The Meaning Of Leadership Essay Topics

Being a leader

Leadership is a common and quite simple word but rather very difficult word to define due to its complexity and multifaceted composition. According to Bass (1981) leadership can be defined in different ways: It is an act of influencing activities of an organized group in its quest to set goals and also to achieve certain goals. He also defined leadership to mean the influence that somebody exercises in a situation by means of communication in order to attain a specified goal. However in order to be a leader you require a variety of qualities. A good leader is one who doesn’t know everything: trying to imagine that effective leadership is related to knowing everything is one of the most dangerous misconceptions in the field of leadership. So as much as the final decision and responsibility lies with one individual, it is important for him/her to gather other peoples’ opinions or views and respects them before making a final decision on an issue.

To be a good leader one also need to be open to change. This is one of the obvious factors that take place in life including areas where we work but has remained strongly resisted by mankind. However effective leadership demands that we anticipate all changes whether minor or major and respond to them promptly to allow growth to take place. On other hand however, it is also important to understand some of the attributes associated with bad leadership in life so as to avoid them completely when one is aspiring to be a leader. In order to be a leader one should avoid being a buddy boss. This character is normally exhibited when a manger make buddies instead of being a leader after failing to acquire the recognition of a leader amongst employees. Experts hold it that bosses can never be buddies with their employees; in fact their power and authority are always neutralized by friendships. Such relationships are always known to cloud the objectivity of a leader and hinder his/her ability to correct behaviours, delegate and to hold employees accountable for their responsibilities, omissions or commissions. As a person strive to climb the ladder of good leadership, it is important to avoid disorganization at workplace because such behaviour always leads to having employees without direction just like their leaders. In fact disorganized leaders don’t always guide their teams properly because they don’t deliver and manage their plans and strategies appropriately.

You’ll be asked to write at least one essay on leadership during your college years.

It doesn’t matter what your major is – you may have given business topics an incredibly wide berth. But that essay will sneak into your workload when you least expect it.

Writing an essay on leadership won’t be as complex as the rest of your assignments in college. In fact, most professors simply want to force you to meditate on what it means to be a leader for a few hours and then come up with a paper (backed by evidence) on how these concepts can be applied to everyday life.

It may sound like an easy topic to write on, but that’s only because it is easy. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean you can’t screw it up.

Choosing the wrong topic will send your grade into a tailspin on an assignment that should be easy to knock out of the park.

That’s why Jittery Monks are here. We know how to write a leadership essay; after all, we’ve written hundreds of them. So, we can tell you exactly what to avoid.

In this article, you’ll learn the three essay topics you should always avoid:

  1. The “I Overcame” Essay
  2. The Topic Without a Topic
  3. The Master of Leadership

We’ll also share plenty of tips for correcting your mistakes, writing a compelling essay and a list of our favorite leadership essay topics.

Topic #1: The “I Overcame” Essay

Many students have overcome major obstacles in their lives. Some come from indescribable poverty and scrapped and scraped their way into college. Others have been the victims of unspeakable atrocities and were refugees and victims of war during periods when they should have otherwise been able to be children.

These are instances when it is possible – even necessary – to write an essay about personal experiences and showing that you understand the principles that go into managing and guiding others.

If you’re one of those people who have personal overcome incredible odds, then you can write this essay. In fact, you SHOULD write this essay.

Now, you don’t have to have gone through an existential or moral crisis to write this essay. But you should be wary of how you do write it if you’ve lived a generally happy and secure life relatively free of conflict and drama.

It’s tempting to try to create your own hook to show how a transformative experience helped mold you into a leader.

But don’t talk about being overlooked for captaincy on your high school basketball team as though it was the worst thing that can happen to a person.

It’s not. Whoever grades that essay will know it. And you’re old enough to be expected to understand the relative nature of suffering.


Avoid making your life sound like hers unless it really is.

Avoid Martyrdom

If you’re going to write this essay, and you really shouldn’t, then you need to write it without sounding like you’re applying for martyrdom from the Pope.

Even if that isn’t your intention, it’s important to take extra care to ensure it doesn’t read that way.

Use one paragraph to demonstrate your understanding of the relative pain or value of your situation. Understand that feeling heartbroken after serving on a mission trip in a poverty-ravaged village is not as heartbreaking as being born and living your whole life in that village.

Moreover, consider what you gave up when you overcame. Did you give up something essential to your life, or did you give up the privilege of believing life is easy?

Don’t martyr yourself over never being able to look at Starbucks the same way again because you’ve finally realized the evils of corporate coffee. It’s not convincing to the reader. More importantly, it doesn’t correlate to the level of personal growth and leadership qualities you may be claiming.

Topic #2 The Topic Without a Topic

There are plenty of leadership research paper topics to choose from. But the biggest mistake you can make in any topic is to fail to choose a topic at all.

What does that mean?

In most cases, it involves writing a highly personal narrative devoid of theory or simply basing the paper on a personal understanding of leadership rather than comparing it to an existing academic understanding of a subject.

In other words, it means making it up as you go rather than establishing a clear topic.

If you’re not sure whether you chose a topic, then look to see whether you defined it.

If you didn’t or can’t define your topic, then it’s likely you don’t have one.


What’s your essay about?

Defining Your Topic

Defining your key terms is as important as citing your sources. You can’t simply decide what being a leader, or a good leader, means unless that is what is explicitly asked of you in your prompt.

Fortunately, there’s a dearth of literature, including more peer-reviewed journal articles than you can count, on leadership.

So, all you need to do is find a definition, understand it, express it, and write a paper reflecting your understanding of it.

Why You Need to Define Your Topic

Defining your topic is important for two reasons.

First, it tells the reader what the essay is about. Leadership is a broad topic – are you going to be writing about a specific model or theory? If so, how does that model or theory define leadership? What does that mean in the real world?

These questions are critical for the reader.

Without this information, the reader won’t have any idea what the essay is about. They can guess, but they can’t be certain unless you explicitly state it.

Second, defining your topic provides structure to the essay.

Without defining a specific topic from which to work, your project may ramble or stray into areas that have little to do with your intended purpose.

It may sound tedious, but defining your topic gives you a leg up when writing the rest of your essay. In fact, you can use the definition to sketch out an outline for the essay that is not only coherent but makes a compelling argument.

A well-defined topic and a structured body create an essay that is enjoyable to read and ultimately makes a point.

More importantly, these critical elements are essential for getting the grade you want.

How to Define Your Topic

Not sure how to define your topic?

Here’s a quick guide.

Define your topic using one of these three definitions:

  • Formal definition
  • Informal definition
  • Extended definition

Formal Definitions

A formal definition involves using a sentence to define the term by assigning it to the class or group it belongs in. The second part of the definition is used to show how it differs compared to other members of the group.

These definitions are important in academic essays that cite peer-reviewed research or are scientific in nature.

Here’s an example:

“A frog is a tailless member of the amphibian family which lacks scales and breeds in the water.”

If you read the definition, you know what group the frog is in (amphibian) and how it differs from reptiles, which are also amphibians.

Now, formal definitions should be specific, but they don’t need to be redundant.

If you’re talking about a leadership theory, you don’t need to say:

“Contingency leadership theory is a theory that argues there is no single style of leadership that works in every situation.”

You can omit the class or group in this case for brevity and style to say:

“Contingency leadership theory argues there is no single style of leadership that works in every situation.”

You can do this because it is obvious that contingency leadership theory is a leadership theory, and it doesn’t bear repeating.

Informal Definitions

Informal definitions are best suited for personal leadership essays because it doesn’t follow a formula.

Instead, the definition is implied.

Expanded Definitions

Use an expanded definition when a single sentence isn’t enough to explicitly describe what you’re talking about.

An expanded definition is useful for a leadership research paper because it allows you to fully describe a theory or concept in a coherent way that is also suitable for academic research papers.

Choose from one of the following techniques to write an expanded definition.

  • Further definition
    • Provide a definition of the overall concept as well as the words used to define the concept.
  • Specific examples
    • Provide a definition of the overall concept and an example of the concept in practice.
  • Description
    • Describe the parts or components of the topic.
  • Purpose of method of use
    • What’s the purpose? What’s the point? Let us know.
  • Basic operating principles
    • How does it work? What parts need to exist to create the big picture?
  • Cause and effect
    • What effects does the topic have?
  • Place and time
    • Where and when does it exist?
  • Negative statement
    • Define the topic. Then, use another sentence to show how its properties are different from other topics.

Topic #3 The Master of Leadership

There’s a lot of disagreement in leadership literature, but one thing most scholars and practitioners agree on is that there is no way to master leadership.

In fact, claiming to have mastered leadership or even an aspect of leadership is a sign you haven’t understood leadership at all.

Avoid any topic or language intended to demonstrate your mastery of a skill.


Because a quick Google search will reveal that humility and the continued pursuit of something better are two very much agreed on leadership qualities.

So, while it’s true that you may have figured it out for the moment, there’s always more to learn.

You have much to learn

Transform Your Topic

If you’re going to try to demonstrate how to write an essay about a leadership competency – we have an idea.

Focus on how leaders are the best learners.

You can read more about this in a great article over at Harvard Business Review, but we’ll break it down for you here.

The focuses on the premise that leaders must constantly learn and evolve not for the sake of it but because the world changes and leaders need to be able to react to change in the world.

Howard Gardner calls this skill searchlight intelligence.

In other words, leaders need to know how to connect the dots between ideas and people – and they need to be able to see the connections even when others can’t see them. In fact, it’s their ability to see these things when others can’t that makes them the best leaders.

So, if you want to talk about how you’ve learned to slowly master how to be a leader, consider writing about these shifts in society.

Think of a shift you experienced in society or a potential change in the near future. Talk about the connections you might draw between the two. But more importantly, consider what it means to lead while living in a state of constant evolution and what that means for learning for the future and at the moment.

If you can look at competency in leadership as a foundation from which to build new perspectives, you’ll not only sound more like a leader in your essay, but there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking more like a leader as well.

A List of Our Favorite Leadership Essay Topics

Now that you know what not to write about, here are a few good ideas for writing about specific branches of leadership.

  • Does gender play a role in leadership? Do men and women have different qualities? Does gender play a role in the way leaders are treated or accepted?
  • What role does altruism play in leadership?
  • How does leadership impact the morale of a team of followers?
  • How has social media changed leadership?
  • What is thought leadership? How does it differ from traditional leadership models?
  • Does student leadership prepare young leaders for careers in the private sector?
  • What ethics appear to be essential for leaders?
  • Is leadership inherent or can it be taught?

Why Do They Work?

Each of these topics would make an interesting basis for an essay. However, let’s talk about why they work.

These topics ask important questions not only about leadership in the present but how leadership will change and has changed.

They also ask questions that can be answered qualitatively or quantitatively, which is important for providing evidence.

You should aim to apply academic rigor (i.e. backing up your claims with evidence) even when you’re writing an essay about something that seems as a fluffy as leadership.

You’re ready to write.

Are You Ready to Lead and Write About It?

Few college students find a way to escape the leadership essay. Since you have to do it anyway, you might as well write a good one.

It’s not that hard, we promise.

You just need to focus on a topic, define it, and avoid characterizing yourself as a martyr or the ultimate leader.

If you can manage these three things, you’ll write an essay that is not only easy to read but easy to grade.

Are you stuck? Check out some of our sample essays here.

Have you been assigned the inevitable leadership essay? Let us know how we can help.


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