How to Write a Powerful Leadership Essay

Whether you’re writing a college leadership essay or applying for a scholarship or special placement, there are some tricks involved in writing this type of personal essay. How do you talk about your leadership skills without sounding braggy? How do you make your essay stand out from the hundreds or thousands of others a committee or individual will read? The key is knowing how to write a leadership essay that truly inspires.

Writing a leadership essay Writing a leadership essay

Define Good Leadership Before You Start

Before you begin writing your essay, think about what qualities make someone a good leader. These leadership qualities and skills can include the ability to motivate others, personal integrity, and placing a value on relationships with team members. What great leadership qualities do you have? Make a list before you begin writing your essay.

Then, review your word list and choose one or two of these qualities you want to highlight. Write your own definition of what makes someone a great leader as it relates to the quality you chose. It should be one or two sentences long. This definition will be the backbone of your essay.

Create an Outline

Writing a good essay of any kind comes down to having a plan. That plan is your outline. There are several benefits of a good outline, but one of the most important is that your essay will be perfectly organized and easy to follow.

For a leadership essay, you can follow the basic five-paragraph structure or add more body paragraphs if you wish. Your outline might look something like this:

  • Introduction - Capture the reader’s interest and define good leadership in relation to the quality you chose.
  • Body paragraphs - Give some background information about anecdotes and describe why a leadership quality is so important and how you are committed to this value in your life.
  • Conclusion - End with a compelling statement about your leadership abilities.

Know How to Start a Leadership Essay

Your leadership essay introduction has to be good. This is where you get the reader’s attention and make your essay stand out from the pack. The best way to do this is with a personal anecdote.

Think about your chosen leadership quality. When did you exhibit this quality in your life? For example, if you are writing about personal integrity, consider a time that integrity was tested in a leadership role. Perhaps you were the editor of your school newspaper, and you were pressured to reveal an anonymous source.

To grab your reader’s attention, describe the situation in one or two sentences in dramatic detail. After those two sentences, state why you feel this leadership quality is so important. This will provide a transition into the body of your essay.


Tell the Story in the Body of Your Essay

In the body of your essay, focus on the leadership qualities you possess and how they relate to the anecdote you began to describe in the introduction. You have some flexibility in how you organize your essay, but here’s a tried and true method.

Give Some Background in the Second Paragraph

Provide some background information about your anecdote in the second paragraph. For example, if you started your essay by describing being pressured to reveal the source of a newspaper article, give some background about your role as editor. How did you get it? What did you feel was important in this role?

Bring It Back to Leadership in the Third Paragraph

In the third paragraph, bring the focus back to leadership. Make sure you are focusing on a leadership quality you possess. The quality you choose needs to be directly related to the anecdote you are sharing.

In the example of the editor being pressured to reveal sources, you could bring the focus back to integrity. Why is integrity important? How does having integrity make someone a good leader?

Make It Personal in the Fourth Paragraph

In the fourth paragraph, you need to make it personal. Why is this leadership quality so important to you? Does it relate to your core values? Do you have a personal statement or long-term goal related to this quality?

Write a Compelling Leadership Essay Conclusion

Your conclusion is another critically important part of your leadership essay. These words are the final impression your reader will have of your leadership abilities and writing skills. Make this part of your essay count.

Bring it back to the leadership values while making it personal. In one or two sentences, describe how your leadership matches your values and how you demonstrated your leadership in a specific situation. Talk about what you’ve learned.

End in one final, inspiring sentence. How will you change your future based on what you have learned about leadership and yourself? Use parallel structure to add even more impact to your words.


Read and Revise Your Leadership Essay

Before you submit your essay to a review board or other audience, make sure you take some time to revise it. These tips can help:

  • Consider your essay a first draft. Don’t get attached to anything in it; it may change a lot before it’s really done.
  • Have a trusted friend or a teacher or parent read the essay and offer feedback. Incorporate the feedback you choose.
  • Read the essay out loud to yourself. Any places where you pause or stumble over words may need revision.
  • Before turning it in, give the essay one last proofreading. Fix any grammatical errors.

An Essay That Makes You Proud

Just like “about me” essays and other personal essays for assignments, a good leadership essay needs to feel real and relatable. It should also be focused and well-organized. Keep working on your essay until you’re happy with it. You’ll end up with a piece of writing that makes you proud.