The University of Southampton

PSYC6129 The Psychology of Leadership

Module Overview

To enable participants to learn cognitive skills which enable them to increase their repertoire of leadership behaviours, and reduce the incidence of behaviours which impede organisational and individual function

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This course will provide an introduction to the psychological factors implicated in exemplary leadership. It will make use of the ‘Level 5 leader’ theory provided by Jim Collins to frame the psychological theories which describe cognitive, emotional and behavioural factors in good leadership. Specifically, the skill of metacognitive awareness and how this impacts on leadership behaviours will be a focus of the module. The module curriculum will start with the rationale for the need to think psychologically about leadership, drawing from participants’ own experience. The teaching will present the ‘Level 5 Leadership’ model as a framework within which to consider leadership behaviours, and the metacognitive skills which enable participants to make best use of these models. The curriculum will then enable skills acquisition and application, before considering organisational and personal barriers to effective practice of these skills.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically appraise the Level 5 Leadership model and its usefulness in thinking psychologically about leadership
  • Critically appraise the concepts of ‘humility’ and ‘intense professional will’ within leadership contexts
  • Recognise ways of thinking and their source in personal experience, and their relationship with emotions and behaviours
  • Practice metacognitive awareness, making active choices as to how to respond to leadership and management situations, recognising the urge to behave in habitual ways.
  • Recognise and make use of verbal and non-verbal communications in decisions made in response to difficult interpersonal situations.
  • Identified and practiced a leadership behaviour making use of metacognitive skills.


Week 1: Rationale for framework Collins, J. (2005) Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Harvard Business Review, 4, 1 – 12. Week 2: Theoretical overview I: The cognitive model and its application The cognitive model (Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck) Week 3: Theoretical overview II: Cognitive processes and their links to habitual behaviour / Self-determination theory Selective attention, links between emotions and cognitions Methods of enabling metacognitive theory – mindfulness (Mark Williams), thought challenging (Aaron Beck) Week 4 : Skills application: Management behaviours and Intense professional Collins, J. (2005) Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Harvard Business Review, 4, 1 – 12. Week 5 : Skills application II: Leadership behaviours and decision-making Week 6 : Barriers to excellent leadership Experiential learning Behavioural experiments (Westbrook, Kennerly & Kirk, 2013)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Participants will receive six 2-hour lectures in addition to six 2 hour seminars, in which the content of the lectures will be discussed in detail, and practice points drawn out. In addition, reflective tasks will be set to practice the skills being taught, for discussion and feedback the following week. Much of the work will be done in between session, and to this end the experiential learning will be carefully structured. The teaching will be presentation-based in the main, with interactive components involving group discussion.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

 Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.

Dunbar, R. (2003). The social brain: Mind, language and brain in evolutionary perspective. Annual Reviews of Anthropology. ,32 , pp. 163 – 181.

Collins, J. (2006). Good to great and the social sectors.. 

Ellis, A. (1991). The revised ABCs of Rational Emotive Therapy. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. ,9 , pp. 139-172.

For resources which are required or considered useful for the module: key texts, text books, data books, software, web sites, other sources of related information. Some texts will be needed (see above), in addition to worksheets, laminated descriptions . 

Posner, M. (1988). Structures and function of selective attention. In Boll, T. & Bryant, B.K. (Eds),. Clinical neuropsychology and brain function: Research, measurement, and practice. The Master lecture series. ,7 , pp. 0.

Ekman, P. (1994). All emotions are basic. In ‘The Nature of Emotion’, Ekman, P. & Davidson, R. (Eds). 

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great.. 

Teasdale, P., & Barnard, J. (1991). Interacting cognitive subsystems: A systemic approach to cognitive-affective interaction and change.. Cognition and Emotion. ,5 , pp. 1 – 39.

Dunbar, R. & Barrett, L. (2009). Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. 

Gilbert, P. (2009).  Introducing compassion-focused therapy.  Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. ,15 , pp. 199-208.



MethodPercentage contribution
Formulation and Intervention  (1000 words) 20%
Reflection  (1000 words) 40%
Reflection  (1000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments  (1000 words) 100%
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