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Leadership Essay

leadership essay

Although typically discussed in the context of business, leadership is important in almost every subject you study and in almost ever area of your life. Leadership helps define who you are, how you relate to others, and how you can help the organizations you work with reach their common goals.  This essay will discuss leadership from many different perspectives and offer you a clear understanding of the term.

Essay Titles

Personal Statements

What Leadership Means to Me

The First Time I Became a Leader

How My Leadership Skills Have Changed Over Time

Organizational Behavior or Psychology

The Five Factor Model of Leadership

The Problems With the Trait Theory of Leadership

The connection Between Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Leaders/Leadership Analysis

The Leadership Style of Richard Branson

The Leadership Style of Oprah Winfrey

The Leadership Style of Pope Francis

The Leadership Style of the Dalai Lama

The Leadership Style of Barack Obama

Business and Management

The Impact of Leadership Style on Organizational Performance

How Leadership Style is Linked with Employee Retention

How Leaders Transform Organizational Cultures


I. Introduction

            A. Essay hook

            B. Main points

                        1. Differences between leadership and management

                        2. Styles of leadership

                        3. Leadership skills

                        4. Theories of leadership

            C. Thesis: Leadership is about motivating others and inspiring transformative and positive change.           

II. Body One

            A. Main idea: A leader can be a good manager, and a manager can be a good leader, but these are two completely different roles within an organization.

            B. The differences between management and leadership are mainly in that a manager can remain transactional, whereas a leader should ultimately be transformational.

III. Body Two

            A. Main idea: Different situations may require leaders to use different styles or techniques to motivate the people around them.

            B. There are multiple types of leadership, and some leaders may combine elements of different styles, or change their leadership styles according to situational variables.

IV. Body Three

            A. Main idea: No leader is perfect, but all will exhibit a set of skills that has made them into a leader, or which make the person an effective leader who achieves goals.

            B. Leadership skills are not fixed traits but rather, skills that can be learned and honed over time to suit the situation.

V. Conclusion

            A. Leadership is about creating a vision for the future and inspiring others to reach their highest potential.

Essay Hook

A leader is like the conductor of an orchestra: someone who is at the helm, ready to inspire each player towards working both individually and together.


Leadership is critical in all fields, from music and art to science and business. There is truly no area of life in which leadership remains unimportant; parents are leaders, serving as role models for their children. Teachers are leaders, inspiring their students to reach their highest potential. In business, leadership refers to the people who have the vision and power to transform their organizational cultures and help achieve organizational goals.

Thesis Statement

Leadership is about motivating others and inspiring transformative and positive change.

Essay Body

The Difference Between Leadership and Management

Unlike management, leadership has relatively little to do with having official power or authority. A person does not need a formal title to be a leader, and certainly does not need to boss other people around. A leader can be a good manager, and a manager can be a good leader, but these are two completely different roles within an organization.

One of the main differences between leadership and management is that leaders usually care most about big picture issues: where the company is headed, major trends or paradigms including ethics or values, and how to change the norms or culture of an organization.

A manager, on the other hand, is focused on the tasks at hand. While a manager may be interested in motivating others and empowering others to a degree, ultimately the manager is simply doing their job and following the rules.

Different Styles of Leadership

Different situations may require leaders to use different styles or techniques to motivate the people around them. Some leaders may combine elements of different styles, or change their leadership styles according to situational variables.

The following are some of the most common styles of leadership.

Transformational: A transformational leadership style is based on motivating and empowering employees. The transformational leader wants each member of the team to reach his or her highest potential, and avoids micromanagement.

Transactional: Almost the opposite of transformational leadership, transactional leadership is the style most akin to traditional management roles. The transactional leader motivates employees not through intrinsic methods such as inspiring others, but through extrinsic methods like promises of rewards or bonuses. Each task is completed in an orderly fashion, with clearly defined roles and chains of command.

Democratic/Participative: Consensus-building is the cornerstone of the democratic or participative style of leadership. This style is used when the leader wants each member of the team to participate in the decision-making process, and helps diffuse responsibility among all members of the team.

Laissez-Faire: Laissez-faire leadership is hands-off, and could even involve off-site leaders who have little if any interaction with employees (Johnson, n.d.). Generally, the laissez-faire style of leadership will prove ineffective in the long run.

Autocratic/Coercive: An autocratic leader always has the last say, and does not care what members of the team think. The autocratic leader is like a slave driver, making demands that are often unnecessary simply as a means of exerting power and authority. This style of leadership is generally ineffective in the workplace, and reduces employee morale.

Affiliative: A leader using an affiliative style wants to build consensus and community, and focuses more on the culture than on meeting specific goals.

Charismatic: Charismatic leadership receives a lot of media attention because of the way charismatic leaders like Richard Branson come across as being eccentric. Although charismatic leaders do not necessarily focus on specific tasks, they do have the ability to inspire others with their passion and out-of-the-box thinking.

Visionary: While all leaders should be visionary on some level, a visionary leadership style is one that is truly focused on taking the organization in a whole new direction based on new ideals, values and goals.

Servant: A servant-leader is one who is deeply concerned about making a difference in the world, one step at a time. The servant-leader views himself or herself as a servant to others, while also having the capacity to inspire members of the team to reach mutually beneficial and socially conscious goals.

Leadership Skills

No leader is perfect, but all will exhibit a set of skills that has made them into a leader, or which make the person an effective leader who achieves goals.

Emotional Intelligence: A strong leader is going to be emotionally intelligent, referring to the ability to be self-aware, as well as the ability to be tuned into the needs and feelings of other people (Ovans, 2015). Emotional intelligence is closely linked with social intelligence, suggesting why good leaders are those who have the ability to communicate well with other people.

Communication: Related to emotional intelligence is good communication. A leader needs to have a vision but also to communicate that vision, either to a small group of people or to a large group. Good communication skills also include listening skills.

Decisiveness: Strong leaders do not waver for long when faced with decisions. Even under pressure, a leader is able to make quick decisions based on available information. Being indecisive is a sign of weakness, and can diminish respect and trust among followers. A good leader is unafraid of making the wrong decision because they are capable of picking themselves up after a mistake.

Delegating: While some leaders seem like control freaks, and many are, ultimately a good leader needs to delegate. Delegation is a sign of trust to team members, empowering others to do a good job and participate in team activities and fulfilling mutually beneficial goals.

Positive: Good leaders are realistic and recognize hazards and challenges, but they always have a positive outlook. When faced with tremendous obstacles to reaching their goals, leaders still inspire trust in others and are able to keep everyone on the team focused on goals rather than discouraged by setbacks.

Responsible: A good leader takes personal responsibility for mistakes and does not blame others or let others take the fall. Likewise, a strong leader has integrity and honesty, creating an organizational culture based on trust and respect.

Commitment: A good leader remains committed to the team, to reaching goals, and to the organization as a whole. Moreover, good leaders are future-focused. They remain committed to the organization knowing that they will leave a legacy by empowering the next generation of leaders.

Inspirational: A good leader does need to inspire others to take action or change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

These are only a few of many leadership skills that can be cultivated through practice and self-awareness, whether on the field as a team captain or in the workplace as a team leader (Doyle, 2017). Interestingly, traditional intelligence is not a leadership skill. Research shows that in fact, people who are noticeably intelligent do not make the best leaders and may even fail to inspire others (Hutson, 2018). Social skills and ethics are far more important than whether one has a high IQ score.

Theories of Leadership

The formal academic study of leadership has given rise to a number of theories used to explain why some individuals succeed at being leaders. The most common leadership theories include the following:

Trait Theory:  Although it has largely been supplanted with more contemporary theories of leadership, trait theory remains relevant. Trait theory suggests that leaders need to have certain personality traits in order to be successful. Because not all leaders have the same traits, and not all people with specific traits become leaders, trait theory is an imperfect means of explaining leadership.

Great Man Theory: Great Man theory is similar to trait theory in that both of these approaches to leadership assume that leaders are born, not made. The Great Man theory also presumes that leadership can be passed down from generation to generation, and is essentially patriarchal in nature.

Contingency Theory: Leadership styles vary in response to situational variables and environmental conditions: this is the primary tenet of contingency theory. The same person can act like a completely different leader, depending on the demands and constraints of the situation. For example, a person working in a bureaucratic institution would exhibit different leadership traits versus one working in a loose coalition.

Behavioral Theory: Based on the principles of behaviorism in psychology, this theory shows how ordinary individuals can learn leadership skills through behavioral change and repetition.

Transactional or Management Theory: Transactional or management theories of leadership are based on basic systems of reward and punishment for employees. Because employees are responsive to extrinsic motivation like pay raises, bonuses, or promotions, this theory is often relevant.

Transformational or Relational Theory: The transformational theories of leaders are based on creating organizational cultures that inspire intrinsic motivation, rather than the extrinsic motivation that is used in transactional leadership theories.

Leadership Experience

Ultimately, there is no secret to good leadership other than experience. A person can be born with traits that make them more conducive to being a good leader than other people, but unless they put those skills into practice, they will never be able to inspire others to greatness. On the other hand, a person who overcomes challenges, works well with others, and endeavors to change the world one step at a time has the capacity to build a following and effect tremendous change. Leadership experience can be acquired almost anywhere: on the field, in the workplace, or at school.

My personal leadership experience reflects the principles of servant leadership. Of all the styles of leadership, I most align with servant-leadership because of my spiritual outlook and orientation. I have been involved with local faith-based organizations throughout my life. When I was younger I did not think of myself as a leader, but now I realize that I was acquiring the preliminary skills I needed to one day become the effective leader I am now. Early on, I learned the importance of respecting others and listening to feedback. Instead of viewing other people as antagonists when they disagreed with me, I learned the value of incorporating different opinions into my own attitudes and outlooks on life. It is important for a good leader to seek out feedback from others and change when necessary. A good leader is humble but strong at the same time, able to recognize and acknowledge faults without becoming discouraged by setbacks.

I also learned that being a leader does not mean that everyone will like me or agree with me. What is important is the mutual goals we all share. In my case, I wanted to help the local homeless population. I helped motivate a team of students first by giving a presentation at our school about what we can do to help the homeless. Then, I started to raise money in the community through the church. After six months, we then started to participate in city hall meetings. Eventually we were able to work with the social workers to link homeless people with job opportunities in the area. I view this as my greatest success as a leader, and it is all because I viewed my work as a responsibility I had to give back to my community. I intend to be a servant-leader in this way throughout my life. However, I also recognize that servant-leadership is not always the most effective means of inspiring and leading others. I believe the contingency theory of leadership often works best, allowing people to remain flexible and open to change.

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What Leadership Means to Me

Leadership means different things to me at different times, which is why I believe in the contingency theory. In my capacity helping the faith-based organization, I can easily demonstrate the value of servant-leadership. As I become ready to enter the business community, I believe I will adapt more of the traits and abilities of a transformational leader. Leadership to me entails working with others to achieve a goal, and also being unafraid of failure.

Leadership means being unafraid to fail. It means having the resiliency to recognize that small setbacks do not need to turn into real failures, which really amount to crises of will. A strong leader never gives up, but does adapt to change when the situation calls for it. Leadership always means having courage to stand up for what one believes in, and having the courage to push on even when it seems like nothing is working.

Leadership also means believing in oneself or at least one’s vision. Some leaders suffer from tremendous self-doubt, but they nevertheless believe unwaveringly in their goals and the importance of their goals in helping humanity. A leader is motivated by a lot more than personal gain. Even when leaders enjoy the fruits of their labors, they do what they do because they want to contribute to humanity in some way. They believe that their efforts and actions have meaning, and will continue to have meaning long after they are retired or gone.

Finally, leadership means having the ability to work with others. No leader, however visionary or brilliant, can achieve goals all alone. All leaders eventually need to find out some way to delegate responsibilities and tasks, creating a team environment. Leaders are also able to share their victories with others, giving credit where credit is due.


Leadership is one of the most important subjects in the field of psychology and human behavior. There are numerous theories of leadership that can be used to inform organizational policies and human resources development. Every area of life is impacted in some way by the need for strong leadership. Although there are some traits and skills that most effective leaders will have, ultimately, leadership depends on practice and experience. Leaders are those who have long-term visionary goals, and the willingness to take whatever steps necessary to achieve those goals. More than just people in positions of power, leaders can indirectly influence others with their positive outlook and emotional intelligence.


Doyle, A. (2017). Top 10 leadership skills. The Balance.

Hutson, M. (2018). Why people dislike really smart leaders. Scientific American. 18 Jan, 2018.

Johnson, R. (n.d.). 5 different types of leadership styles. The Chronicle.

Ovans, A. (2015). How emotional intelligence became a key leadership skill. Harvard Business Review. April 28, 2015.


Leadership is a common topic of discussion in academic essays. Essays on leadership can be personal in nature, reflecting on what leadership means to you, or essays can focus more on how empirical research supports various theories of leadership. Leadership can be studied using the scientific method, or can be researched using other methods like biographies of famous leaders. If you need help writing an essay on leadership, you can seek help from our custom writing service.

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