Online leadership classes give current and potential managers the interpersonal and management skills they need to effectively manage and lead their employees, teams, or companies. They can jumpstart and enhance your career by providing a blend of leadership theories and best practices combined with specific leadership skills: delegation, communication, planning, team motivation, and more.
We reviewed and evaluated hundreds of leadership course providers and leadership classes that cover a range of needs and budgets for leaders in dozens of industries. Read on for our list of where to find the best online leadership classes.
Best Online Leadership Classes of 2021
- Best Overall: Center for Creative Leadership
- Best for New Managers: Coursera Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization
- Best for Current Managers: LinkedIn Learning
- Best Self-Paced Class: TrainUp
- Best Live Online Class: American Management Association
- Best Low-Cost Class: Nonprofit Ready
- Best for Leadership Certificate: Udemy
Best Overall : Center for Creative Leadership
Why We Chose It: The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) offers top-tier leadership development courses in all formats—live, onsite, blended learning—and across all leadership dimensions, from basic supervisory and management skills to team leadership.
Best-in-class leadership development training
Classroom-based virtual setting with live instructors
Low student-to-instructor ratio
Pricey: classes cost $1,500 to $5,000 or more
The fixed class schedule doesn’t offer self-paced options
U.S.-based time frames may be difficult for global attendees
We chose CCL as best overall, as it is dedicated to research-based leadership development, and its Leadership Development Program is the “longest-running program of its kind in the world.”
CCL offers a five-day, 20-hour version of the course session titled The Effective Leader, targeted to mid- and senior-level managers who want to develop leadership mastery. This CCL course is limited to 24 students, with an average of one instructor for every 12 participants.
CCL courses are hands-on, with lectures, discussions, feedback, polls, and lots of classroom interaction between instructors and learners. The Effective Leader virtual course costs $3,700, which means it may be too expensive for those paying for their own training or smaller businesses. Mid- and senior-level managers wishing to attend the class may want to ask their employer if they can expense all or part of the training costs.
CCL also offers numerous online leadership classes such as Frontline Leader Impact, Lead for Success, Leading Strategically, and Maximizing Your Leadership Potential. These virtual leadership courses range in price from $1,500 to $6,500, which is cheaper than completing an MBA program.
Additionally, CCL can bring its leadership training to an organization for firms that want to host a class virtually (or onsite) for a group of existing managers. The prices vary depending on the content, the number of attendees, length, and format of the course.
Best for New Managers : Coursera Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization
Why We Chose It: Coursera offers affordable, university-based leadership courses that don’t require prerequisites, perfect for new managers who need in-depth training. Its top-rated leadership class, Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization, is designed for those new to supervision and management.
Tailored to new supervisors
No prerequisites required
University-based; can be part of a master’s degree program
Flexible scheduling and time frame
To get university credit, you must apply and enroll in the university
Must join Coursera and pay a membership fee ($49-$79/month or $399 annually)
The Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization offered by Coursera includes a series of seven online leadership classes taught by university professors and is hosted entirely online. Membership to Coursera, required to attend the course, costs $49 per month for this topic. In that example, the entire series of seven classes would cost the student less than $400.
At the end of the online leadership class, after completing a hands-on project, the participant receives a leadership certificate from the university. As a student, you can choose to sign up for one or all of the seven classes, and those who simply wish to view the materials can audit the course for free. It’s a low-cost way to attend college.
For businesses looking to develop supervisors, managers, and leaders, annual memberships at $399 can eliminate the need for an internal corporate training department. Otherwise, the individual course prices are affordable enough for aspiring supervisors and job candidates to pay for as part of their own leadership self-development.
This course is conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has been attended by over 180,000 students. Participants rate this online leadership class nearly five out of five stars.
Best for Current Managers : LinkedIn Learning
Why We Chose It: LinkedIn members have access to hundreds of classes through the company's LinkedIn Learning platform, including leadership classes that are self-paced and affordable, and the lessons can be practiced on the job.
Affordable video-based, self-paced online classes
Leadership certification included
LinkedIn Learning offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
Video-based courses offer no live peer or instructor interaction
Lacks real-time dialog and feedback
Completion rates for online video courses are low, overall
The benefit of online leadership classes on LinkedIn Learning is that the learner has mobile access to the course, which is great for busy managers. Upon completion of the course, attendees receive a certificate and leadership badge to display on their LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn members can purchase access to the entire LinkedIn Learning Premium subscription for $29.99 per month.
In addition, each participant has full access to the transcripts, exercise files, quizzes, and frequently asked questions that support the online leadership class. These tools can be used on the job as existing managers practice their new leadership skills with their team. Best of all, if attendees don’t like the course, or find they’re not using it, they can cancel LinkedIn Learning courses within 30 days and get their money back.
The affordability of this LinkedIn Learning online leadership class makes it great for aspiring leaders who want to validate and build their leadership skills as well as showcase the LinkedIn Leadership badge to current and future employers. Smaller employers without a training department may consider purchasing their managers a LinkedIn Learning Premium subscription for around $200 per employee per year and assigning this course to all existing managers as a means of expanding their team’s leadership skills.
Best Self-Paced Class : TrainUp
Why We Chose It: We picked TrainUp as the best self-paced class, as it offers e-learning courses online, including video-based online leadership classes like Leadership Essentials for New Managers, an online leadership class that includes nine video modules for $79.
Self-paced video training courses
Quality e-learning content built by instructional designers and industry experts
Self-paced instruction lacks personal interaction
Each course is priced separately
Courses lack an attendee rating system to see how others like the course
TrainUp is the online leader in self-paced, video-based online training, offering over 300,000 e-learning titles with over 500 online leadership classes. They’ve sold training content to 90% of Fortune 500 firms and the programs it offers are robust, well-designed, and affordable, ranging in price from about $75 to $500 per course for leadership topics.
In the leadership training arena, TrainUp provides more timely topics than some of the other online leadership class providers, such as how to lead remote teams, leading innovation, and gender and leadership. Course time frames vary. Some of the TrainUp online leadership classes are as short as 19 minutes, whereas others provide several hours of leadership instruction.
TrainUp also offers affordable e-learning bundles, such as the Leadership Development Program powered by MIT that includes 198 videos and costs only $229. Individuals can sign up, browse courses, pay discounted rates, and track their progress online. Businesses can purchase an account that offers a custom learning portal for their staff, making TrainUp their one-stop-shop for leadership training as well as other topics like business skills, finance training, HR, and IT.
Best Live Online Class : American Management Association
Why We Chose It: The American Management Association (AMA) offers three categories of leadership training, including management and supervision, leadership communication, and project leadership, along with an online course that offers live instructors and peer interactions.
Well-established management and leadership training organization
Wide variety of live online leadership class options with CEU credits
The in-person virtual setting provides interaction, context, and feedback
Membership costs $250 per year for an individual (in addition to the class cost)
Classes are not inexpensive; each priced separately
Live classes require you to attend in real time, rather than in a self-paced format
If you prefer live instruction to self-paced, the American Management Association’s online leadership class, Preparing for Leadership, might be a good choice. It’s conducted in three live-online lessons for a total of nine hours of virtual classroom time. During class sessions, you’ll discuss scenarios, role-play various leadership situations, and complete leadership assessments. It costs between $2,000 and $2,500 depending on whether you or your organization is a member of the American Management Association.
This course provides continuing education certification equivalent to nine continuing education units (CEUs). AMA also offers women’s leadership certification courses as well as courses in executive leadership skills and specific leadership topics like persuasion, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and leadership communications.
Individual membership with AMA costs $250 per year with access to four free webinars. Membership provides discounts on all courses (including the online leadership classes) making it a worthwhile investment. Members receive access to leadership research and best practices, leadership skill assessments, and AMA publications that cover management topics.
Joining the American Management Association with a corporate membership costs $2,495 annually for up to 10 employees. It’s a solid option for organizations that want managers to participate in interactive learning facilitated by management industry experts.
Best Low-Cost Class : Nonprofit Ready
Why We Chose It: The free Leadership Training for Nonprofit Professionals, available through Nonprofit Ready, is a high-quality leadership class that is free to anyone who does nonprofit or volunteer work.
Includes high-quality learning resources from Cornerstone OnDemand
Three-hour course provides an overview of leadership; not in-depth
You must create an account with nonprofitready.org to attend its free online classes
No peer or instructor interaction
The free online leadership course offered by Nonprofit Ready provides a great start for those entering the leadership field, wanting to understand what leadership is, or wanting to step up into a people-management role in a nonprofit sector or as a volunteer. Anyone who volunteers outside of work or who works in the nonprofit sector is welcome to join Nonprofit Ready as a member at no cost.
The virtual leadership class provides over 40 online leadership resources as well as self-paced instruction on topics like:
- Hiring and managing a team
- Transitioning from an individual contributor to a manager
- Developing a leadership plan
Nonprofit Ready offers over 500 free learning resources to the nonprofit sector as a division of the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation. Cornerstone is a high-quality human capital organization that offers professional learning resources and leadership training content in addition to HR tools and resources across multiple for-profit industries and government.
Best for Leadership Certificate : Udemy
Why We Chose It: Udemy offers hundreds of affordable leadership courses online taught by an experienced leadership expert.
Affordable courses taught by industry experts
Most courses provide a certificate of completion
Course attendee ratings help you choose the best classes
Course quality, content, and format varies by instructor
Many courses aren’t eligible for CEUs or any official certification
End-of-course certificates demonstrate completion, not competency
Courses on Udemy are available to anyone, worldwide. There are no prerequisites and course details are provided in each online class description available before selecting the course for payment.
For example, the $69.99 Practical Leadership course has been purchased by over 80,000 students. It covers leadership theories, delegation, and team management. This online leadership class includes 16 downloadable resources and 2.5 hours of on-demand video that learners can access via TV or mobile phone. Once paid for, learners have lifetime access to the course and receive a certificate of completion once done with all the topics.
Udemy courses are best for those who wish to learn about leadership or want to provide proof to a manager that they’ve completed a class. Courses can vary from an hour to 20 hours or more, depending on how the instructor (the course seller) has set up the class.
Udemy courses are useful for business leaders who want to send their management staff to “training,” as the classes are affordable. Udemy offers a business subscription that costs $360 per year for up to 20 employees to access over 5,500 courses. Larger enterprises can contact Udemy for customized pricing.
One drawback is that each Udemy course is formatted differently based on the instructor’s preference. Some are live webinars whereas others are recorded videos with supporting reading materials. Some offer practice and feedback, while others provide a certificate simply for attending. Course quality varies.
With Udemy courses, it’s best to select a course based on participant feedback. Any course with a four out of five-star rating is likely to be solid. Even firms with a formalized leadership development program may want to source Udemy classes for specific leadership learning content such as delegation or communication skills.
Online leadership classes can be an effective, affordable way to improve your or your employees’ leadership skills in a relatively short time frame. There is as much variety in the courses as there is in the industries they serve. For instance, online leadership classes vary, from a three-hour, self-paced, video-based e-learning course to multi-day webinar sessions to university courses taught by degreed professors.
The best course for you depends on what you’re seeking. Some learners need to fulfill a promise to their boss to “attend a leadership class.” Others may want continuing education to support career growth in their field. You may prefer a self-paced workshop you can do in your spare time, while another leadership student may be seeking leadership certification from a university-level program.
If you want to take a leadership class, a good place to start is with our best overall choice, classes offered through the Center for Creative Leadership. Although slightly more expensive and lengthier than other choices, it provides a comprehensive curriculum with live instruction. If you need less expensive or shorter options, consider any of the other sites on our list.
|Company/Course Name||Why We Picked It||Cost||Time to Complete|
|Center for Creative Leadership||Best Overall||$1,500-$6,500 per course||20+ hours|
|Coursera||Best for New Managers||$49 per month||Up to 8 months|
|LinkedIn Learning||Best for Current Managers||$25+ per course||1-3 hours/course|
|TrainUp||Best Self-Paced Class||$79-$500 per course||Varies|
|American Management Association||Best Live Online Class||$2,000-$2,500||9 hours|
|Nonprofit Ready||Best Low-Cost Class||Free||3 hours|
|Udemy||Best for Leadership Certificate||$15-$200||3 hours|
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Online Leadership Classes?
Online leadership classes provide you with best practices in leading people, focusing on the work environment. However, these classes can benefit you in leading nonprofit activities and even team sports. They are generally hosted using a blended learning approach with a mix of reading, videos, and hands-on practice.
Some of the best online leadership classes provide live instructor-led webinars with leadership scenarios and role-plays. Most offer leadership self-assessments and many provide you with a certificate of completion or a leadership certification after completing a course project or exam.
How Much Do Online Leadership Classes Cost?
Online leadership classes cost between $15 and $6,500 with the difference in costs due primarily to the reputation and accreditation of the provider as well as the length of the course.
For example, if you attend a leadership course hosted by the Center for Creative Leadership, you may pay thousands more than one provided by Udemy, but in the end, the only real difference (if the learning content is the same) may be in the authority provided in the certification.
Who Can Benefit From an Online Leadership Class?
Many people can benefit from online leadership training including:
- Individual contributors hoping to be promoted into a supervisory role
- Existing managers who wish to attain mastery by honing their leadership skills
- Struggling leaders who need to self-assess and eliminate any leadership gaps
One of the benefits of an online leadership class is that you may meet and interact with others at all levels of their leadership journey. You can learn from mistakes made by existing leaders as well as get feedback on both strengths and weaknesses in your leadership style.
How Long Do Online Leadership Classes Take to Complete?
A good online leadership class may take months to complete. It’s difficult to learn effective leadership techniques in a one-hour workshop, although a short workshop may be appropriate as an overview or to refresh your understanding of what good leadership looks like.
Leadership training classes cover many subtopics. Therefore, any leadership class that takes fewer than a few hours to complete is probably skimming the surface.
Do I Need an Online Leadership Class to Get Promoted?
If you are looking to get promoted at work or to be assigned greater responsibilities in your volunteer work or school, a leadership class will certainly give you an edge. For example, if you’re looking to be promoted, it can’t hurt to show your boss that you’ve invested time in a leadership training course or achieved a leadership certificate.
However, it’s rarely required as a condition of employment or promotion. Instead, what employers want to see is how you’ve led others, not that you’ve merely been theoretically trained to do so. You can develop leadership skills in non-traditional ways, including parenting, coaching a sports team, or owning your own business.
We evaluated hundreds of online leadership classes to find those that offer real-life leadership training in a format you can complete while on the job. We prioritized affordable courses, led by top-notch trainers or built with solid learning principles that provide you with CEUs, certifications, or badges you can take to your employer in proof of your leadership training accomplishment.
All of the choices on our list provide training to all leaders, from first-time supervisors to experienced executives, at a reasonable cost from trustworthy institutions.