If you’re thinking of writing a dissertation on leadership then it’s important to choose an interesting and engaging topic. Most importantly, you should choose a topic that allows you to critically engage with the existing literature. That said, the following sections will highlight some of the key issues and debates within the field of leadership, including issues related to ethics, culture, COVID-19, and digital innovation.


Styles of Leadership

There are many theories of leadership, some of which favour an impersonal style (transactional) and some of which favour a visionary and emotional style (transformational). Many leadership dissertations tend to identify a particular ‘style’ of leadership and then evaluate its relationship to another variable, such as organisational performance. This could be a good option if you are looking for a tried-and-tested dissertation topic. More recently, theorists have begun to consider what it means to be an ‘Ethical’ leader, and the extent to which decision making is based on moral factors. This could an interesting option if you are looking for an up-to-date leadership dissertation topic for 2021. Example titles are provided below:

  • Does leadership style (transformational, transactional, authoritarian) influence employee satisfaction?
  • What is the link between transformational leadership, innovation, and organisational performance?
  • Is servant leadership an effective form of leadership in the not-for-profit sector? A case study approach.
  • Are leaders born or made? Evaluating the trait approach to Leadership
  • To what extent does the sector determine the style of leadership needed? A comparison between primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
  • Recruiting, selecting, and retaining ethical leaders: Searching for a ‘best practice’ approach.
  • Are psychometric tests capable of selecting ethical leaders?
  • What is the link between transformational leadership and creativity?
  • Is transformational leadership always effective? A critical approach.
  • Do leaders make decisions rationally or intuitively? A review of the existing literature.
  • What are the antecedents of moral decision making in the workplace?

Culture and Gender Differences in Leadership

Now that we are living in an increasingly globalised and diverse world, it is necessary to consider how culture and gender might interact with theories of leadership. Here are some title suggestions to get you started:

  • Is leadership diplomacy linked to employee satisfaction? A cross-cultural analysis of Canada vs. the Netherlands.
  • Analysing the effectiveness of servant leadership in China’s public sector.
  • Is directive leadership more common in ‘masculine’ (Hofstede) countries?
  • Analysing the differences between Chinese and Western leadership styles: Is globalisation bringing us closer together or not?
  • Exploring the role of gender differences in leadership, what is the significance of ‘social confidence’?
  • Are women more likely to be ethical leaders? A qualitative approach
  • Exploring the challenges faced by expatriate leaders in South East Asia: A qualitative approach.

Leadership and Organisational Culture

One of the key debates in the Management literature relates to whether (and to what extent) leaders are able to influence organisational culture. If you are looking for a topic fit for 2021, then this could be a great debate to get your teeth into. Here are some title suggestions:

  • Do ethical leaders have a positive ‘trickle-down’ effect on organisational culture?
  • Could servant leadership foster a positive work culture?
  • Exploring the relationship between organisational culture, leadership behaviour, and job satisfaction.
  • Do formalised performance reviews inspire employee motivation? A qualitative approach.
  • How do leaders in the Healthcare sector foster employee motivation and a positive organisational culture?

Change Management and Leadership in the wake of COVID-19

According to a recent article by People Management, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about leadership and opened up new possibilities for this field of study. Notably, we’ve seen examples of highly ethical leadership (e.g., New Zealand MPs taking a voluntary pay cut), but we have also witnessed ethical misdemeanours (e.g., leaders refusing to compensate staff adequately). We have also witnessed the strength of community leadership as people have come together to support each other in their time of need, thereby problematising the idea that a leader is just a single person. So, why not impress your tutor with an up-to-the-minute leadership dissertation related to COVID-19? Here are some suggestions:

  • Analysing the leadership response to the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of the UK government.
  • Using Kottler’s 8-step change model to analyse Deliveroo’s response to COVID-19.
  • How important is leaders’ communication style during times of a crisis? A discourse analysis.
  • Analysing community leadership responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Unethical leadership in times of crisis: Analysing Tim Martin’s (JD Wetherspoon’s) response to the pandemic.
  • Leading teams from behind the screen: How have managers in the corporate sector adapted to remote working?

Leadership, Sustainability, and the Climate Crisis

Leadership lends itself perfectly to topical debates surrounding climate change and sustainability. Here are just a few suggestions for your dissertation:

  • Exploring the links between sustainability, innovation, and organisational performance.
  • How does Syngenta’s leadership team normalise the use of neonicotinoid pesticides? A discourse analysis.
  • Mapping the rise of vegan culture: Who are the leaders and how do they lead?
  • Exploring the links between sustainability, innovation, and organisational performance.
  • Analysing the ethical leadership failure at Starbucks/Amazon
  • The climate change debate: Analysing political leaders’ rhetoric

Digital Transformations and Leadership

Finally, there’s no denying the awe-inspiring digital transformations we have witnessed over the last decade. The rise in AI and robotics, for example, has transformed the way we communicate and consume. In the leadership literature, there is a need to understand how leaders are adapting to these digital innovations. Moreover, within the HRM literature, there is a need to understand how to recruit and retain the most promising ‘digital leaders’ in 2021 and beyond. That said, here are some topic suggestions you could choose for your leadership dissertation:

  • Is leadership theory keeping pace with technological innovation?
  • How do gig economy organisations use digital innovations to lead their workers?
  • How are leaders using AI to enhance organisational performance in the fashion and retail sectors?
  • Recruiting and retaining ‘digital leaders’ in 2021 and beyond.



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