Essay on Leadership for Students

by Will Martins/ Updated November 4, 2019

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, I wouldn’t count on it making an impact, whether you apply to college or want to score a scholarship. Lucky for you, I’ve written my fair share of these applications, and know exactly how to write a leadership essay about yourself. 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. 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.

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

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

And that’s where I remind you to show and not tell. This age-old advice means you shouldn’t write 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.

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.

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.

Just try not to dive too deep into your psyche, or you might not be able to get back to the surface without professional help. No essay is worth that much trouble. Find the story you are comfortable sharing and stick with it.

Who did you choose as your leadership role model? Was it hard to find examples of leadership actions in your past? Let me know how your writing went!