Contemporary Leadership Issues

Module description


The aim of this module is to provide you with the opportunity to actively participate in a series of seminar workshops and discussions around key contemporary leadership issues. Each issue will be introduced through a case study in which experienced academics and professionals will share an aspect of their organizational experience, research, and/or consultancy that highlights some of the ways in which that particular issue plays out in society and organizations. You will then be required to complete a set of relevant readings, primarily composed of high-quality academic journal articles and drawing on other publication forms where appropriate. These readings will form the basis for further discussion. The overarching aim of this module is to allow you to participate in advanced dialogue around a number of contemporary leadership issues, grounded in critical engagement with a practical case study and key readings from the academic literature, in order to develop and elaborate your academic knowledge, inquiry and reasoning skills, and to use this knowledge and skills to design/critique/assess workplace and policy initiatives that propose to address a particular issue.

Additional Information:


This module focuses on contemporary workplace issues, recognizing the increasing breadth and diversity of workplaces, the interdependence of public, private, and community sectors, and the dynamic interplay between global and local factors. All topics and discussions highlight the importance of being mindful of the key stakeholders for a particular issue, and the need to develop an informed and considered understanding of who it is that will be influenced/impacted by the decisions that you (and others) may make when in a leadership or management role. With all topics we will ensure that we work to take global perspectives into account, both in terms of our understanding of the issue and by drawing on the different backgrounds and perspectives of class members.


The notion of leading responsibly, factoring in the environment, society and corporate social responsibility is embedded throughout the module.
All of the resources for this module are available on the ELE (Exeter Learning Environment). 

External Engagement:


Each year we invite three guests to bring to life the topics within the module. Previous guest speakers have included the Chief Executive of Oxford Health, a CEO of a consultancy specializing in workplace wellbeing, a senior member of the University’s Athena Swan committee (a key program in the University’s equality and diversity work), the Business Development Director for the Met Office, the Chief Executive of EDP, a PhD researcher focused on corporate social responsibility and airlines, and a senior NHS commissioner working on building effective multi-agency partnerships for national health care provision.


This module equips students with the ability to apply critical thinking when exploring issues of relevance to contemporary workplaces and the implications of such issues for leading and being led. This ability to ask critical questions is an essential higher order thinking skill that will underpin all future management practice.

Full module specification

Module title:Contemporary Leadership Issues
Module code:CLS3001
Module level:3
Academic year:2018/9
Module lecturers:
  • Ms Jackie Bagnall - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:



None, although some understanding of leadership theory and practice will stand students in good stead for this module.



Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with the opportunity to actively participate in a series of seminar discussions focused upon key contemporary leadership issues. Guest speakers are invited to present a case study which speaks to a contemporary leadership issue. Speakers are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and offer students the ability to engage in discussion with those at the forefront of leadership research, practice and consultancy.

Up to three leadership issues will be covered over the course of the module, to allow sufficient in-depth engagement with each issue. The overarching aim of this module is to allow students to participate in advanced dialogue around a number of contemporary leadership issues, grounded in critical engagement with a practical case study and with key pieces from the academic literature.  Students are expected to apply the knowledge and skills acquired during the previous two years of study to the issues and dilemmas presented in this module. This third-year module seeks to consolidate all prior learning, using a broad theoretical base to understand and critically appraise contemporary leadership challenges.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. through practical work, and with minimum guidance, demonstrate the ability to critique, synthesise, and present the salient points from an assigned set of readings
  • 2. through written work, and with minimum guidance, demonstrate the ability to make links between theory and practice around a contemporary leadership issue
  • 3. in exam conditions, use ideas and techniques from the forefront of the leadership discipline to devise and sustain arguments which comment on both theoretical and practical aspects of contemporary leadership issue(s)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. provide a generally well-informed appreciation of what is involved in taking up leadership roles and in following the lead of others
  • 5. critically explore the reality of leadership and how theory offers a lens by which to make sense of that reality, with reference to the ethical implications of leadership

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. apply critical thinking in the construction of written and verbal argument
  • 7. maintain confidentiality and integrity in the preparation of class MCQ test
  • 8. work effectively with others to pursue critical enquiry
  • 9. recognise multiple perspectives when constructing an argument
  • 10. draw upon independent study skills when completing assigned reading
  • 11. provide a professional commitment to intellectual discussion and debate

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Contact hours22Interactive Lectures - Seminars

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
50 minute group led seminar in response to exam type question. Groups will receive feedback from tutor plus their peers. Feedback will be used to sharpen own critical argument skills.50 minutes1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11Peer review and verbal in-class feedback from tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly reading test: Prepare one multiple choice test of six questions and sit eight other MCQ tests. All based on assigned readings.20Take 8 tests = 48 questions Write 1 test = 6 questions1, 7,10, 11Grades collated and final percentage mark given
Final open book examination which measures the ability to construct a critical argument in response to 3 questions. EACH of the leadership issues explored over the course of the semester will be covered in the exam.80Three questions from a choice of six. Three hours 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,11Written feedback from tutor

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
MCQMCQ (20%)1, 7,10,11Within term time in agreement with tutor
ExaminationExamination (80%)1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,11August Examination Period

Syllabus plan

The module will cover three leadership issues each semester, to allow sufficient in-depth engagement with each issue. Topics could include the following issues (with the focus being on the intersection between these issues and leadership thought and practice):

  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Responsible Leadership and the challenge of Sustainability
  • Ethical dilemmas in leadership
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Workplace Stress and Wellbeing
  • Complexity Leadership Theory
  • Leadership in Partnerships

Up to 3 topics will be covered each semester. The choice of topics will vary from year to year to reflect shifting research interests and debates in the field.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Buchannan, D. and Huczynski, A. (2007) Organizational Behaviour: An Introductory Text, 6th Edition. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Northouse, P.G. (2009) Introduction to Leadership. London: Sage.

A broad range of academic articles will be issued; they will be drawn together based upon the topic of study. Additional research using electronic journals is recommended.

Module has an active ELE page?


Origin date


Last revision date