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Explanation of how to write a leadership essay

When you write a leadership essay you need to present your ideas logically and convincingly, demonstrating to your reader that you understand what leadership entails and the qualities that a good leader should have to be successful. You should do thorough research into these subjects before beginning the essay. Depending on what you think you will include in your essay, you may wish to also may need to research different management styles. There are many ways of writing about leadership so there is a lot of scope for the writer to excel.

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You can write about managers, politicians, religious leaders and many others, so your first task is to decide which kind, or kinds of leaders you will write about. If you are a student on a business or management course, you will be expected to write about what makes successful leaders in a business organization. On the other hand, if you are studying English, the leadership essay could focus on famous leaders from history such as:

  • Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945), an example of a charismatic leader, albeit one who was arguably a psychopath and certainly notorious.
  • President J. F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963) who was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. He is a perfect example of a charismatic leader.
  • Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) who raised and led an army of French soldiers who eventually beat the English army and drove them out of France.
  • Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), who was a spiritual and political leader who believed in peaceful protests.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968) the US civil rights leader who advocated peaceful protests, following the example of Gandhi.
  • Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) who was leader of the ANC in South Africa and then became the first black President of that country.
  • Alexander the Great (356 BC – 323 BC) who had forged one of the greatest empires of the ancient world by the time he was 30.
  • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881 – 1938) He was the founder of the Republic of Turkey and made it a secular country. He was the first Turkish President, governing it from 1923 until 1938.
  • Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia (1729 – 1796) was a controversial figure as she took over the role of leader from her husband and proceeded to expand the Russian empire. She was a patron of the arts and had the Hermitage museum built.
  • Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013), was Britain’s first female Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party.

Of course, there are many examples of charismatic leaders from around the globe, this list is intended to give you ideas for your leadership essay only.

Examples of business leaders and entrepreneurs are:

  • Bill Gates (1955 -) the founder of one of the biggest internet companies, the Microsoft Corporation.
  • Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011), the co-founder of Apple Inc and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pixar, Disney’s studios.
  • Carlos Slim Helú (1940 -) a Mexican telecommunications businessman who was the richest man in the world between 2010 and 2013.
  • Sir Richard Branson (1950 -) a British businessman who founded the Virgin group of companies.
  • Mark Zuckerberg (1984 -) the founder of the social media giant, Facebook.
  • Vera Ellen Wang (1949 -) American fashion designer, founder of Wang fashion.
  • Oprah Winfrey (1954 -) a billionaire and media giant who has her own TV network as well as being a very famous chat show host. Many women look up to her as their role model.
  • J. K. Rowling (1965 -) author of the best-selling Harry Potter books. She is also a screen writer and producer.
  • Jack Ma (1964 -) founder of the Alibaba group and the first Chinese entrepreneur from mainland China to be features on the front page of Forbes magazine.
  • Indra Nooyi (1955 -) CEO of PepsiCo which is the second biggest food and beverage company in the world (the largest one is the giant Nestlé).

There are, naturally many other examples of famous business leaders and entrepreneurs, so you can choose the one that you think is the best example and write about him or her, if you wanted to.

One way of starting your leadership essay, but by no means the only way, is to define what you mean when you use the term leader. Is your leader a head of an organisation, a head of a country, and so on? Then answer the question ‘What makes a good Leader?’ You will also need to answer this question and explain why you believe specific qualities are important for a leader to have. For example, you could say that the best leaders are charismatic because they can easily persuade people to do what they want. If that is for the good of a company, for example, then the company will thrive. You could contrast what would happen if the leader were ineffectual or authoritarian.

Another way of starting your leadership essay is with a ‘hook’ that grabs the reader’s attention. For example, you could begin by writing about an inspirational leader such as Martin Luther King Jr. who championed the rights of black people in the USA and won their hears and minds, advocating peaceful protests.

You could also give a definition of leadership, or even several, and then say what you believe is the best one. There is always more than one way of starting an essay.

Next you could list the styles of leadership and discuss their merits and drawbacks. One, as mentioned above is charismatic leadership which is not explained in this list as an explanation and example has been given above.

  • Authoritarian leadership – this is the one in which the boss tells everyone what to do and does not give others the freedom to think and act for themselves. This type of leader doesn’t ask others for their views on any matters pertaining to the running of the company. The problem with this type of leadership style is that employees quickly become disgruntled and they will probably end up leaving. as they have become alienated. The leader is dogmatic and inflexible.
  • Democratic leadership is the antithesis to authoritarian leadership. Staff are involved in the decision-making processes and they are asked to give their opinions. Although the boss probably makes the final decision, there is a process of consultation so that everyone feels that they are able to contribute to the process. The boss, or leader is not afraid to delegate responsibility to others. Arguably the most important feature of this leadership model is that there is a two-way communication process. Democratic leadership is mainly preferred because it encourages creativity, competence and honesty.
  • Strategic leadership is similar to democratic leadership, but this model usually involves the head of the company or organisation. One of the most important points to make about this leadership style is that leaders do what they are expected to do for the benefit of the company when it is going through a process of change. This type of leadership style involves strategic thinking and perhaps planning to ensure that new policies are understood and workable.
  • Transformational leadership is concerned with making changes to, and within, a company. Leaders of this type are able to get the very best out of people. They motivate others to do better than they believed they could do. They basically encourage and assist people to achieve things they initially thought were impossible. This makes people feel empowered and they typically have greater job satisfaction and committed.
  • Team leadership is all about having and creating a clear picture of a company’s future. These types of leaders concentrate on building a team of people who share the same vision for the way forward. The team should have a good sense of the direction that should be followed. However, there are disadvantages to this style of leadership because using teamwork as a method of establishing cooperation does not always work. If the leader is weak, then this model will undoubtedly fail.
  • Cross-cultural leadership exists in multi-ethnic settings. International companies need leaders who are flexible and who can work in different work environments, perhaps in different cultures and countries. Being able to adapt to different cultures is very important in today’s globalised world. Globalisation has meant that people of different cultures often work together, so understanding other cultures is a key to success.
  • Facilitative leadership is about managing group dynamics. It is al about the people who make up the workforce and it aims to help workers achieve the results that are needed for the business to be successful.
  • Laissez-faire leadership models have been researched thoroughly and have been found to be the least effective of all. Basically, in this model, workers are allowed to work without any interference from those in charge.
  • Transactional leadership is a style that does not really seek change. It’s based on exchanges between management and the workforce. Workers can reap rewards if they carry out orders. A transactional leader will explain what is expected and then tell workers how best to achieve results. Rewards are given when objectives are met. These could be bonuses or pay rises for example.
  • Coaching leadership is all about teaching and supervising. Such a leader will identify areas where workers need to improve. Once these are identified, training is given to enhance skills. It is a good way of providing motivation as well as encouragement, and it can also inspire workers to do their best.
  • Visionary leadership is all about leaders who understand that it is the workforce that does the work A visionary leader guides the workers to use appropriate steps and methods to achieve the company’s goal.

The second paragraph of your leadership essay, that is, the one after the introduction, could discuss leadership styles as outlined in the list above. You could say that not all leaders are good ones, and this might be for a variety of reasons. Some reasons for someone being a weak leader are as follows:

  • unwillingness to lead by example
  • reluctant to take on the role of leader
  • not strong enough (mentally) to lead
  • not having leadership skills, which can be difficult for some people to learn and implement
  • not having the appropriate temperament to be a leader. Someone who gets angry quickly would, for example, not be a good leader because he or she would soon alienate his or her workers.
  • unwillingness to compromise or discuss issues
  • being dogmatic
  • being inflexible

The second paragraph of the main body of your leadership essay can focus on the skills an effective leader needs. For example:

  • the ability to inspire others
  • honesty and integrity so that others look up to him or her
  • being able to provide motivation so that people work well
  • problem solving skills
  • analytical skills
  • quick thinking
  • perseverance
  • maintaining and building good relationships (people skills)
  • the ability to think through effective strategies to improve the business or organisation
  • the ability to help and encourage the development of others
  • the ability to be innovative and encourage innovation
  • the ability to successfully manage change
  • trust-building skills
  • good time management skills
  • the ability to delegate
  • good listening and communication skills
  • creativity
  • trustworthiness

You can probably add other skills to this list as it is not exhaustive. It is designed to stimulate you to think carefully about the skills a good leader should ideally possess before you begin to write your leadership essay.

You can split these lists so that you discuss leadership characteristics in several paragraphs. Use your initiative to produce a very good leadership essay. This is simply a guide which you are not obliged to follow. However, it will help you organise your thoughts, give you ideas of what you need to research further and generally point you in the right direction.

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