Harnessing Your Potential: Tips for Writing a Powerful Leadership Essay

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by Will Martins / Updated November 04, 2019

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I am a great leader because people do what I say. Sometimes. The end.

Does your essay on leadership look like this if you sum it up in three sentences? If so, chances are slim it will make an impact, whether you apply to college or want to score a scholarship. Lucky for you, I know exactly how to write a leadership essay about yourself and am ready to share all the nuances with you. Want to get in on my secret? Then read on, take notes, and put them to good use!

What's an Essay on Leadership?

First of all, it is NOT an essay about leaders. There is a subtle difference you must understand if you want to write it right. An essay on leadership for students should not describe your role models or the best strategic decisions in history. Instead, it should be about you and how your actions make you a leader.

In short, a leadership essay describes your understanding of leadership and shows how you fit the bill. If you don't, you might want to reconsider your views on leadership and find another take.

Does it mean you don't have to do any library research? Yes, it does. But if you think writing about yourself is a piece of cake, you've got another thing coming. To get things done, you’ll need to hand in an organized and well-formatted essay which should make an impact on people and transmit a desire to achieve goals.

You won't need references, but you'll need to answer some uncomfortable questions about your past behavior and its consequences. I'm not ashamed to admit I am sometimes afraid of these navel-gazing sessions. Most of the time, I am happy to be oblivious to my many faults, and I'm sure you are too.

What to Pay Attention to When Writing a Leadership Essay

A leadership essay should be about you, but your story must include other people. Weird, I know. But if you think about it, you can't be a leader if there is no one to follow you.

Therefore, your story needs support actors and not just those who praise you, but those who question your decisions and even offer criticism. As you know, conflict and antagonism make stories that much more interesting, and your essay will win if you use them.

Another vital thing to remember is to curb your bragging. Don't blow your own trumpet, it's not pleasant to read. But don't be shy about your accomplishments either.

It's a fine line, and you need to stay on it. Think of your essay as a TV show episode. Don't make yourself into an annoying know-it-all, it won't endear your readers to you. Describe yourself as a three-dimensional leader willing to admit to shortcomings and mistakes.

Useful Words to Describe Leadership Qualities

Listing all your best traits does not make for a great essay on leadership qualities. Instead of naming yourself the leader, be creative. Here are some keywords you can sprinkle around or use as anchor points in your story:

  1. Reliable and trustworthy
  2. Creative and innovative
  3. Result-oriented and goal-oriented
  4. Strategic thinking
  5. Building partnerships
  6. Communication and collaboration
  7. Inspiring and motivating
  8. Coordinating change
  9. Understanding and respectful
  10. Disciplined and committed
  11. Enthusiastic
  12. Initiative
  13. Self-disciplined
  14. Courageous

And that's where I remind you to show and not tell. This age-old advice means you shouldn't write that you are reliable and goal-oriented and expect your readers to believe you.

Whichever leadership qualities you want to highlight, be subtle. Introduce them through a story and action instead of outright statements.

For instance, if you want to show your ability to inspire others, explain how your talk with a shy classmate helped them deal with their fear of public speaking and led your debate team to victory.

You will win more brownie points if you don't even use the words but get the message across.

5 Tips to Create a Winning Leadership Essay

If you think you can just dive straight into writing your paper, you are mistaken, an A grade is long gone. Crafting a superb leadership essay requires demonstrating the concept in a peculiar way and backing it up with interesting and relevant examples.

Think outside the box

If you want to get the highest grade, you need to surprise the reader, introducing innovative ideas. Predictable and dull essays won’t help you stand out from the crowd. So, to get the attention you deserve, try to think outside the box when working on the assigned paper.

Use active voice

“I’ve articulated my point of view” or “the point of view was articulated” - which one is the most impactful? Sure, the first one.

Leadership essays should be personal, unlike some other types of academic writing. As you are writing about yourself, it is advisable to stick to the active voice to make your essay sound convincing.

Adhere to the format

Make sure you are aware of all the standards of formatting when working on the assigned leadership essay. Various institutions have their own formatting rules and peculiarities. So, better ask your instructor for clarifications before jumpstarting.

Pick the right references

To craft a winning leadership essay, you need to devote ample time to research. With a plethora of sources to take inspiration from, your writing will gain stature. Populate your work with references and quotes to transform your essay into a worthy piece of writing.

Ask yourself questions

When reading the draft of your paper, ask yourself whether everything is clear and easy to grasp. Everything needs to be clear for the reader, so avoid populating your essay with too many complex terms and phrases.

How to Write a Leadership Essay About Yourself

Every time I had to deal with leadership essays, I was stumped because I'd never considered myself to be a leader.

I bet you feel the same. It took me a few years to find the formula that works for my friends and me, and I'm sure it will work for you too. Just follow the steps, and you'll get your essay done in no time.

  1. Choose one person that you feel embodies YOUR definition of a leader. It can be Winston Churchill, Donald Trump, or Daenerys Targaryen.
  2. Think about what makes this person the best leader, in your opinion. It might be courage, flexibility, or the ability to command fire-breathing dragons. One or two traits are more than enough for your essay.
  3. Remember the time in your life you've showcased the qualities from step 2. There might be several occasions, but you will only need one or two for your paper.
  4. If you can't think of anything, remember the time you could have used the qualities from step 2, but lacked them. Learning from mistakes is a solid choice for your leadership essay.
  5. Tell a story about one of the occasions you've chosen. Focus on the problem you faced, the solution you proposed, and the result of your actions. The problem-solution-result structure should be enough to make up the body of your paper.
  6. Think of a good thesis statement to sum up the moral of your story and come up with a shocking opening sentence to serve as your hook. These should be enough to flesh out your introduction and conclusion.
  7. Before submitting your paper, make sure you’ve properly revised everything written above. These useful tips will be of great help:
  • Read your essay out loud to yourself. Any places where you tripped over complex constructions or vague language may need revision.
  • Have a parent or one of your trusted friends read your paper and leave feedback. There might be mistakes hidden from your eyes. So, asking someone for help is an optimal solution to make your writing flawless.
  • Before handing in the final draft, give your paper the final proofreading. You’ll need to fix all the nuances to make your essay shine like a diamond.

That wasn't too hard, was it? When you break down this confusing paper into small manageable pieces, it might even turn into an adventure.


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