Liberal Studies for Better Leadership

Filed under Becoming a PM, Training | Posted by MMeloni

Professionals, project managers included, have felt a strong need to upskill for career development since the pandemic began. Leaders who lacked key skills for a heavily-digital future found themselves less likely to get new jobs or be assigned vital projects without those capabilities. Many companies and organizations are also placing emphasis on continuous learning for career acceleration — leading 65% of one survey’s respondents to enroll in additional courses last year for personal development.

One area of education to consider is liberal studies, which is a course that offers applicable knowledge for a number of professional disciplines. Liberal studies aim to expand our understanding of the world by studying psychology, language, culture, philosophy, and more. Through the humanities and social sciences, we gain a holistic view of people. And that is critical for project managers because ultimately, we’re concerned with people and how to work with them. In this article, we’ll look at how upskilling in some liberal studies subjects can help us become better managers for the future:


Good communication in project management is essential to keep members coordinated on goals and expectations. For leaders, communicating well ensures a project progresses smoothly and on time. You would have to be clear and concise across meetings, emails, phone calls, discussion boards, surveys, presentations, memos, and project plans, which would involve changing audiences. Although you may already be a master at general English, liberal studies offer an opportunity to improve your business English skills so you use your words with power and precision. You’d be able to learn new phrases, vocabulary, and techniques that align with your specific communication needs.


History is a valuable realm of study for all leaders, as it considers human behavior vis a vis (often competing) goals, whether as individuals or as groups. We learn about how people handle projects and events, then try to replicate their successes or avoid their failures. Consider the Palace of Versailles in the 17th century, which was a massive construction project ordered by King Louis XIV. It serves as a cautionary tale for continually adding new requirements on an already-impossible schedule; the costs skyrocketed, putting France into steep debt — a problem that contributed to the French Revolution later on. Project managers can analyze history from their unique perspective, and work towards achievements with these lessons in mind.

International Studies

Studies have repeatedly confirmed that diverse and inclusive workplaces are often associated with productivity, performance, talent recruitment and retention, and workforce well-being. Having different ideas and voices in a project leads to more creativity, which is why it’s important for managers to have a background in international studies. Under this social science, you would gain a broad understanding of global cultures and issues, so you can tap into a multicultural team with respect. Listening to alternative viewpoints and learning from colleagues who don’t share your culture will further allow you to grow as a leader.


Social psychology is a core part of any liberal studies curriculum. Psychology is a discipline that focuses on thought patterns and relationships between people. This is why it’s essential for project managers to learn about these concepts, so they can adequately manage team or client interactions. Friction and bias among individual team members can affect your dynamic, and thus, what you are capable of doing. As a project manager, you would need to use psychological techniques to flex your leadership style and get the performance you want from your team. After all, morale-building for your team hinges on your ability to reach out to others and uplift them — whether by advising them through a setback or comforting them when things go wrong.


Exclusively written for By Jennifer Birch.