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personal leadership journey

Develop Your Personal Leadership Journey and Become an Effective Leader

leadership journey sample

Written by The Blue Ocean Team

Adapted from Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Leadership, Harvard Business Review (May, 2014)

Every day you are on your personal leadership journey. The decisions you make as a leader affect your team and your organization. How would you evaluate your leadership? Are you an effective leader that drives high performance and brings your people along? Or can your leadership profile be markedly improved?

What if, instead of altering who you are, you could undertake a different set of tasks and create a step-change in your leadership strength?

In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the steps you can take today to design your personal leadership journey. We will introduce you to specific tools that will help you visualize your leadership reality and ask questions to redesign your leadership profile.

At the end of the article, you will also find a presentation – an introductory guide, “ How to Become a Blue Ocean Leader “, containing tools and templates to help you take your leadership to the next level.

Your leadership journey reflection

Reflect for a moment on your personal leadership journey thus far. How effective is your leadership in your organization? Are your people engaged or disengaged? Is there a gulf between the potential and the realized talent and energy of your people at work? If so, how big do you imagine the gulf is – 10 percent, 20 percent, 40 percent of unrealized talent?

If your organization is like most, then chances are you have more disengaged employees than engaged ones.

How much better would your organization likely perform in terms of productivity, creativity, customer service, and employee happiness if you could close the gap?

Ask yourself, what is your role as a leader? If you believe your role is to drive high performance, then reflecting on your personal leadership journey and understanding how to turn this situation around is critical.

Starting with yourself is the first step to making a step change in leadership strength in your organization.

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Your personal leadership journey starts today

How can you stand out as a leader? By turning disengaged employees into engaged ones through an approach to leadership that Chan Kim and Ren é e Mauborgne call ‘ blue ocean leadership ’ .

The insight for blue ocean leadership is that leadership, in essence, can be thought of as a service that people in an organization either ‘buy’ or ‘don’t buy’.

Once you start thinking about your personal leadership in this way, you can see how the concepts and frameworks developed to create new demand in the field of strategy, could be adapted to help you not only develop your personal development journey but at the same time convert your disengaged employees into engaged ones.

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Focus on acts and activities

If you are ambitious to progress on your personal leadership journey, chances are you have been part of leadership development programs in the past.

Most leadership development programs and leadership strategies are designed to hone the cognitive and behavioral skills of leaders. The implicit assumption is that this will ultimately translate into high performance. Blue ocean leadership, in contrast, taps into the field of strategy by focusing on actions tied to market realities to rapidly bring about a step-change in leadership strength.

As part of leadership development programs, you have probably been called on to develop traits such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy, all of which require deep self-reflection and introspection to assimilate into your character or behavior (or leadership style).

Of course, having the right values, qualities, and behavior traits matters and you should work on them. However, as part of a human being’s inborn nature, these factors are hard to change within a short time frame.

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Blue ocean leadership, in contrast, is action-based, just as strategy is. It focuses on what acts and activities leaders need to do to provide a leap in motivation and business results driven by people, not on whom they need to be.

It’s the difference between being asked to be motivating versus being asked to provide those you lead with real-time feedback and best practice lessons that internally motivate and guide those you lead to up their game while feeling valued.

Imagine as a leader being asked to “be motivating”. Where do you begin? Now consider a different task: to provide those you lead with real-time feedback and best-practice lessons that motivate and guide people to perform more effectively while feeling valued.

It is markedly easier to change your acts and activities than your values, qualities, or behaviors.

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Tools to map out a powerful personal leadership journey

The as-is leadership canvas: how to see your current leadership reality.

Do you know how people in your organization currently experience your leadership? Are you engaging in acts and activities that hinder your team’s performance and motivation? Here is how to find out the reality of your personal leadership journey.

Blue Ocean Leadership canvas

Blue Ocean Leadership Canvas. © Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne. All rights reserved.

The Leadership Canvas is an analytic visual that shows the acts and activities leaders currently undertake and invest their time and intelligence in as perceived by each leadership level’s customers.

Ask yourself: what acts and activities are you spending most of your time on?

The objective here is to identify the key acts and activities – both good and bad – that actually absorb your time so the As-Is Leadership Canvas can be drawn.

Start by listing your key leadership acts and activities along the horizontal axis and plotting your investment of time and effort in each activity across the vertical axis. The big picture will give you keen insight into your current leadership reality and unlock your creativity to develop a new effective leadership profile for the future.

What did you find? Is your time mostly clogged with bureaucratic tasks and low-value acts and activities? Are you spending enough time on the acts and activities that actually add value to your organization?

Here is an example of an As-Is Leadership Canvas of one company’s senior management.

Blue Ocean Leadership canvas of senior managers

© Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne. All rights reserved.

The Blue Ocean Leadership Grid: How to develop your new leadership profile

The Blue Ocean Leadership Grid is an analytic tool that complements the Leadership Canvas and helps you formulate your blue ocean leadership profile that can unlock the ocean of unrealized talent and energy in your organization.

blue ocean leadership grid

The Blue Ocean Leadership Grid © Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne. All rights reserved.

The tool drives you to ask four questions that challenge your current leadership reality:

Eliminate : Which acts and activities you invest your time and intelligence in that should be eliminated?

Reduce : Which acts and activities you invest your time and intelligence in that should be reduced well below their current level?

Raise : Which acts and activities you invest your time and intelligence in that should be raised well above their current level?

Create : Which acts and activities should you invest your time and intelligence in that you currently don’t undertake?

The as-is leadership profiles help you wake up to reality and see the need for change.

The Blue Ocean Leadership Grid drives you to find out what leadership activities should be eliminated, reduced, raised, and created to create a step-change in your leadership strength and achieve high impact with a lower investment of time.

Based on the acts and activities from your completed Blue Ocean Leadership Grid, draw your To-Be Leadership Canvas.

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The To-Be Leadership Canvas zooms in on key acts and activities that you need to cut back on to free up time and space and those you should focus on to dramatically uplift your leadership performance. By focusing on acts and activities, the tasks for change are atomized.

Compared with traditional leadership programs that often focus on attitudes and behaviors that can take years of dedicated effort to cultivate, this approach offers you a relatively straightforward way to make high-impact changes happen fast and at low cost. As Chan Kim and Ren é e Mauborgne’s research has shown, it is easier to change what you do, than who you are.

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An example of a To-Be Leadership Canvas of one company’s senior management.

Your journey of leadership continues

Blue ocean leadership is about providing a structured process for you to discover for yourself how you need to change in action terms as a leader to create a win all around. The Leadership Canvas allows the standards for success to be measurable. It provides a simple one-page picture that you can quickly grasp, which shows your current or As-Is Leadership Profile and what acts and activities you need to eliminate, reduce, raise and create to deliver a leap in your leadership effectiveness for high performance.

While the practice of leadership will never be an exact science, the aim of blue ocean leadership is to help move it from soft amorphous values and traits to the acts and activities that managers can execute tomorrow and not work on for years before seeing results.

Just imagine how much higher performing your organization would be if you unlocked this blue ocean of new leadership space through action-based, market connected, distributed deep, blue ocean leadership?

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Personal leadership journey presentation

This introductory guide on How to Become a Blue Ocean Leader contains key points of blue ocean leadership along with the tools and templates to help you start on your journey to design your new leadership profile.

Download this presentation and work through the exercises to design your personal leadership journey using powerful tools of blue ocean leadership.

A must-have for managers and senior leaders! Download it below. The introductory guide comes with a 5-email mini series on blue ocean leadership where we discuss the concepts further. 

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How to Become a Blue Ocean Leader

Get the FREE introductory guide

Focus on your actions instead of your traits and personality to create a step-change in your leadership strength

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5 Stages of Your Leadership Journey

Gordon Tredgold

I often hear people say leadership is a journey, not a destination. While I agree in principle with that, I believe it’s a journey with distinctive with many different stages, and each stage can require different skills and that what works at one stage may not work at the next. Not only that, but an inability to let go of those skills could stop you from getting to the next level.

I believe that there are five stages on our leadership journey and that you need to pass through each on your way to becoming an inspirational leader.

Informal Leader

This is the first stage of leadership, the stage where we lead without a position. Where you are helping and supporting teammates and colleagues, recognizing their contribution, and working to create a strong team from within, it can also be something as simple as taking a stand, speaking up, and looking to make a difference. To me, this is the most important stage because here, you’re showing your leadership potential, and you’re also getting practice in engaging, enabling, and supporting people. Very rarely have I ever promoted someone into a leadership position who wasn’t already demonstrating leadership. Being an informal leader will also help others accept you into that first leadership role as they will already appreciate our support and contribution.

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Hands-On Leader

At this stage, you’re a key contributor to the initiative’s success, probably leading from the front giving support and advice to your teammates, coaching them to help increase their contribution, leading a team, setting the goal, creating the plan but also hands-on involved in its delivery. I tend to think of this as a player/captain kind of role. Here one of the keys is to get the balance right between managing, leading, and doing and to not fall into the trap of micro-managing people.

Expert Leader

Once your successful in the hands-on role, the next step is to move to the Expert Leader level. Here you’re selected because of your expertise, and your organization is looking for you to have a bigger impact. They want to relieve you of the burden of doing the work so that you can direct, coach, and empower more people and have a bigger impact. Here it’s all about the planning and leading teams, and you’re probably leading several teams, so you’re one step further away from the work. It’s about holding people accountable and helping them with your expertise to deliver the results.

This is where many people struggle, and their career stalls because while it’s your expertise that got you the role, it’s your people skills that will determine how successful you’re going to be.

Engaging and Enabling Leader

If you struggled with the move to people management, then it’s doubtful that you’re going to make it to this level, but if you do, then without a major upgrade in those skills, you are really going to struggle.

At this level, you’re going to be leading teams where you are not going to be an expert, but maybe you’re not even going to have any expertise or experience. I remember when I made this leap, I was leading a team of Ingres Database Administrators (DBAs). Not only did I not know Ingres, but I had never even been a DBA, so here it was all about my ability to engage and empower people. Understanding what they needed to be successful and then providing it for them. It was about understanding the challenges and the opportunities and then about working with them to set the vision and direction for the team. This requires us to trust our teams, to be prepared to be vulnerable, and to admit we don’t know everything or even anything sometimes.

For many, this can be a bridge too far, too much uncertainty to deal with, or that you have to put faith in others. But in reality, you need to put your faith in your leadership skills, your ability to build a strong team, and to get the best out of people. It’s all about being a people expert and having confidence in that expertise, rather than being a technical subject matter expert.

Inspirational Leader

This is the highest level of leadership, and at this level, you’re going to be leading large departments, probably multiple departments, or even the entire organization. Here it’s all about setting the strategy, creating culture, inspiring others through your actions. Leadership defines the culture, and it’s the highest levels of leadership that have the highest impact on culture. In these roles, your touch is going to be the lightest, and so it has to be impactful. Messages need to be simple, powerful, and consistent, and each interaction needs to inspire and motivate people. It’s all about creating a movement and momentum through creating a shared vision and a strong culture that supports that vision.

Leadership is a journey, one that has many stages, and not everyone will have the skills for each stage right now. That’s why to be a leader you need to be a constant learner as the next stage usually requires a different set of skills, and what got you to the previous stage might hold you back from getting to the next stage or might cause you to fail if you do get there. Sometimes it’s about letting go of what made you successful and learning the skills needed to progress and be successful at the next level.

I’d love to know where you are on your journey and any of the challenges you faced going from one stage to the next.

Written by Gordon Tredgold . Have you read? Best Hospitality And Hotel Management Schools In The World For 2021 . Best Fashion Schools In The World For 2021 . Trialbee – Match. Enroll. Engage . CEO Spotlight: Mona Maine de Biran .

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5 Steps to Creating a Successful Leadership Development Plan

Female business leader speaking to team

  • 27 Nov 2019

Leadership development is a key initiative for many businesses. Organizations not only try to recruit candidates with leadership potential but cultivate their current employees’ leadership skills.

In a survey by global research and advisory firm Gartner , 60 percent of human resources executives said they’ll focus on cultivating leader and manager effectiveness for their company in 2023. In doing so, they intend to nurture the professional development of potential leaders by developing specific leadership qualities, such as authenticity, empathy, and adaptiveness—representing a new kind of “human” leadership.

Additionally, a report by the World Economic Forum projects leadership and social influence to be among the fastest-growing workplace skills through 2022, which ties into a burgeoning trend for all workers to become lifelong learners to address emerging skills gaps.

For motivated professionals who want to advance their careers and assume leadership positions, creating a leadership development plan is vital to staying ahead of the curve and rising to the demands of the job market. According to Harvard Business School Professor Ethan Bernstein, the path to effective leadership is more fluid now than in the past.

“Once upon a time, you would enter a leadership development program in a company that might put you on a 20-year track to becoming an executive,” Bernstein says. “Many of us can’t even fathom that today. But that should be freeing in that it gives us license to develop ourselves and create our own individualized leadership development plans.”

As you plot your career trajectory and consider how you can maximize your professional influence and impact, here are five steps to creating a successful leadership development plan.

How to Design Your Leadership Development Plan

1. assess where you are professionally.

Mapping your leadership development starts with understanding yourself and where you stand professionally. Taking stock of your strengths, weaknesses, and workplace tendencies can help identify areas for improvement and anticipate pitfalls that could arise on your journey to becoming a more capable leader.

“In the process of identifying how what you’ve done before may or may not make you successful going forward, you raise your awareness about how what you already know will contribute to, or undermine, your capacity to successfully lead others in the future,” Bernstein says.

Completing an assessment can be a valuable way to reflect on your motivational drivers and limitations and gain a more holistic view of your personal leadership style . Pairing self-reflection with a 360-degree assessment enables you to solicit feedback from colleagues and peers, which can provide greater insight into how others experience you. In turn, you can build and leverage a keener sense of emotional intelligence throughout your leadership development journey.

Related: 4 Tips for Developing Your Personal Leadership Style

2. Set an Attainable Goal

Goal setting is an essential component of any leadership development plan.

“Just like anything else: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably not going to get there,” Bernstein says. “It sounds overly simplistic, but that summarizes why goals are important."

Bernstein teaches the PACE model, an acronym for:

  • Pick a leadership goal
  • Apprise others in your inner circle of the goal
  • Collect specific ideas on how to improve
  • Elicit feedback on how you’re doing

The PACE Model in Leadership Development

PACE is employed by learners to select leadership development goals and chart a course of action for achieving them. The first step in the process, Pick, is centered on identifying and prioritizing a goal you can strive toward to boost your professional effectiveness. When setting this goal, take an agile approach and consider both the short and long term.

“You can’t lose sight of where you’re trying to go over the span of a decade—or even a career—which is why making long-term goals is important,” Bernstein says. “But we can’t, as human beings, make progress if we make the milestones so grand and far away that they seem unachievable. A little bit of progress each day keeps the frustration at bay.”

As you define and establish your key goal, consider how you’ll measure progress along the way to ensure you stay on track.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

3. Engage in Leadership Training

Leadership training can benefit you no matter your career stage. Beyond the opportunity to gain and practice the technical skills needed to empower employees and influence others , you’re exposed to faculty and peers you can lean on for support and learn and grow from. It can also equip you for future leadership roles.

According to Bernstein, honing your leadership abilities in a classroom setting is advantageous because it provides a low-risk environment for reevaluating and fine-tuning goals when you encounter setbacks.

“It’s helpful to have a group of people—we call it your ‘inner circle’—who’ve heard and embraced your leadership goals, and whose conversations helped inform how you would go about achieving them,” Bernstein says. “In moments of challenge and relapse, you can go back to them for encouragement and courage. You can revise your goals in a safe environment because you have a level of openness and vulnerability with those people built into the course.”

4. Interact with Your Network

A professional network is one of the most valuable resources in any leader’s arsenal, so make it a point to grow yours . Throughout your leadership development journey, connecting with like-minded peers can have a positive impact by providing opportunities to employ the knowledge you’ve gained and receive feedback on your progress.

These kinds of interactions are core tenets of the online course Leadership Principles , in which learners practice delivering feedback through video exercises that allow them to evaluate their effectiveness in various business scenarios.

“Ensure your leadership development includes some interaction with other learners and also with the people who are benefitting and suffering from your current capabilities as a leader,” Bernstein says. “We try to teach people to be good protégés, as well as good leaders. It’s an ongoing process. That interaction is important in making things that seem very theoretical ultimately become very practical.”

5. Hone Your Soft Skills

Effective leadership requires a unique blend of characteristics and skills .

“There are skills you need as a leader that you don’t necessarily develop in any other context, at least in a focused way,” Bernstein says. “These include communication; career planning; knowing how to create and evaluate authentic change in a person, including yourself; and negotiating career transitions. These are things you typically won’t do many times in your career, but they will be very important to continuing your leadership trajectory.”

As you chart your leadership development plan, consider how you can bolster essential soft skills like actively listening , practicing empathy , and creating value in a negotiation to ensure you’re prepared to tackle any organizational challenges that come your way.

Leadership Principles | Unlock your leadership potential | Learn More

Developing Your Leadership Skills

Striving to become a strong, capable leader is a commitment you can make at any stage of your career —although doing so sooner means you can reap the benefits longer. By assessing where you are professionally and thinking deeply about where you want to go, you can design a leadership development plan that enables you to channel your passions and build the skills needed to be more impactful in your role.

Do you want to enhance your leadership skills? Download our free leadership e-book and explore our online course Leadership Principles to discover how you can become a more effective leader and unleash the potential in yourself and others.

This post was updated on December 21, 2022. It was originally published on November 27, 2019.

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The Leadership Journey

  • Leonard D. Schaeffer

Executives’ jobs can shift dramatically depending on the challenges they face. Here’s one CEO’s account of how he progressed through three very different styles of management.

Monday, February 10, 1986 was my first day as chief executive of Blue Cross of California. At a welcoming reception, the company presented me with a sculpture, nearly five feet tall, of a cross carved from blue ice and artistically decorated with succulent pink prawns. The thing was exquisitely beautiful—and the most apt emblem for wasteful spending I’d ever seen. When I asked where it came from, I was introduced to the company’s pastry chef. My first official act was to fire him. After all, Blue Cross of California was at that time the worst-performing of the 77 Blue Cross plans across the country, with annual operating losses of $ 165 million. With the organization teetering on the edge of insolvency, ice sculpting hardly seemed like a core function.

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  • LS Leonard D. Schaeffer is the chairman and CEO of WellPoint Health Networks in Thousand Oaks, California, one of the nation’s largest publicly traded health care companies.

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Your Leadership Story: Develop It and Share It Often

amazing leadership stories

This past winter, I had the wonderful creative opportunity to act as writing coach and contributor to the just-published Life is Good: The Book (How to Live with Purpose and Enjoy the Ride) . It’s a fun and inspiring celebration of the power of optimism, written by Bert and John Jacobs, brothers and co-founders of Life is Good. Through moving, funny, and engaging stories, the brothers chronicle their personal and professional journeys as they take a simple idea and fashion it into one of America’s most well loved, widely admired and socially-conscious clothing and lifestyle brands.

We talked a lot about the power of leadership stories as we wrote the book – their ability to create powerful personal connections, to build trust, to reveal our character, our dreams and intentions, to draw others to our causes and endeavors. One conversation about the surprising recent popularity of public storytelling found its way into the book. Few these days haven’t heard about – or listened to – The Moth Radio Hour . Every week, tens of thousands across the country flock to live storytelling venues, and millions more listen on the radio as a lone human being steps up to a microphone and tells his or her candid, revealing personal story. Think about it. In this day of dazzling multimedia and visual entertainment where stunning computer-generated graphics and fantastic action sequences dance before our eyes, a lone storyteller on a bare stage still somehow has the power to hold our attention.

Stories are powerful. Always have been. Humans have gathered in caves, huddled around campfires, shared across the dinner table, or listened in the late hours when the party has wound down, our guard is down too, and the stories really get interesting. Like the Ancient Mariner, we can’t seem to help ourselves. We’re compelled to tell stories, to make sense of our experiences, and ourselves. More than that, stories connect us. My story becomes our story by embedding messages about our values, our identity as a group. Stories help shape the culture you want to create as a leader. Think of the oft-repeated stories so many families tell around the dinner table at gatherings at special gatherings. Some are immigrant stories, hardship stories, stories of a grandfather or grandmother, a father or mother or brother who met and overcame significant challenges. These stories create a common language, shape our view of ourselves, remind us what truly matters, instill pride and ambition, bond us.

The best leaders have always been aware of the power of stories and have used them naturally and authentically in a variety of ways and for many powerful purposes. If we scan history we find again and again that successful leaders – politicians, corporate and community leaders, leaders of social movements – are great storytellers. Lincoln used seemingly simple homespun stories with profound lessons embedded in them. Franklin D. Roosevelt wove them into his Fireside Chats. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was at heart a journey story. Ronal Reagan was a storyteller of wit and charm. Barack Obama’s rise to prominence was strongly aided by his compelling autobiography, Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

Many of today’s most successful business leaders are compelling storytellers as well. Want to learn from them? Pick up Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s autobiography Pour Your Heart Into It or Barbara Corcoran’s Shark Tales . Pick up Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity , Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In , Yvon Choinard’s Let My People Go Surfing , and many more. Pay attention to the functions of their most compelling leadership stories – drawing us in, establishing trust in their character and intentions, revealing their passions and purpose-driven work, creating connections. Their individual stories become collective tales that make us want to join them, to engage, experience and invest in their movements, ideas and brands.

One common leadership story is the founding story. Really, it’s an origin story. Just as cultures and religions shape their origin stories to tell themselves how they came to be, how they are unique, and what they value, people do too. In Life is Good: The Book , we learn that on the company’s tenth anniversary, Bert and John Jacobs decided to place a simple version of their early years on the hangtags attached to every piece of clothing they sold. They referred to it as their “heritage story:”

For five years, Bert and John Jacobs designed and sold t-shirts in the streets and in college dorms up and down the East Coast. They slept in a van, lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and showered when they could. The ladies were not impressed. With a combined total of $78 in the bank, they thought about giving up their dream. Until three simple words showed them the way: Life is good.

Initially, they balked at putting the story out there. After all, many successful people start out in humble ways. They decided to try it for a year. As they explain in Life is Good: The Book ,

“But then our retailers and customers told us what it meant to them. How they connected to the story of two regular guys stumbling their way along and forming a company based on their beliefs. They liked the fact that we’re still running the company too. The story is important to people because it’s authentic, they told us. Keep sharing it. So we do . . .

“You have a “heritage story” too. Each of us has a unique journey marked by experiences that shaped who we are. Reflecting on those formative stories occasionally can sharpen our understanding of where we came from, where we struggled and fell down, what we learned, and what we have come to value most. And when you share your story openly with others, they get to know who you actually are. These shared, authentic stories help us all build trusting relationships.”

I have worked with hundreds of managers and leaders, helping them craft and practice their leadership stories. One ready source is what leadership guru Warren Bennis called “crucible stories.” A crucible is a trial, a test, something you go through with difficulty that teaches you a great deal. Challenges that lead to new learning are often a great source for leadership stories. Among the simple prompts I use to get leaders’ story juices flowing are to think about a time when they:

  • Overcame a significant challenge
  • Came to a fork in the road and made a difficult choice
  • Achieved something great with others
  • Learned something unexpected

The best way to develop a great leadership story is to tell it. Again and again. Practice it. And in the telling, you will undoubtedly discover new depths to it, clarify the real meanings of it, hone it into a stronger, more motivating, connecting story.

How can a manager use their leadership story? Why would they choose to use it? There are many opportunities and many reasons. We don’t have to wait for moments of great inspiration. We don’t have to pull it out only on dramatic occasions like the classic football half-time speech when the team is down by three touchdowns. And we don’t have to be polished storytellers either. On the contrary, you’ll be compelling when you find your own voice and your own comfortable style of telling. And the more practical, less dramatic opportunities to tell your tale happen all the time in the workplace. Here are three common opportunities to share your leadership story with others:

  • When taking on a new position . The new manager has a great opening window to make an impression, create trust and establish productive relationships with their direct reports. Often the early period is filled with one-on-one meetings as well as multiple team meetings as the new manager does fact-finding and rapport-building while learning their new area of responsibility and establishing priorities. Look to inject stories into these meetings. Help people understand who you are and what motivates you by telling a brief story about yourself or by sharing one of your formative experiences.
  • When orienting a new report . There is much to talk about with a new employee as we seek to clarify their goals and responsibilities as well as help them understand the resources, tools and processes they need to rely on to accomplish their work. But don’t miss the opportunity to create a personal connection by sharing your story. The number one predictor of job satisfaction for an employee is their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Why not start out on a good, productive personal note that creates rapport and clarifies what’s most important to you. And encourage their stories too. Find out about the unique person who has joined your team and what shaping experiences they have had. They will value your personal interest in them and be more engaged in their work as a result.
  • When launching a project . Big projects and difficult undertakings often begin with great anxiety. Can we pull it off? Will we be successful? How are we going to accomplish this new thing? Smart leaders use stories to remind their group that teams can accomplish great things together, that they have been part of successes in the past under challenging circumstances, and that they can’t wait to experience success again with this team.

Give stories a try. You’ll find them to be an essential means for expressing your authentic leadership and an invaluable and satisfying way to deepen your bond with the people you lead.


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Journal of Leadership Education

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  • Looking Back in Order to Move Ahead as a Leader: A Personal Journey Line Narrative Exercise

Jordon E. Swain, Ph.D., Andrew L. Bond, & Daniel R. Smith 10.12806/V19/I1/A4


This exercise asks students to ‘look back’ – to reflect on their life experiences, and connect those experiences to core values in order to clearly and compellingly answer the question “Who am I?” The exercise is most appropriate for undergraduate students or graduate students in an organizational behavior (OB) or leadership course.  Similar to other reflective exercises with a focus on communicating personal values to others (Reilly, 2018; Tyran, 2017), this exercise asks students to not only solidify their core values in their own minds but to communicate those values, as well as how they came to hold those values.  Students are asked to specifically identify three core values and to explain how they came to hold those values by linking them to significant developmental or transformative events or experiences in their lives. The inclusion of a student-selected mentor is a key distinction between the Journey Line Narrative detailed in this article and other reflective exercises.

Since this exercise is part of an OB course, we also require students to apply their knowledge of assigned readings and class discussions.  We feel the application of OB concepts in the paper is especially useful because the exercise is part of a graded course, and because it has been suggested that applying OB concepts to personal experience helps students make sense of their experiences, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the OB concepts they are exposed to in class (McNeely, 2000).

A key outcome of this exercise is to help students become more authentic leaders, a suitable goal we find for students enrolled in leadership classes as authentic leaders have been linked to improved leader effectiveness (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Gardner, Cogliser, & Dais, 2011).

Theoretical Foundation

The Journey Line Narrative involves students reflecting on their formative experiences.  Reflection is defined as, “the intentional consideration of an experience in light of particular learning objectives” (Hatcher & Bringle, 1997, p. 1).  Reflecting on one’s life experience supports self-awareness and leader development (Matthews & Lerner, 2017; Dehler & Edmonds, 2006; Hedberg, 2008; Quijada, McGrath, & Wheaton, 2016).  Also reflection focused on formative, developmental experiences and the relationship of those events to one’s values is thought to be key in the leader development process (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005; Bennis, 2003).

Reflection and the resulting self-awareness is key to leader development, but each also plays a role in authentic leadership.  Authentic leadership is an increasingly prominent topic in the realm of leader development and has been linked to leader effectiveness (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Gardner, Cogliser, & Dais, 2011).  Authenticity, in the context of authentic leadership theory, refers to “owning one’s personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs” and implies that one acts in accord with the true self (Harter, 2002, p. 382).  This “owning of experiences” leads to self-awareness, which is often brought about by reflection.  While reflection can take many forms, research suggests that crafting one’s personal reflection into a coherent story can increase self-awareness and self-concept clarity, contributing to the development of authentic leaders (Shamir & Eilam, 2005; Sparrowe, 2005).

This creation of a historical self-narrative is not simply useful for helping leaders increase their self-awareness and authenticity.  Communicating this story to others – learning to articulate one’s values and how they came to hold those values – can be as valuable as the reflection required to craft one’s story (Shamir & Eilam, 2005).  Communicating one’s personal narrative provides followers with a source of information on which to base their judgments about the leader’s authenticity (Shamir & Eilam, 2005).  In fact, life storytelling has been shown to partially predict followers’ perceptions of leader authenticity (Weischer, Weibler, & Petersen, 2013).  It is with this in mind that we created the reflective Journey Line Narrative exercise.  This exercise is similar to other reflective exercises used by numerous faculty (see for example Reilly, 2018 or Tyran, 2007), but contains some unique elements – most notably the use of a mentor to aid in reflection.

Learning Objectives

The student learning objectives for this exercise follow:

  • Engage in reflection to improve your understanding of yourself – thereby enhancing self-awareness.
  • Practice communicating your authentic self.
  • Apply and demonstrate knowledge of OB theories and class concepts relevant to your developmental journey as a leader.

Exercise Overview and Logistics

Because of the requirement to apply OB concepts in the Journey Line Narrative, we have found the exercise is best positioned toward the middle, or in the second half of our course, ensuring students have been exposed to several concepts that we have found to be relevant to the exercise (e.g., character development, authentic leadership, resilience, perceptions and biases, power, etc.).

To facilitate other interested educators in employing this type of exercise, we have included helpful digital assets and materials as appendices. Readers can access and download these and all relevant assignment materials https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zzh3cq2l5ll9lfm/AAALZiGfpM_x9N39tCYkhBGya?dl=0 .  These assets will assist readers in adopting or adapting this exercise for their own use.

Instructor preparation for the exercise is minimal.  Providing students the guidance contained in Appendix A and C is all that is required.  The primary concern for instructors is to clearly articulate the assignment requirements—including the selection of a mentor—after some basic concepts have been introduced, with adequate time for students to complete the assignment before the course concludes.  That said, we do find that some instructor communication with the cohort of mentors is appreciated and can help ensure the intent of the exercise is met (e.g., see Appendix D).

Step-by-Step Instructions and Possible Variations

Step 1: Select Developmental Experiences.  Students must identify formative developmental experiences in their lives.  In selecting their most important developmental experiences to write about, students are directed to consider how their experiences may have revealed or developed important virtues or strengths of character, or how their experiences may have challenged their perceptions, self-concept, or world-view.  Alternatively, students might select experiences that altered their self-awareness, developed emotional intelligence, or resilience.  Student reflection on these experiences reveals not only their knowledge of relevant course concepts, but also their self-awareness of how those events shaped their core values, purpose in life, and broader development as a leader.  Students should record these developmental experiences in writing as they will be the foundation for the exercise.

Step 2: Guided Reflection.  To facilitate student thought and reflection, in addition to applying course concepts, our exercise requires students to seek outside assistance in identifying developmental experiences and reflecting on those experiences.  Gray (2007) points out that the practice of guided reflection during storytelling sessions yields significant advantages such as the identification of contradictions or inconsistencies, the inclusion of other perspectives, and the exploration of self-identity.  Therefore, we require students to seek out and engage with a mentor at least once before completing the paper.  Mentor-protégé relationships are associated with positive outcomes including improved academic performance, positive attitudinal outcomes, and motivation to pursue goals (Eby, Allen, Evans, Ng, & DuBois, 2008).  We find face-to-face meetings are developmental experiences themselves but acknowledge that virtual meetings with mentors can also prove useful, especially if access to a mentor is limited (Knouse, 2001; Bierema & Merriam, 2002).

Student feedback over several years of using this exercise indicates that these mentoring sessions are beneficial for three reasons.  First, sharing developmental experiences with a mentor increases student self-awareness as they hear how their mentor perceives and interprets the student’s developmental experiences.  Second, students benefit from the opportunity to be authentic and transparent with their mentor and often find that the mentor is also willing to share his or her own developmental experiences and core values.  Third, mentor-protégé relationships established during this assignment often flourish well beyond the end of the academic term – providing long term benefit beyond the end of the class.

Step 3: Communicate the Journey Line Narrative.   This happens twice within the context of this class- once with the mentor and once with the instructor running the course.  Communication of the Journey Line Narrative with the mentor is often verbal as it often comes early in the reflection process, but we find that students who prepare notes in advance tend to have more productive conversations.  Communication of the Journey Line Narrative with the instructor is via a written essay.  The rubric (see Appendix B) is useful in grading this exercise.

However, acknowledging that a graded, reflective writing assignment can have its drawbacks (Reilly, 2018), we have used two variations to allow students to communicate their Journey Line Narratives to us (the teachers).  The first variation removes the requirement for students to apply OB concepts to the paper and instead places all emphasis on reflection and the articulation of core values and how those core values came to be.  In a second variation of the exercise, we instruct students to use photos, images, text/words, and music with software such as PowerPoint or Prezi, or even movie software like Microsoft Movie Maker to display their journey lines visually, rather than by writing a formal paper.  This second method can require students to apply OB concepts, or not.  A third variation we have considered, but have yet to use personally, is to ask students to make audio recordings similar to what Eriksen (2009) describes.

Regardless of the vehicle chosen, we encourage students to consider sharing elements of their refined story with followers once they find themselves in positions of leadership – in order to reap some of the benefits associated with authentic leaders (Shamir & Eilam, 2005; Weischer, Weibler, & Petersen, 2013).

Potential Ethical Issues and Other Concerns

Given the personal nature of this assignment, we feel it prudent to provide a few cautionary notes and potential ethical concerns.  Given that this exercise asks students to share experiences that have shaped their core values, instructors should be aware that some students may write about exceptionally personal and sensitive topics.  For example, a student might describe his or her core value of respect and how it formed out of a history of prejudice or abuse.  Another example, a student might describe his or her core value of optimism and share that the origin of that core value can be traced back to a period of depression or suicidal ideation. To address the sensitive nature of the assignment, we advise instructors to consider the following:

  • Describe confidentiality in the prompt or in class (who will read the assignment, etc.).
  • Be prepared to connect students to counseling or legal services should the need arise.
  • Be prepared to spend longer than usual grading these assignments and providing tailored feedback.

Another concern is the availability of mentors to assist students during the assignment.  While completing this assignment without the help of a mentor is still likely to be beneficial, we propose that the inclusion of a mentor adds considerable value.  We have found that many students do not necessarily understand what a mentor is, so we spend time discussing mentoring with them and offer suggestions for choosing a mentor (see Appendix C, available at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zzh3cq2l5ll9lfm/AAALZiGfpM_x9N39tCYkhBGya?dl=0 ). Common mentors available to undergraduates may include coaches (past or present), past work supervisors, other instructors, or leaders in the community.  As we stated earlier, we prefer students meet with their mentors face-to-face, but e-mentoring (leveraging computer-mediated communication) can also be helpful.

This article outlines a personal Journey Line Narrative exercise that asks students to “look back” and identify their core values and purpose, as well as the formative experiences that helped solidify their values and purpose.  The exercise encourages students to articulate this reflection and self-awareness to an external audience as an answer to the question, “Who am I?”  This sort of reflection has been shown to contribute to authenticity in leaders (Shamir & Eilam, 2005).

Further, in both formal and informal settings, it is recommended that this exercise be accompanied by opportunities for interaction between students and a mentor.  Mentor interaction in support of this reflective exercise fits with existing models of leader development, encouraging self awareness and personal growth (see Forsythe & Spencer, 2018).  Additionally, it is recommended that the written products students create in this journey line exercise be leveraged to feed subsequent reflective exercises.  For example, the awareness of values and purpose achieved here is easily and importantly leveraged to feed and inform leadership philosophy development exercises (e.g., Tyran, 2017).

Across a period of more than 10 years, the authors and their colleagues have evolved this exercise as a key part of leader development initiatives in varying contexts.  It is consistently cited by participants as the exercise most beneficial to enhancing students’ self awareness, personal growth, and development.

Avolio, B. J., & Gardner, W. L. (2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly , 16 (3), 315-338.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.03.001

Bennis, W. G. (2003). The crucibles of authentic leadership. In J. Antonakis, A. T. Gianciolo, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The nature of leadership (pp.331-342). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bierema, L. L., & Merriam, S. B. (2002). E-mentoring: Using computer-mediated communication to enhance the mentoring process. Innovative Higher Education , 26 (3), 211-227.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1017921023103

Dehler, G. E. & Edmonds, R. K. (2006).  Using action research to connect practice to learning: A course project for working management students.  Journal of Management Education , 30(5), 636-669.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1052562905277302

Eby, L. T., Allen, T. D., Evans, S. C., Ng, T., & DuBois, D. L. (2008). Does mentoring matter? A multidisciplinary meta-analysis comparing mentored and non-mentored individuals. Journal of Vocational Behavior , 72(2), 254-267.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2007.04.005

Eriksen, M. (2009). Authentic leadership: Practical reflexivity, self-awareness, and self-authorship. Journal of Management Education , 33(6), 747-771.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1052562909339307

Forsythe, G. B. & Spencer, E. H. (2018). Leadership development: Growing effective leaders. In Smith, Swain, Brazil, Cornwell, Britt, Bond, Eslinger, and Eljdid (Eds.), West Point leadership . New York, NY: Rowan Technology Solutions.

Gardner, W. L., Avolio, B. J., Luthans, F., May, D. R., & Walumbwa, F. (2005). Can you see the real me? A self-based model of authentic leader and follower development. The Leadership Quarterly , 16(3), 343-372.   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.03.003

Gardner, W. L., Cogliser, C. C., Davis, K. M., & Dickens, M. P. (2011). Authentic leadership: A review of the literature and research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly , 22 (6), 1120-1145.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.09.007

Gray, D. E. (2007). Facilitating management learning: Developing critical reflection through reflective tools. Management Learning , 38 (5), 495-517.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1350507607083204

Harter, S. (2002) . Authenticity. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 382-394). London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Hatcher, J. A., & Bringle, R. G. (1997). Reflection: Bridging the gap between service and learning. College Teaching , 45(4), 153-158.  https://doi.org/10.1080/87567559709596221

Johnson, W. B. (2007). Student-faculty mentorship outcomes. In T. D. Allen & L. T. Eby (Eds.),  The Blackwell handbook of mentoring: A multiple perspectives approach  (pp. 189-210). London, UK: Blackwell.

Knouse, S. B. (2001). Virtual mentors: Mentoring on the Internet. Journal of Employment Counseling , 38 (4), 162-169.  https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1920.2001.tb00498.x

Matthews, M. D. & Lerner, R. M. (2017). Character and Leading Others in Dangerous Situations. In Smith, Swain, Brazil, Cornwell, Britt, Bond, Eslinger, and Eljdid (Eds.), West Point leadership . New York, NY: Rowan Technology Solutions.

McNeely, B. L. (2000). One-point wonders: Using student experiences as a way to make OB theory come alive. Journal of Management Education , 24, 520-523.  https://doi.org/10.1177%2F105256290002400409

Raber-Hedberg, P. (2009). Learning through reflective classroom practice: Applications to educate the reflective manager. Journal of Management Education , 33(1), 10-36.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1052562908316714

Reilly, A. H. (2018). Using reflective practice to support management student learning: Three brief assignments. Management Teaching Review, 2(3), 129-147.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2379298117719686

Shamir, B., & Eilam, G. (2005). What’s your story? A life-stories approach to authentic leadership development. The Leadership Quarterly , 16(3), 395-417.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.03.005

Sparrowe, R. T. (2005). Authentic leadership and the narrative self. The Leadership Quarterly , 16 (3), 419-439.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.03.004

Swain, J. E., Kimball, R., & Steinlage, A. J. (2019). Mentoring for leaders of character . In Smith, Swain, Brazil, Cornwell, Britt, Bond, Eslinger, and Eljdid (Eds.), West Point leadership . New York, NY: Rowan Technology Solutions.

Tyran, K. L. (2017). Preparing to lead: A leadership philosophy exercise for business students. Management Teaching Review , 2(4), 258-268.  https://doi.org/10.1177/2379298117698829

Weischer, A. E., Weibler, J., & Petersen, M. (2013). To thine own self be true: The effects of enactment and life storytelling on perceived leader authenticity. The Leadership Quarterly , 24(4), 477-495.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.03.003

leadership journey sample

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></center></p><p>Book my 1:1 session</p><h2>Inspiring Leadership Stories: Short Narratives with Moral Lessons</h2><p><center><img style=

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Ever stopped to wonder why some leaders seem to effortlessly steer their organisations through change while others struggle with the pace of it? Well, leadership is not just about holding positions of authority; it’s about the profound impact one person can have on the lives of many.

In this blog, we aim to uncover the simple yet powerful leadership stories that have shaped the course of history, proving that leadership skills are not confined to grand gestures but often emerge from the small, empathetic moments that define us all. 

Join us as we celebrate these remarkable leadership stories that teach us the true essence of leadership – a journey of empathy, understanding, and positive change.

Definition Of A Great Leader

A great leader is like a guiding light, illuminating the path forward with inspiring and uplifting qualities. It’s not just about having a fancy title; it’s about embodying characteristics that make a positive difference.

According to a study by Harvard Business Review , effective leaders exhibit qualities that extend beyond titles and authority. Integrity, a cornerstone of great leadership, involves staying true to ethical principles even in challenging situations. Resilience, another crucial trait, enables leaders to bounce back from setbacks, fostering a culture of perseverance within their teams.

Decisiveness, a marked characteristic, involves making tough choices with a clear vision. Effective communication, as identified in research by Forbes , is a powerful tool for bringing people together through resonant words.

Collaboration, humility, and adaptability, supported by numerous leadership studies, contribute to a great leader’s strength and enduring impact. Titles may come and go, but the impact of a great leader endures, leaving a legacy that extends far beyond the realms of authority.

Short Leadership Stories

Now, let’s unravel the captivating short stories of leaders who, through their actions, transformed challenges into triumphs. Each story is a testament to the extraordinary impact that leadership skills can have on individuals, communities, and the world at large.

Nelson Mandela

In the leadership history book, Nelson Mandela’ s story is a symbol of resilience and making things right. Lovingly called Madiba, Mandela spent 27 years in prison yet emerged unbroken, holding on to a clear vision for a better South Africa.

While in prison, Mandela secretly studied Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors. He used this skill upon his release to build bridges and foster unity.

leadership stories image 01

Mandela’s leadership was forged in the furnace of adversity. He worked tirelessly to dismantle the oppressive system of apartheid, paving the way for a more inclusive and just nation. From prisoner to President, his journey exemplifies the power of forgiveness and unity in bringing about transformative change.

In the face of deep racial divides, Mandela chose to come together and forgive over revenge. The moral of the story is that his leadership not only freed a nation but also became a global symbol of hope and inspiration.

Nelson Mandela’s story teaches us that real leadership goes beyond personal struggles; it embodies the enduring strength of kindness and the unwavering dream of creating a better world for all.

Malala Yousafzai

Hailing from Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Malala defied the oppressive Taliban regime that sought to silence the voices advocating for girls’ education. Before her activism, Malala wrote a blog under a pseudonym for BBC Urdu, detailing life under the Taliban.

This anonymous defiance laid the foundation for her courageous advocacy.

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Malala’s leadership journey began at a young age when, despite grave risks, she openly championed the right of girls to receive an education. Her advocacy led to a tragic attack by the Taliban, resulting in Malala sustaining life-threatening injuries. However, this act of brutality only strengthened her resolve.

Malala continued her mission globally, becoming a global icon for girls’ education. In 2014, she became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s story illustrates that leadership knows no age and the pursuit of education can triumph over adversity.

Her courage echoes the sentiment that education is a powerful force for positive change, inspiring countless individuals to stand up for their rights and pursue knowledge despite their challenges.

The tale of Steve Jobs unfolds as a narrative of innovation, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence. Co-founder of Apple Inc., Jobs revolutionised the technology landscape, leaving a lasting mark on how we live and interact with the world.

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Steve Jobs’ leadership was characterised by a relentless commitment to pushing the boundaries of what was possible. His creative genius gave birth to iconic products like the iPhone, iPad, and Macintosh computer, shaping how we communicate and experience technology.

However, Jobs’ journey was not without setbacks. Ousted from Apple in 1985, he faced adversity but returned in 1997 to lead the company to unprecedented success. Jobs’ ability to learn from failure and his unyielding focus on design and user experience set a standard for innovation in the tech industry.

His story illustrates that great leaders embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and that setbacks are not the end but a prelude to future success. Steve Jobs’ legacy endures through Apple’s products and the ethos of pursuing excellence and innovation, a beacon for leaders aspiring to leave a lasting impact on the world.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg , the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, is a trailblazer in the corporate realm. Her impact extends beyond her executive role, defining her as a champion for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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Through her influential book “ Lean In ,” Sandberg encouraged women to pursue their professional ambitions boldly. Sandberg’s Lean In Circles, small groups that meet to discuss gender equality, have reached over 40,000 participants globally, reflecting the grassroots impact of her advocacy.

She became a prominent voice, advocating for women to claim their space in leadership and break through gender stereotypes.

In the face of personal tragedy, losing her husband unexpectedly in 2015, Sandberg displayed remarkable resilience. Her openness about grief and determination to move forward resonated with many, highlighting her strength not only as a corporate leader but also as a person navigating life’s challenges.

The moral of the story is that Sheryl Sandberg is a leader who exemplifies leadership that goes beyond the boardroom, emphasising the importance of empowering others and showing vulnerability in the face of adversity. Her journey inspires individuals to challenge societal norms and work towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr .’s leadership legacy goes beyond his time, marking a crucial chapter in the fight for civil rights and equality. As a Baptist minister, King played a key role in the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s.

draft 1 leadership stories google docs 4

King’s leadership was defined by his commitment to nonviolent activism, fighting for racial justice and equality. His famous “ I Have a Dream ” speech, delivered during the March on Washington in 1963, remains a powerful call for a racial discrimination-free society.

Facing challenges and violence, King persisted, leading campaigns against segregation and unfair laws. His efforts resulted in the significant Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, breaking down barriers to racial equality.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s story highlights the transformative power of leadership guided by a vision of justice. His dedication to nonviolence, unwavering pursuit of equality, and ability to inspire collective action leave a lasting legacy, showing us that leadership can create positive change and promote social justice.

As the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk has redefined space exploration and sustainable energy. Musk’s leadership journey began with the founding of Zip2, an online city guide, to showcase his entrepreneurial spirit. Later, he co-founded PayPal, revolutionising online payment systems. However, it was with SpaceX and Tesla that Musk truly left a lasting mark.

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Musk’s decision to open Tesla’s electric vehicle patents to the public in 2014 showcased his commitment to sustainable transportation. This move aimed to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles and demonstrated Musk’s dedication to addressing environmental challenges.

Musk’s unyielding commitment to ambitious goals and his hands-on approach have defined his leadership style. Despite scepticism and setbacks, Musk’s tenacity and willingness to take risks have propelled SpaceX and Tesla to immense success.

Elon Musk’s story illustrates that groundbreaking leadership often emerges from a combination of vision, determination, and a relentless pursuit of transformative goals. His impact on space exploration and sustainable technology showcases the potential of leadership to shape the future in ways previously thought impossible.

Angela Merkel

Serving as the Chancellor of Germany for 16 years, Merkel has been a central figure in European politics. Merkel’s leadership style is characterised by pragmatism and a commitment to diplomacy. She was crucial in managing the Eurozone crisis, steering Germany through economic challenges while advocating for European unity.

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Her leadership during the refugee crisis of 2015 showcased compassion and a commitment to human rights. Despite facing political opposition, Merkel’s decision to welcome refugees underscored her belief in solidarity and humanitarian values.

As a key player on the global stage, Merkel’s leadership has often been tested, but her ability to navigate crises with resilience and diplomacy has solidified her legacy. Her impact extends beyond Germany, symbolising a steady hand in times of uncertainty and a commitment to values that transcend borders.

Angela Merkel’s story illustrates the significance of measured diplomacy, resilience, and compassionate leadership in addressing complex issues on both national and international fronts.

Abraham Lincoln

Serving as the 16th President of the United States during the Civil War, Lincoln faced the monumental task of preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. Lincoln’s leadership was marked by his unwavering commitment to preserving the United States. During separation and conflict, he emphasised unity and sought to heal the nation’s deep divisions.

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The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by Lincoln in 1863, declared all slaves in Confederate-held territory to be free. This historic act underscored his dedication to justice and equality, shaping the course of American history.

Tragically, Lincoln’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet in 1865, but his leadership legacy endures. He is remembered not only for his role in preserving the Union but also for his profound impact on the nation’s moral conscience.

Abraham Lincoln’s story teaches us that leadership requires both strength and empathy, the ability to navigate crises with determination, and a commitment to principles that transcend the challenges of the time.

Rosa Parks 

Rosa Parks ‘ story is a powerful testament to the impact of a single act of courage in challenging systemic injustice. In 1955, Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

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Parks’ act of civil disobedience became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. The 381-day boycott, led by Martin Luther King Jr., aimed to end racial segregation on public transportation. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favour of desegregation, marking a pivotal moment in the fight for civil rights.

Rosa Parks’ quiet strength and defiance in the face of injustice resonate as a symbol of the collective struggle against discrimination. Her story illustrates that ordinary individuals, through acts of courage, can ignite movements that challenge deeply ingrained societal norms and pave the way for lasting change.

Rosa Parks’ legacy remains an inspiration for those who continue to advocate for equality and justice.

In conclusion, leadership isn’t just about big titles or fancy jobs. It’s more about having qualities like bouncing back from tough times, understanding others, being brave, and wanting to make things better.

From Mandela’s pursuit of justice and unity to Malala’s advocacy for education, from Steve Jobs’ innovative vision to Angela Merkel’s steady diplomacy, each leader has their own way of leading.

Even in our own lives, big or small, we can see traces of short stories on leadership. The quiet determination of Rosa Parks, the innovative spirit of Elon Musk, and the resilience of Sheryl Sandberg – these short stories resonate because they touch upon universal themes of human endeavour.

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My leadership journey and 20 lessons I learned along the way

Kenneth W. Dion

I decided to change my situation. The Lady in the Cape, a single parent, was working several jobs to make ends meet, which relegated me to attending the local public school. I found my studies less than challenging, which gave me plenty of time to get caught up in activities that were sometimes less than desirable. So, at age 15, I decided to get out of Miami. At a college fair at a nearby high school, I learned about a small liberal arts college in the hills of North Carolina that would accept me at age 16. I dropped out of high school and took my graduate equivalency exam. Yes, the treasurer of Sigma never graduated from high school. Lesson 2: Dropping out of a bad situation is always an option; quitting never is.

I spent a semester and a half in North Carolina. Because I had grown up in the city and was younger than the rest of the freshmen, I didn’t have a lot in common with them and found the isolation challenging. Midway through my second semester, I returned to Miami, took a job, and began taking classes at Miami Dade Community College in hopes of getting into the University of Florida in Gainesville. After several rejections, I was finally admitted. Lesson 3: Failures are inevitable. What you learn from them is what makes you become who you want to be.

Even though I grew up in a big city, I felt overwhelmed at the University of Florida (UF). Despite my mother urging me to pursue medicine—an option many nurses have recommended to their sons—I had no career direction. But I had a passion for helping people. So I left the University of Florida and, while working in the emergency department of UF Health Shands Hospital , trained as a paramedic at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville. Lesson 4: Other people’s dreams are not always yours, and that’s OK.

When I graduated, not a single paramedic position was available in Gainesville. So, I moved to the southeast coast of Florida and took a fire-rescue position. Because I had worked with burn patients at Shands Hospital, I don’t like fire. Nor do I like heights or closed-in spaces. Lesson 5: To pursue your passion, you have to overcome your fears.

There’s a saying around some fire departments, “You give a guy a white shirt, and he forgets where he came from.” Translation: Managers often forget their roots; leaders do not. Lesson 6: Never forget where you came from.

After several years in the fire department, the urge to grow professionally took hold of me again. My colleagues in the department thought I was crazy to give up one day on and two days off, outstanding benefits, retirement at an early age, a great pension, and my “outstanding man” status. (When we dispatched a fire truck, we also rolled an ambulance. As the paramedic, I sat in the front passenger seat of the ambulance. That meant I was responsible for hooking up the hose to the fire hydrant, waiting for the call to turn on the water, and then walking the length of the hose to check for kinks. After accomplishing those tasks, I would put on my breathing apparatus and head to the fire. This meant I spent most of my time “out standing” in the street.)

Despite all the perks of the fire department, I applied to and was accepted into the nursing program at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. Lesson 7: It is OK for other people’s measure of success not to be yours.

At UCF, I joined the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA). Initially, I was only marginally active, but I was asked to attend the state convention as an alternate delegate. Before committing, I asked about the duties of an alternate delegate and was told I would just need to sit in the audience and could study. On that basis, I agreed. As it turned out, a delegate failed to show, and I was pressed into service.

On the first day, a controversial issue came before the House of Delegates, and debate continued until the close of that day’s session. I studied the bylaws of the organization that night and presented myself at the microphone with a point-of-order card when debate resumed the next day. After asking the parliamentarian to confirm that, according to the bylaws, promotion of membership was an organizational objective and that no issue—including the one before the house—that was in direct conflict with those bylaws could be debated, I conducted a quick straw poll.

As I expected, no matter which way the vote went, half of the delegates would resign. I then suggested to the parliamentarian that the resolution was in conflict with the bylaws and was, therefore, out of order. After conferring with the board, she agreed, and the resolution before the delegates was removed from the agenda. Little did I know at the time it was a board-sponsored resolution. Lesson 8: Always do your homework before opening your mouth.

One week later, I received a call from a board member of the North Carolina Student Nurses’ Association. The stir I caused in Florida had rippled to North Carolina, and he encouraged me to run for the organization’s national board of directors. When I hung up the phone after a lovely conversation, I laughed about how out of my depth I had felt at the state convention just a week earlier. There was no way I was ready for national office. But the more I thought about it, the more I concluded I should at least discuss the idea with faculty members at UCF School of Nursing.

They were concerned about the clinicals I might miss and expressed their reservations, so I shelved the idea. But the possibility of making an impact kept gnawing at me. Finally, I got up the nerve to ask the dean what she thought. She was supportive and told me that, if I needed to make up clinicals, she would precept me herself. I decided to run for election, and when the time came to head to the national convention, my dean came with me. Lesson 9: When a door opens, believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to walk through it.

Again, a controversial issue came before the House of Delegates. Three candidates were running for the office of secretary-treasurer, including me, and I had prepared my speech for months. But just like a scene from a movie I once saw, when I got up to the lectern, I folded up my speech, put it in my breast pocket, and addressed the issue at hand from the heart. Lesson 10: Listen to your heart.

For the next two days, I campaigned. I didn’t know my dean was politicking behind the scenes on my behalf with other deans, and I was elected. Afterward, delegates on both sides of the divisive issue came to me and said they had no idea which side of the debate I was on. For that reason, they knew I would do the right thing. Lesson 11: Be genuine.

Advisers to the NSNA board of directors recommended I pursue an MSN/MBA degree when my time came to return to academia. Intending to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Wharton School of Business, I moved to Philadelphia. As it turned out, I decided to pursue my dual degree at The University of Texas at Austin. The dean of UCF School of Nursing agreed to write a letter of support. She said she would be in Washington, D.C., for a conference the next week and invited me to drive down. I could join her for lunch, we’d visit the National Zoo together, and she’d give me the letter.

The little voice in my head said to wear business clothes that day, even though jeans would have been more appropriate for a trip to the zoo. I have rarely been happier with a decision. When I walked into lunch, my dean was seated with the executive director of NSNA and the dean of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin. As the saying goes, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got there as fast as I could.” Lesson 12: Quoting the NSNA executive director, “Connections only hurt those people who don’t have them.”

While seeking admission to the University of Pennsylvania, I worked as a staff nurse in the emergency department at Temple University Hospital in north-central Philadelphia. It was the early 1990s, and crack cocaine and carjacking had become popular. On my first day of work—a busy, understaffed Monday morning—I was being oriented to my new surroundings by a preceptor when a man came crashing through the ambulance doors yelling, “You’ve got a gunshot wound coming! It’s going to be about five minutes. He ain’t walking too fast because he’s shot in the chest!”

Five minutes later, I assisted in pulling the patient out of a police paddy wagon and placing him in Trauma Bay 1. Because we were short-staffed, I jumped into action and assisted with cracking the man’s chest. A few minutes later, I saw him off to OR with his aorta cross-clamped. As he rolled out of the bay, the attending physician turned to me and asked, “Who the **** are you?” I replied, “I’m Ken. I started about an hour ago.” The physician responded, “You’re gonna fit in just fine around here.” By the way, the man lived. Lesson 13: Be ready to step into scary situations at a moment’s notice. They aren’t usually life and death, but a leader’s actions can make all the difference in the outcome.

Before moving to Austin, I applied for employment at a trauma center in that city. It was a Level II trauma center at the time, the only one in central Texas. Coming as I did from a Level I trauma center in the inner city, I thought I would be a shoo-in, but my application was rejected. I was disappointed but didn’t let it get to me. Instead, I made a trip to Austin and presented myself to the personnel department at 9 a.m. on a Monday. By 10 a.m., I was in the nurse manager’s office and, by 11 a.m., was completing my pre-employment paperwork. I put a deposit on an old house in Austin and returned to Philadelphia with a new job. Lesson 14: Don’t take rejection lying down.

A few weeks later, I was working the night shift at my new job. I was seated at the nurses’ station, having just organized scraps of paper I had written on for a trauma patient who had just gone to the OR when, behind me, I heard a throat clear. Without looking up, I said, “May I help you?” A voice said, “I need to sit down.” Again, without looking up, I said, “That looks like a chair over there to me; help yourself.” The voice said, “I need to sit by the phone,” and I responded, again without looking up, “I think that black thing over there next to that chair is a phone.” The voice, now disgruntled, asked, “Do you know who I am?” In one motion, I spun around, stood up, ripped my badge off, and nose to nose asked the voice if he knew who I was. He said, “No.” I said, “I don’t know you are, and I don’t really care. Now go sit yourself down over there.” He spun around and left.

The next morning at the end of my shift, I was summoned to the nurse manager’s office. When I walked in, he told me to hold out my hand. I said, “What?” and he said, “Hold out your hand.” I did, and he slapped the back of it. “What was that for?” I asked, and he said, “That was for telling off the chief of staff.” We both had a good laugh. My manager didn’t like him all that much anyway. Lesson 15: Sometimes it’s a good idea to know who you’re talking to.

As I began working toward my joint degree at UT Austin, I was in the School of Business and was talked into attending a meeting of the entrepreneurship club. (I doubt I could spell entrepreneur back then.) When the club’s faculty sponsor encouraged us to drop our résumés off for feedback, I did. Little did I know mine would be on an overhead for public critique at the next meeting. I think he said, “Now, here is a guy who has absolutely no idea of what he wants to do with his life.” I say I think because it was hard to hear from under the desk where I was hiding.

Somehow, I got up the nerve to take this faculty member’s course the next year. It was the most difficult course I took in graduate school but worth every bit of pain I endured. It put many tools in my kit that have contributed to my success as a leader, and that faculty member has since become one of my best mentors. Lesson 16: Always be willing to put yourself out there.

I entered my joint degree program thinking I wanted to be the best director of an emergency department ever. I finished the program as a healthcare information systems consultant. Yes, minds are like parachutes; they only work if they are open.

During my final summer in the master’s program, I worked as an intern for a consulting firm that specialized in assisting hospitals with selecting and implementing electronic medical records. I was introduced to process mapping during that time and used that skill for the duration of my tenure with the firm.

When developing a process map, I would sit down with the leader of a department—say medical records—and ask him or her to tell me, in that example, how a record moved through the hospital. I would then go back to my office and sketch a map of the process described to me. A day or two later, I would return to the person I had interviewed, present my map, and ask if I had correctly represented his or her description. More often than not, the answer was yes.

I would then take my map and visit the people doing day-to-day management of the hospital’s medical records and ask them if my map was a valid representation of their work. More often than not, they told me, “That’s what they think we do.” I would then be told about all the workarounds that had been put in place over the years to adapt to changes in policies and procedures. Lesson 17: Know how your organization really works.

Another thing I learned from using process maps is that organizations have bad processes, not bad people. To evaluate processes, I brought interdisciplinary teams together. This exercise illuminated for many that it was not personnel in another department who made their lives difficult; it was a flawed process that could be mutually redesigned for the good of all. Lesson 18: Shared mental models and processes that are mutually agreed-upon by all have a high probability of being efficient, effective, and adopted.

The beauty of consulting is that you are exposed to many cultures and a wide variety of projects. This exposure gives you the ability to identify good and bad solutions. It also enables you to identify unmet needs in the marketplace.

While working on a large electronic medical record implementation, it struck me that, although we were collecting massive amounts of patient data, we had very little information about the providers taking care of those patients. To optimize outcomes when using the Synergy Model, patient and nurse characteristics are matched. At that time, this goal was nearly impossible to achieve because of limited data available on our nursing staff. To me, the situation screamed, “Opportunity!”

I set to work developing functional specifications for a web-based learning management system that targeted the needs of nursing. This was 1998, and the internet was still in its early adoption stage. Passionate about the project, I worked on it nights and weekends. One day, the CEO of the consulting firm I was working for told me, “I hear you are working on something in the basement.” I said I was, and he directed me to decide whether I wanted to work on that project or work for him. I knew I would have to eventually make that decision but wasn’t planning to make it that soon. I tendered my resignation and struck out on my own. Today, I’m grateful he forced my hand. Lesson 19: Leadership means taking calculated risks.

There was plenty of access to venture capital in Austin because the dotcom boom was in high gear. I pitched my idea to investors well over 20 times. I will always remember my last pitch. Standing in front of five wealthy men whose knowledge of the healthcare industry was extremely limited—I think one of them had been a patient once—I told them about my product, the need for it, and the size of the market. They told me that the U.S. market of more 5,000 hospitals was not large enough for them to get excited about and that I needed a business-to-consumer solution.

So I told them about the fourth extension to our product, a business-to-consumer individual professional portfolio for nurses. They told me I had lost focus. That’s when I informed them that what I had really lost in talking to them was my most valuable resource—time. I proceeded to bootstrap my business and used customers to fund its development. The dot-com bust came and went. The company I founded—Decision Critical Inc.—survived in part because we did not take outside investment, a practice that often alters vision for a company.

Decision Critical was purchased in 2012. One of the primary drivers behind the decision to acquire my company was the professional portfolio product I had pitched more than 10 years before. Lesson 20: Believe in your vision, and work hard at your dreams. Dreams don’t come true on their own; it’s up to you to make them come true. RNL

Kenneth W. Dion, PhD, MSN/MBA, RN, assistant dean for business development and strategic relationships at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, is treasurer of the board of directors for Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma). In addition to founding Decision Critical Inc., Dion is past president of the board of trustees of the Foundation of the National Student Nurses' Association, past chair of the board of directors of Sigma Foundation for Nursing, and founding principal of TurnPath, LLC, a healthcare innovation incubator.

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In The Leadership Journey: How to Master the Four Critical Areas of Being a Great Leader, Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison charts a course for discovering and developing the skills needed for becoming a great leader. Good leaders excel at the left-brain, technical side of leadership and know the frameworks, theories, and decision-making models. As Burnison explains, what separates good from great leaders is the right-side brain of leadership skills, the ability to inspire others. Grounded in real-world experiences and drawing on advice from noted leaders, The Leadership Journey explores the four essential (and often overlooked) elements that continue to make executives the kind of leaders their organizations need.

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Interview Questions

Comprehensive Interview Guide: 60+ Professions Explored in Detail

13 Leadership Experience Examples for Interviews

By Biron Clark

Published: November 20, 2023

You could hear this question in any interview… whether it’s an entry-level position or a Director job: “What are some of your leadership experiences?”

I’m going to give you the 3 steps to make sure you give a GREAT interview answer that stands out and makes them think “yes, this is the person we should hire!”

Then, we’ll look at 13 examples of leadership experience you can include on your resume or mention in interviews (including some you may not realize you have!)

Let’s get started…

Why Do Employers Ask About Your Prior Leadership Experience?

Employers will inquire about your prior leadership experience when you interview for a position as a supervisor or manager or when they anticipate that you’ll lead a team on specific projects. 

Even if you don’t have specific management experience in a prior role, you likely have experience leading a task to completion or organizing a project. Highlight your experience and the steps you took to manage your team successfully. Your example will give the interviewer a sense of what to expect if they hire you for the role.

What are Leadership Experience and Skills?

Leadership skills encompass several traits, including interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, strategic thinking, and negotiation. The right combination of leadership experience and skills allows managers to successfully motivate their teams and inspire them to work toward specific goals. Good leaders will also demonstrate accountability for their responsibilities and actions.

Watch: How to Answer “What Are Some of Your Leadership Experiences?”

How to answer “what are some of your leadership experiences”.

There are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind. You want to pick leadership examples that follow these 3 guidelines:

1. Choose an example that’s as relevant as possible

What does this mean? If you’re applying for a Customer Service Supervisor job, and you’ve had some leadership experience in other customer service roles , you should absolutely share that! That’s much more relevant than leadership on a sports team, in school, etc. So always go with what’s most relevant first!

2. Pick something that’s somewhat recent if you can

Recent experience beats older experience if everything else is equal. So when you share some of your leadership experiences, pick things that are recent whenever you have a choice.

3. And finally, choose an example that’s impressive overall

Along with thinking about which of your experiences are most relevant and recent, you need to think about how impressive something is overall. Leading a large number of people is impressive. Managing people directly is more impressive than just leading people on a quick project (especially if you’re interviewing for a job where you’ll be managing more people directly – this goes back to what’s relevant!) Leading a complex project is impressive. Handling multiple projects is impressive. You get the point. So also think about the scale of your past leadership, and the challenges involved, and try to share examples that are most challenging and have a “wow” factor.

Best Interview Answers for “What Are Some of Your Leadership Experiences?”

So to give the best answer possible, you want to combine the three points above, and then be specific. If you have previous work experience, use the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, Result. What was the situation you were in? Was it school, a recent job, or something else? How many people did you lead, and who were they? Next, what was the task? What did you need to accomplish or what problem did you face? After that, talk about the action you took and how you led. What were your options, which did you choose as a leader, and why?

And finally, conclude your leadership experiences by talking about the RESULT. That’s most important. How did things turn out? And what did you learn from it? How did you use this experience to improve and how will you use this knowledge to perform well in this job you’re interviewing for!

It’s Okay if You Don’t Have ‘Perfect’ Leadership Examples…

Maybe you just graduated from school, or you’re applying for your first job . You might not have work-related leadership experience. That’s okay. Just pick the most relevant leadership experiences that you can think of. Do the best you can with the example you prepare. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody has every single thing an employer wants in the interview, so you just need to prepare the best you can and give the best example you can when responding to the question. And if the STAR method isn’t working (I’ve seen people struggle to use it if your example of leadership experience is from sports, etc.), make it simpler and just focus on the situation, and what you learned from it. What was the goal, and how did you help accomplish it through leadership? And how did you improve and develop as a leader? Always show what you learned at the end! That’s one of the keys to answering this type of interview question. If you don’t have any formal leadership experience (like managing a team at work, or managing client projects), here are 13 examples of leadership experience to help you get ideas…

13 Leadership Experience Examples

1. leading a project or task in school.

This can be any level of school. Choose whatever you completed most recently. If you’re a college graduate, pick a project from the last one or two years of college. If you just graduated high school, choose something from your senior year.  Taking a lead role in a school project is a great example of leadership experience. If you delegated tasks, chose the overall strategy for the project, or anything like that, that’s leadership! Organizing a team presentation can also be considered leadership.

Example answer:

I was assigned to lead a team of three colleagues in my college marketing course. We had to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for a hypothetical e-commerce company. I organized our group to work on different components of the plan, including our content, social media , and email strategy. We developed a 15-page report and earned an A+.

2. Organizing a study group

Maybe you didn’t lead projects in school, but you organized a study group after class. That’s still a great example of leadership and taking initiative. Any example of you taking initiative and doing something that wasn’t required, but helped you succeed, is a good leadership example.

A calculus course during college was extremely difficult, and I noticed several students were struggling with the assignments and tests. I organized a study group that met twice each week to discuss calculus concepts and work on our homework together. The group was highly beneficial; we all finished with As and Bs in the course. 

3. Spotting a problem at work and finding a solution

Maybe you spotted a potential problem in your most recent job and brought it to your boss’ attention, or better yet – fixed it yourself. This is a great leadership example. Any time you go above and beyond what your basic job requires and solve a problem or take the lead on something without being asked is great leadership.

In my previous job as a quality control engineer, I noticed that a part we manufactured often had a specific defect. I looked further into the issue and found that one of our machines didn’t have the proper calibrations, and this caused the defect. I alerted a manager and we fixed the machine. After that, we saw a 90% decrease in defects for that part.

4. Sports leadership experience

If you’ve played a lead role on any sports teams, this can certainly be used as a leadership example in job interviews.  So think back to your past, and whether you led any sports teams.

I was a cheerleader in high school, and we regularly competed against other teams in our city. I wanted our team to win before I graduated, so I designed a creative cheer that involved lots of stunts and dancing. We practiced hard, and our performance was rock solid at the competition. We won the event and took home several trophies.

5. Volunteer/non-profit leadership

If you’ve volunteered at a local foundation or non-profit and taken a leadership role – even in one task or for one day – you can mention this as leadership experience.  Some of the best leadership experience examples can be for one single day or one single moment; it doesn’t need to be something you did for years.

I volunteer at my local Animal Rescue and usually spend at least one or two days each month caring for the animals in the shelter. I wanted to see more animals go to good homes, so I contacted a pet store to organize adoptions for dogs and cats. We moved several animals to the store, and they were immediately adopted. 

6. Training/mentoring newer team members

You don’t need to have a Manager or Supervisor job title to play a lead role in a past job. If you were ever asked to help get a new team member up to speed, train them on the basics, or watch over them in their first few weeks, that’s a great example of leadership experience. This shows your past boss trusted you and knew they could rely on you. That’s one of the key things you want to try to do when sharing past leadership experiences – pick something that shows other people thought you were someone they could trust and rely on. In an interview, this will help convince the interviewer that they can also rely on you! That’ll help you get hired.

In my last role as an accountant , we expanded our department by ten new employees in six months. Most new workers were recent college graduates, so I became a mentor to help them adjust to the work environment. I introduced them to our accounting system and ensured they had the guidance to perform their tasks.

7. Managing clients/projects

Maybe you’ve never had people reporting directly to you, but you’ve managed projects or managed client accounts for your last company.  You can certainly mention that as one of your leadership examples in the interview.

In my last role as a sales director, I was in charge of several prolific clients who were a significant source of revenue for our company. I ensured that our services always met their needs and regularly checked in on them so we could immediately fix any issues they encountered. Every one of the clients I worked with renewed their contract with our company.

8. Direct reports

If you’ve ever had direct reports, this is the most powerful example you can give. If you hired people, did annual reviews, and had them report to you on a regular basis, this shows your employer trusted you at a very high level. While most people aren’t going to be able to give this as an example, if you can, you should!

In my last role as the human resources manager , I oversaw a team of six employees. I ensured they had all the resources needed to handle their responsibilities and was always there to guide them if questions arose. During my time, the company promoted two of my team members to supervisory positions, and they credited my mentorship as a significant reason for their success.

9. Leading a meeting or committee

This can be at school, at an after-school organization, any type of volunteer organization, a job, a club, etc. If you led a meeting or committee for even a short time period or one-time event, that’s still great leadership experience to put on a resume and then talk about in interviews if asked.  For example, if you were part of a club that needed to host an event, and they put you in charge of the committee responsible for finding a venue and calling different event halls to ask if they’re available – that’s something you led.

As the project manager for the compliance department, I led a weekly meeting with our legal, accounting, finance, and tax team members. Before the meeting, I organized all the topics to discuss and any current updates I had. I ensured that each session was smooth and productive and that every participant understood the responsibilities they needed to take care of in the next week.

10. Passion projects

Even if you took the lead on a project that wasn’t work-related and wasn’t for a non-profit, you can still share it as a leadership example.  Maybe you got three friends together to build an electric go-cart. This still shows the ability to manage and organize a highly-technical, time-consuming project. That’s a valuable trait for many jobs! So don’t be shy about sharing examples of leadership experience even if you weren’t paid for it, weren’t officially a “manager”, and weren’t doing it for an official organization or employer!

While in college, I decided to organize a group of people who enjoyed weekend hikes. I’m a regular hiker familiar with the nearby trails, so I led every trek, ensuring that everyone remained safe and enjoyed the time spent in nature. By the end of the first semester, over 100 students had joined the club. Even though it’s been a few years since my last college hike, we still keep in contact and share the hikes and nature adventures we embark on.

11. Conflict Resolution

Everyone experiences conflict at some point in their lives, both personally and professionally. However, not everyone can successfully resolve disputes. If you have a noteworthy example of conflict resolution, share it with the interviewer. For example, perhaps you stopped a disagreement between two colleagues and found a reasonable compromise that suited both parties.

In my last job as a pediatric nurse , I had a patient who broke their arm after falling during a baseball game. The family members were distraught, and the parents blamed one another for the accident. Their arguments upset the child, so I stepped in and asked them to calm down. I explained that it was an accident and there was no point in arguing. Instead, they should focus their energy on supporting their child. They stopped arguing and quickly understood that the cause of the tension came from worry. 

12. Family Responsibilities

If you have children, a spouse, or elderly parents you care for, you’ve likely encountered numerous scenarios when you needed to step in and take charge. For instance, maybe you noticed your child didn’t understand a schoolwork concept, so you helped them study for their test. If you have an aging parent, you might take a leadership role in their healthcare needs.

As the oldest child, I cared for my younger brother and sister since my parents both worked full-time. After I started driving, I took them to school and ensured they always got to their after-school activities. I was also responsible for making their school lunches and cooking dinner since my parents often didn’t get off work until 6 or 7 p.m..

13. Event Planning

Event planning is another area where leadership is crucial. Overseeing a significant event requires lots of planning, organization, and time management. If you’ve recently planned an event, such as a wedding or a networking activity, you could describe your work and how you ensured the event occurred without a hitch.

My best friend asked me to be her wedding planner. She knows how much I enjoy planning major events and expected I would do a great job catering to her tastes. I planned the entire wedding, including the after-party, for nearly 500 guests. The results were spectacular, and our friends and family still discuss it. Another friend is getting married next year, and she’s asked me to assist in the planning, too.

Full Example Answers for “What Are Your Leadership Experiences?”

Now that you know what to include in your answer, let’s look at a few examples. I’ll give an example for a recent graduate without work experience, and then for somebody who has work experience already.

Example answer if you have no work experience:

I just finished my degree in Finance , and most of my classes during my final year involved teamwork. I try to step up as a leader whenever possible, because it allows me to develop skills in communication, delegation, and managing multiple tasks and deadlines. In a senior-level Accounting class, we were broken off into teams of four and had to complete a large project throughout the entire semester. My team ended up getting the highest grade in the class because I set a schedule early in the project and delegated tasks to people based on their strengths. I enjoy leading and delegating, and I hope to continue leading in my professional career now.

Example answer if you have work experience:

In my last job, I was responsible for supervising a team of five, including managing their schedules, training them and mentoring them. I enjoy leadership and am proud to say that two of these five people were promoted while I was mentoring them. In my job before that, I supervised a team of three designers on certain projects. I wasn’t their direct manager but they reported to me for the projects I led. So I have a mix of project management experience from that role and direct management experience from my most recent job. I enjoy both.

What To Do Next:

Now you need to come up with your own examples of leadership experience to share in the interview. Think about where you’ve led, what you’ve learned, and which story will be most relevant to the employer. Remember the first thing we discussed: Your example of leadership experience should be as relevant as possible, somewhat recent, and impressive overall. If that doesn’t sound familiar, go back to the first half of the article where this is mentioned. And whatever example of past leadership experience you choose to share, be ready to get specific and share real results. What was the outcome and what did you learn? Any time an interviewer is asking this, there’s a good chance they want to hire a strong leader. So you need to sound like you enjoy leading and are comfortable doing more of this in the future!

Biron Clark

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The 5 Stages Of The Leadership Journey

leadership journey sample

Leadership is a journey, not a destination.

Heard this one before? What does it mean exactly?

It might be true that some people are more natural leaders than others, but to truly become impactful, every leader must take the journey to grow their skills and knowledge. Some of the necessary skills include being an effective communicator, delegating well, able and willing to learn and adapt, emotional and social intelligence.  

When it comes to growing skills and knowledge in any human endeavor, there is a natural cycle of learning. You learn, you apply what you’ve learned, adapt based on the results you achieve, and try again.  And this 'plan, do, learn' loop, takes some cycles, some time to get right - but you cannot reach a level of mastery, without having journeyed through the previous learning loops.  And there is always more to learn, more to grow, another loop to experience, and a continuation of the journey.

leadership journey sample

There are many possible pathways you can travel on your leadership journey, there is not just one specific path or prescribed process that you need to follow. If you think about the Leaders you know and the paths that took them to their current positions, you will know there is a myriad of ways to journey through the leadership experience.

Having said that, there are five fundamental stages that all leaders will travel through.

  • 1 Leading without a title
  • 2 Supervising
  • 4 Empowering
  • 5 Influencing

Let's delve into each a little more.

1. Leading without a title

Can you remember when you were first aware of your natural leadership instinct? For me, it was at an early age, perhaps it was because I was the eldest in my family, or because I always had some new idea for everyone to explore, but as a kid, I was often the one ‘in charge’ of our escapades.  

Combine that instinct with a natural sense of responsibility, and an innate desire to improve the status quo, and it is not surprising that early in my career I was leading all sorts of efforts in an informal capacity. It is often the actions you take and the behaviors you demonstrate before becoming a formal leader that will lead you to your first formal leadership assignment. What do you remember as your early signals of a future leadership journey?

Characteristics of this stage include:

  • Delivering your assigned tasks with great responsibility and high quality
  • Stepping up to take on more responsibility than is asked of you
  • Taking the lead in providing direction to others in your team when they need support
  • Finding that your peers naturally follow your lead
  • Understanding the needs of both individuals and the group as a whole

2. Supervising

The first-line formal leadership role is typically described as supervising. You will likely be selected for a first line role if you’ve excelled in the delivery of your functional work, and shown leadership traits in an informal capacity.

As the leader of a small team of people, you will be distributing tasks to members of your team, teaching and mentoring your team in the work, and have responsibility for the delivery of the work output from your whole team. You are likely still spending a fair amount of your time doing the work yourself.

In most organizations, you will also start to be more involved in the administrative work of personnel management. This will include conducting performance reviews, recommending raises, and being the go-to person at your company in the eyes of your team members. 

I remember finding my first supervisor role full of surprising challenges.  No matter how much of a high achiever, and a ‘people-person’ you are, you will be stretched as you start to practice the elements of this stage of leadership.

Examples include learning how to effectively delegate, motivate others, manage a spectrum of capability and performance from your team members, and learning to take control of your schedule, instead of letting it control you!

  • Having day to day responsibility for a small group of people and the quality delivery of their work
  • Participating yourself in the delivery of the work – including modeling how the work is done by teaching and training others
  • Acting as point contact between the people in your team and other groups you collaborate with to get things done in your organization
  • Driving the pace and quality of your team’s work product
  • Beginning to establish your leadership style reputation with the people in your organization

3. Managing

Moving into the managing phase of the leadership journey, generally means you are now responsible for more than one team. You’ll be taking a more 'big-picture' look at the part of the business you and your teams support, looking for overall effectiveness and efficiency, and starting to be more strategic in solving problems.

As a managing leader, your responsibilities in personnel administration will increase significantly. Your first line leaders, and their direct reports too, will look to you for support beyond ‘getting the job done’. 

I distinctly remember in my first second-line role as a manager how enjoyable it was to give my supervisors recognition and ownership that I hadn’t always felt from some of my earlier bosses. I also found myself becoming a trusted confidant for all sorts of professional and personal matters that my direct reports were going through.

In addition, the new expectations of working across an increasingly broader slice of the organization to solve complex problems meant that I had to continue on my journey of growth to learn new skills. At this stage, I remember needing to be able to approach business priorities more strategically, as well as learning new ways to interact with peers at my level in order to be effective in our collaboration.

  • Having day to day responsibility for a small number of teams (each with its own leader)
  • You are no longer involved in the detailed work delivery yourself but have a more whole system approach in how you measure quality, effectiveness, and efficiency
  • You are now acting as the pivot point between the teams in your charge and a broader part of the organization you work in
  • Your strategic influence is broader and you need to be thinking more about the business as a whole versus the one area you’ve grown up in and have the most expertise in

4. Empowering

The empowering leadership phase is all about learning to let go, and trust that your people ‘have it’.

Do you know the zen proverb, ‘hold on tight with an open palm’?  

During this stage, your role is to support your people by letting them know that they have your confidence, and at the same time boosting their confidence in themselves. You will find that you are not as directly involved in the work, but you must recognize the indirect impact you are having on the team you lead.  

You will be providing critical thinking and a strategic approach to the organization’s performance. You will ask a lot of questions, and do a lot of listening, as you develop and test your vision. Setting and communicating the vision for the organization you lead is one of your most important roles. You’ll need to make a compelling case for your vision, calling your team to action and inspiring them towards the credible yet aspirational future you imagine.  

You will create an environment of trust, inclusion, and psychological safety. These are the ingredients for empowerment and indeed, for innovation and a culture of learning to thrive. Both are necessary for superior business performance.

Some of my most rewarding leadership experiences were during this empowerment phase of my leadership journey. There will be moments when you let go and allow things to unfold, and you won’t feel 100% certain that everything will end up as you hope. Yet, it is this courage and risk-taking that will mean you are successfully navigating this phase of your journey.  

Witnessing your team members thrive and feel pride in their own success will make it all worthwhile!

Characteristics at this level include:

  • You are now leading the leaders (and not the work)
  • Visionary thinking to paint a brighter future for your team and inspiring them to be excited and motivated towards achieving that vision
  • Almost no direct involvement in the day to day work except perhaps in crisis management
  • Developing your leaders – creating the environment for them to shine and perform their management leadership tasks
  • Systems monitoring (KPIs, etc.) to shape business performance

5. Influencing

  • Modeling high standards of personal conduct
  • Being authentic, vulnerable, and demonstrating that you care
  • Inspiring and motivating your organization with optimism and transparency
  • Being socially aware and pro-active in support of your people and organization as a part of society as a whole
  • Monitoring business performance and adjusting strategic levers to either assure your vision or adapt as needed

Final Thoughts

There are five distinct stages in any leadership journey.  

As your career progresses and the roles you take on have increasing levels of responsibility, you will find yourself moving through each of these stages. Having said that, you will experience aspects of all stages throughout your journey. In fact, if you choose to look ahead at some of the characteristics of later stages and start practicing those now, you can certainly fast-track your progression. 

With this foundation now in mind, there are three final thoughts I'd like to leave you with:

  • You cannot skip the learning process! You will need to progress through all of the phases of the leadership journey over time. But, you can short-circuit the learning process by having a deliberate focus on all 5 stages every step of the way. For example, as a Supervising Leader, or even as an Informal Leader, consciously choosing what kind of impact you want to have as if you were in a senior role, will mean that you will start to practice exhibiting the behaviors of an Empowering or Influencing Leader much earlier in your journey. Your growing impact and maturity will likely get you noticed, and could mean your career starts progressing even faster! Just don’t forget to take care of the essentials for the role you are currently in too!
  • There are also a number of qualities that an impactful leader must have at every stage of the journey. Traits such as integrity, humility, the ability to delegate effectively, empathy, emotional intelligence, and learning agility.  More on these in upcoming posts soon.
  • And finally, "leadership is a journey, and not a destination". I'd ask you to consider that perhaps the journey itself, is the destination. Don’t forget why you became a leader in the first place, and what it is that you want to give back to the world as part of the adventure. Learning and adapting to new challenges, having a positive impact on the people in your charge, and finding enjoyment in these pursuits on a daily basis, really is the destination.

Supporting you on your leadership journey, 

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PS. Please share if you found this helpful.

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Building the Pyramid

Read more about John Stein

  • September 5, 2014

The six stages of the leadership journey

  • By John Stein


Steering an organisation on its unique journey towards its chosen destination is one of the biggest personal challenges facing all leaders. Why? Because internal and external issues will constantly change the landscape in which the organisation operates.

Navigating the landscape is widely recognised as the new core requirement of the 21st century leader . The benefits of applying navigational skills are immense, including the creation of a more agile, successful and sustainable organisation.

Understanding the six stages of the leadership journey is essential to getting to grips with the ‘navigational’ aspect to the leader’s role.

1. Research

The 'research' stage focuses on the size of the opportunity for everyone likely to be involved on the journey including suppliers, partners and other stakeholders. The role of the leader is to create a journey experience and an organisation that others wish to be part of.

Three important objectives should be achieved during this stage:

  • Identify the reasons for embarking on the journey
  • Establish the challenges and issues likely to be faced in the future
  • Produce a vision statement highlighting the dreams and ambitions of the organisation.

The outcomes from each objective should be used to describe the landscape. The destination (the vision) will inspire individuals to sign up to the journey.

Remember, everyone wants to be part of something special. Purpose, belonging, challenge, adventure and opportunity should form part of the vision. If not, early momentum on the journey will be problematic. Attracting, recruiting and retaining talent will be impossible to achieve.

2. Strategy

The 'strategy' stage focuses on the production of the route map needed to carefully chart the right course on the journey. The role of the leader is to demonstrate how the vision will be realised by aligning the leaders’ overall plan to each role in the organisation.

  • Identify the areas of operational focus critical to success on the journey
  • Establish the behaviours and/or values important to the organisation
  • Match the relevant areas of focus to each individual’s role.

The outcomes from each objective should be used to produce a simple route map (a blueprint for the journey). The effectiveness of the blueprint can be measured by answering four key questions:­ ‘Where are we going?’; ‘How will we get there?’; ‘What is my expected contribution?’ and ‘What’s in it for me?’

The production of the route map is the single most important piece of work carried out by leaders on the journey

3. Engagement

The 'engagement' stage focuses on obtaining the buy-in and commitment from others to the route map. The role of the leader is to not to generate more followers, but to create more leaders throughout the organisation.

  • Identify cultural architects (leaders without authority)
  • Carry out informal people surveys to gauge commitment levels
  • Use the feedback to improve the overall workplace experience.

The outcomes from each objective should be used to improve communication, build trust, develop leadership capability and sustain performance momentum on the journey. Cultural architects are advocates of the vision, the route map and are proud to be associated with the organisation and the journey.

The greater number of cultural architects you have in the organisation, the higher your level of people engagement will be. Productivity and performance will improve.

4. Motivation

The 'motivation' stage focuses on the creation and reinforcement of the performance climate needed on the journey. Motivation describes ‘personal drive’ and is often misunderstood in the workplace. Leaders and managers will never be able to motivate their people. Individuals motivate themselves.

The role of the leader is to create a climate which will enable others to perform to their full potential.

  • Define what is meant by high performance  
  • Identify what motivates and de-motivates individuals
  • Remove any barriers to high performance that may exist.

The outcomes from each objective should be used to improve the people management skills of leaders and managers. Four key ‘climate’ principles should be built into their day to day interaction with colleagues – achievement, recognition, participation and growth.

Understanding motivation and the link with the climate is vital to sustaining momentum on the journey.

5. Development

The 'development' stage focuses on the need to protect the systems, processes and people important to creating a successful and sustainable organisation. The role of the leader is to improve operational efficiency on the journey by setting new and higher standards.

Performance complacency can easily creep in on any journey. The development stage is designed to stop this happening.

  • Identify the barriers to operational efficiency
  • Agree behavioural competencies for each job role
  • Educate individuals in the principle of lifelong learning.

The outcomes from each objective should be used to inspire people in the organisation to innovate, change and actively seek new and smarter ways of working.

Understanding the unique contribution of others, unlocking the power of information and the creative use of experience and expertise is important to delivering success.

6. Ownership

The 'ownership' stage focuses on maximising the people potential in the organisation and is the culmination of the work carried out during the previous five stages. Ownership is often regarded as the ‘holy grail’ on the journey – the ultimate cultural prize where agility, pride, trust and collective focus is demonstrated.

The role of the leader is to build a confident, high-performing workforce resulting in the successful execution of the strategy.

  • Explain the importance of ‘personal accountability’
  • Ensure people understand their role and performance responsibility
  • Use coaching and feedback to inspire others.

The outcomes from each objective should be used to create an environment where people are confident enough to take the appropriate action to perform at the highest level. The ability to handle last-minute problems, surprising challenges and unforeseen circumstances are measures of ownership effectiveness .

Arrival at the destination is achieved.

Best wishes on your journey, wherever it may take you.

  • Tags: Leadership , Organisational design & development

One Response

A good construct.

I think that ownership and motivation do not necessarily have to follow a sequence. These both are required at all stages- at the beginning, in the middle and in the concluding stage. Without it, the leader will neither do the research, nor make strategy or engage with people to create the buy-in. The journey of change begins from "within"

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Leadership Experience: Example Answers for Job Interviews

By Status.net Editorial Team on August 2, 2023 — 9 minutes to read

  • Leadership Experience: Example Answers Part 1
  • Different Types of Leadership Experience Part 2
  • How to Answer Behavioral Leadership Interview Questions Part 3
  • How to Demonstrate Leadership Skills in an Interview Part 4
  • How can freshers respond to leadership questions in interviews? Part 5
  • How to Answer “What is your personal best example…” Part 6
  • Common Additional Leadership Interview Questions Part 7

Part 1 Leadership Experience: Example Answers

When talking about your prior leadership experience during a job interview, it is important to focus on specific examples that highlight your leadership skills and achievements. As an applicant, you want to present your past experiences in a way that is relevant to the job you are applying for, demonstrating your ability to lead and manage teams, make decisions, and solve problems.

  • Project Management:  One way to showcase your leadership experience is by discussing your past involvement in project management. Explain how you handled a team, set goals, delegated tasks, and ensured everything ran smoothly. This gives the interviewer an understanding of how you can take charge, manage resources, and achieve results in a professional setting. Example: “ In my previous role as a marketing manager, I led a team of five to create and execute a successful social media campaign. We set realistic goals, and by efficiently delegating tasks, we were able to reach our targets and increase engagement by 25%.”
  • Conflict Resolution:  As a leader, you’ll inevitably face challenges that require conflict resolution skills. During the interview, share a scenario where you successfully mediated a disagreement, facilitated a compromise, or helped find a solution to a problem. Example: “ When two team members disagreed over the direction of a project, I held a meeting to discuss their perspectives. After listening to both sides, I guided them to find a solution that satisfied both parties and allowed the project to move forward.”
  • Mentoring and Coaching:  Showcasing your ability to guide, support, and develop others is crucial in displaying your leadership potential. Talk about a time when you mentored or coached a colleague, helping them grow professionally or learn a new skill. Example: “ I mentored a junior team member who was struggling to learn a new software tool. I provided one-on-one guidance, created a learning plan, and monitored their progress. As a result, they were able to master the tool and become a valuable contributor to the team.”
  • Decision-Making Abilities:  Lastly, a crucial part of leadership experience is the ability to make tough decisions. Describe a situation where you made a difficult decision that resulted in a positive outcome. Example: “ While managing a tight deadline, we realized that a critical component of the project wasn’t meeting expectations. I made the tough call to change the scope and redirected our focus, ultimately leading to a better final product and client satisfaction.”

Part 2 Different Types of Leadership Experience

When preparing for a job interview, it’s important to think about various types of leadership experiences you can draw upon. This will help demonstrate your ability to lead and work with others effectively.

Here are some common types of leadership experiences and scenarios that you can use as examples in your interview:

Work Experience:  Highlight any management or supervisory roles you’ve held at previous jobs. Talk about how you delegated tasks, guided team members, and resolved conflicts. Emphasize your ability to make decisions and lead others towards a common goal.

Sports:  If you’ve played on a sports team or coached one, describe how you worked with your teammates to achieve victory, develop strategies, and improve skills. Your ability to collaborate in high-pressure situations demonstrates your leadership abilities.

School and University:  Student organizations, clubs, and groups provide excellent opportunities to gain leadership experience. Share your experiences as a club president, group leader, or event coordinator, showcasing your accomplishments and how you engaged with club members.

Volunteering and Community Involvement:  Helping a local nonprofit or community organization can give you valuable experience in leading others. Talk about how you organized events, mobilized volunteers, or fundraised for a cause you’re passionate about. This not only showcases your leadership skills but also your dedication to making a positive impact.

Internships:  If you’ve had any internships, discuss the ways you took initiative and demonstrated leadership in your assigned tasks. Your ability to step up and take charge while learning the ropes shows your potential as a future leader in the workplace.

Teaching or Tutoring:  Instructing others, whether as a mentor or tutor, is another form of leadership. Share how you helped students grasp complex concepts or improve their skills, effectively managing their progress and adjusting your teaching methods as needed.

Cultural Activities:  Leading cultural clubs or organizing events focused on fostering cultural awareness can demonstrate your ability to work with diverse groups and facilitate understanding. These experiences highlight your adaptability and ability to navigate diverse social and professional environments.

Student Government:  Participation in student government can play a vital role in your leadership journey. Discuss your accomplishments as a student representative or in other elected positions, showing how you advocated for student concerns and helped govern the organization.

Hobbies:  Your hobbies can sometimes showcase your leadership abilities. If you’ve led a group or team in pursuing a shared interest, such as organizing a photography club or coordinating outdoor excursions, this highlights your ability to bring people together and inspire them to achieve goals.

Part 3 How to Answer Behavioral Leadership Interview Questions

When facing behavioral leadership interview questions, it’s important to showcase your past leadership experiences effectively. To help you shine during your interview, consider using the STAR technique:

1. Situation:  Begin by describing the context of a specific event where you demonstrated leadership. Set the scene and explain the challenge you faced. For example, “When I was a team leader for a software development project, our team was struggling to meet deadlines due to frequent changes in client requirements.”

2. Task:  Next, explain your responsibilities in that situation. Be concise and focus on the main objective. For instance, “As the team leader, my task was to ensure the project was completed on time, while also maintaining a high level of quality and client satisfaction.”

3. Action:  Outline the steps you took to address the challenge as a leader. Be specific and describe your thought process, the decisions you made, and any resources you utilized. For example, “I recognized that our team needed better communication with the client, so I organized weekly progress meetings. I also implemented a more agile development approach to adapt to changes more efficiently.”

4. Result:  Finally, showcase the positive outcome of your actions. Quantify your success, if possible, and highlight what you learned from the experience. For instance, “As a result of the improvements I made, the software development project was completed two weeks ahead of schedule. Our team received positive feedback from the client, and our agile approach increased overall productivity by 30%.”

Related: How to Answer 11 Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Part 4 How to Demonstrate Leadership Skills in an Interview

  • First, prepare examples beforehand from your previous work experience. Think about instances where you played a crucial role in leading a team, inspiring team members, or managing resources. Be specific about the projects and explain the challenges your team faced and how you overcame them.
  • Second, discuss how you’ve utilized feedback from team members to improve your leadership skills. Explain the importance of communication in addressing issues, encouraging suggestions, and valuing diverse perspectives. Mention a time when you delegated tasks effectively, ensuring workload was balanced and team members felt supported.
  • Next, express how proper planning has led to success in your past experiences. Illustrate how you’ve set clear goals, developed strategies, and executed plans with the confidence necessary to guide the team. Sharing these examples will demonstrate your ability to manage resources and make quick decisions.
  • Consider talking about different leadership styles you’ve adopted. Explain how you adjust your style depending on the situation, the project, or the team’s needs. For example, you may have used a more coaching-oriented style when mentoring team members, while choosing a democratic style when seeking input for decision-making.
  • Finally, share how you motivate and inspire others. Describe techniques you’ve employed to encourage team members and help them grow professionally. This can include offering praise for achievements or providing opportunities for skill development.

Frequently Asked Questions

Part 5 how can freshers respond to leadership questions in interviews.

As a fresher, you can draw on your experience from extracurricular activities, internships, or volunteer work. Discuss leadership roles you may have filled or situations in which you demonstrated leadership qualities, such as group projects in school, coordinating events for a club, or leading a team in a local sports league.

“As a fresher, I understand that I may not have a lot of professional experience to draw upon when it comes to leadership questions in interviews. However, I have been involved in several extracurricular activities and internships where I have had the opportunity to showcase my leadership skills. For example, in my final year of college, I was the team leader for a group project where I was responsible for delegating tasks, coordinating meetings, and ensuring that everyone was working towards the same goal. I also volunteered as a coordinator for a local charity event, where I was responsible for managing a team of volunteers and ensuring that everything ran smoothly. These experiences have helped me develop my leadership skills and I am confident that I can bring these qualities to any role that I take on.”

Part 6 How to Answer “What is your personal best example of showcasing leadership?”

Think about a situation where you faced challenges, yet managed to achieve success by using your leadership skills. This could be something like managing a group of volunteers for a charitable event, where you had to overcome logistical issues and motivate everyone involved to ensure the event’s success.

“My personal best example of showcasing leadership was when I was tasked with managing a team of volunteers for a charity event. We faced several challenges along the way, such as logistical issues and a lack of resources. However, I was able to use my leadership skills to motivate the team and ensure that everyone was working towards the same goal. I delegated tasks effectively, communicated clearly with the team, and provided support and encouragement when needed. As a result, we were able to overcome the obstacles and successfully organize a memorable event that raised a significant amount of money for the charity.”

Part 7 What are some common additional leadership interview questions and sample answers?

  • Describe a time when you had to lead a group through a difficult situation. “In my previous role, our team faced a tight deadline for a high-stakes project. I organized a planning session and delegated tasks to ensure everyone was aware of their responsibilities. Through consistent communication and effective time-management, we successfully completed the project.”
  • How do you handle conflicts within your team? “I approach conflicts with a level-headed attitude, working to understand both sides of the issue. I encourage open communication and facilitate discussions to resolve the conflict and get back on track.”

Related: How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace [with Examples]

  • Management Styles Interview Questions [Example Answers]
  • Job Interview Request Email Responses (Detailed Examples)
  • Smart Answers to "Why Are You Looking for a New Job?"
  • Smart Answers to "How Would You Describe Your Work Style?"
  • "What Do You Do for Fun?" (Smart Answers)


  1. Leadership Journey Model With Key Skills

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  2. 5 Stages of Your Leadership Journey

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  6. Developing a leadership journey

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  2. Leadership Journeys Podcast Episode 1: Leadership & Ownership

  3. I Was Your Peer But Now I'm Your Boss (Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast)

  4. Leadership Journey- A highway to Success

  5. Writing Your Leadership Journey



  1. My Leadership Journey: A Story of Self-Awareness and Self ...

    The heart of leadership development that works is self-directed learning: intentionally developing or strengthening an aspect of who you want to be or who you are, or both. I told myself: rise ...

  2. Develop Your Personal Leadership Journey and Become an Effective Leader

    As part of leadership development programs, you have probably been called on to develop traits such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy, all of which require deep self-reflection and introspection to assimilate into your character or behavior (or leadership style). Of course, having the right values, qualities, and behavior traits ...

  3. What's Your Leadership Origin Story?

    How you tell the story of your own path towards becoming a leader frames your leadership style, as well as the ways in which you cultivate and support other leaders within your organization. Based ...

  4. Stepping into a Leadership Role? Be Ready to Tell Your Story

    Be Ready to Tell Your Story. Stepping into a role as a leader — whether as a seasoned executive or a neophyte supervisor — is both challenging and exciting. How you handle this transition can ...

  5. 5 Stages of Your Leadership Journey

    Informal Leader. This is the first stage of leadership, the stage where we lead without a position. Where you are helping and supporting teammates and colleagues, recognizing their contribution, and working to create a strong team from within, it can also be something as simple as taking a stand, speaking up, and looking to make a difference ...

  6. Leadership Is a Journey, Not a Destination

    Some pathways are easy, some are hard, and some are blocked. This metaphor of forest pathways represents one of the most fundamental insights about leadership: Leadership is a journey, not a destination. We never actually arrive at the destination of being the very best leader that we can be. We should aspire to this, but this vision is ahead ...

  7. 5 Steps to Creating a Successful Leadership Development Plan

    In turn, you can build and leverage a keener sense of emotional intelligence throughout your leadership development journey. Related: 4 Tips for Developing Your Personal Leadership Style. 2. Set an Attainable Goal. Goal setting is an essential component of any leadership development plan.

  8. The Leadership Journey

    The Leadership Journey. by. Leonard D. Schaeffer. From the Magazine (October 2002) Monday, February 10, 1986 was my first day as chief executive of Blue Cross of California. At a welcoming ...

  9. Your Leadership Story: Develop It and Share It Often

    One common leadership story is the founding story. Really, it's an origin story. Just as cultures and religions shape their origin stories to tell themselves how they came to be, how they are unique, and what they value, people do too. In Life is Good: The Book, we learn that on the company's tenth anniversary, Bert and John Jacobs decided ...

  10. The Leadership Journey: 5 Things To Pack For The Road

    1. Travel light: According to Matt Fitzgerald, author of Racing Weight, endurance athletes avoid carrying extra weight—extra pounds waste energy and impacts peak performance. Similarly, great ...

  11. Looking Back in Order to Move Ahead as a Leader: A Personal Journey

    The inclusion of a student-selected mentor is a key distinction between the Journey Line Narrative detailed in this article and other reflective exercises. ... A. T. Gianciolo, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The nature of leadership (pp.331-342). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Bierema, L. L., & Merriam, S. B. (2002). E-mentoring: Using computer-mediated ...

  12. Inspiring Leadership Stories: Short Narratives With Moral Lessons

    The quiet determination of Rosa Parks, the innovative spirit of Elon Musk, and the resilience of Sheryl Sandberg - these short stories resonate because they touch upon universal themes of human endeavour. Discover inspiring leadership stories that showcase perseverance, innovation, and the transformative power of effective leadership.

  13. My leadership journey and 20 lessons I learned along the way

    Thus began my leadership journey. Lesson 1: Don't complain and do nothing. Do something, and do your best to do the right thing, even though it may not turn out to be the right thing. Action always outdoes inaction. I decided to change my situation. The Lady in the Cape, a single parent, was working several jobs to make ends meet, which ...

  14. The Leadership Journey

    The Leadership Journey. In The Leadership Journey: How to Master the Four Critical Areas of Being a Great Leader, Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison charts a course for discovering and developing the skills needed for becoming a great leader. Good leaders excel at the left-brain, technical side of leadership and know the frameworks, theories, and ...

  15. A Leadership Journey: "Lead the person you see someone can be"

    My leadership journey was one of self-discovery, followed by responsibility. I was an awkward child who didn't fit in with my peers. I was also a problematic student in the classroom who found himself in trouble - consistently. If you had surveyed my elementary and junior high teachers and classmates about leadership potential, I would have been comfortably in the bottom quartile of ...

  16. 13 Leadership Experience Examples for Interviews

    2. Organizing a study group. Maybe you didn't lead projects in school, but you organized a study group after class. That's still a great example of leadership and taking initiative. Any example of you taking initiative and doing something that wasn't required, but helped you succeed, is a good leadership example.

  17. The 5 Stages Of The Leadership Journey

    Acting as point contact between the people in your team and other groups you collaborate with to get things done in your organization. Driving the pace and quality of your team's work product. Beginning to establish your leadership style reputation with the people in your organization. 3. Managing.

  18. My Leadership Experience and The Lessons I Learned

    In conclusion, my leadership experience has been a transformative journey filled with valuable lessons and personal growth. From my early involvement in student organizations to my professional roles, I've learned the importance of effective communication, adaptability, and servant leadership.I've witnessed the growth of team members, navigated complex challenges, and embraced the idea that ...

  19. The six stages of the leadership journey

    The production of the route map is the single most important piece of work carried out by leaders on the journey. 3. Engagement. The 'engagement' stage focuses on obtaining the buy-in and commitment from others to the route map. The role of the leader is to not to generate more followers, but to create more leaders throughout the organisation.

  20. Leadership Experience: Example Answers for Job Interviews

    1. Situation: Begin by describing the context of a specific event where you demonstrated leadership. Set the scene and explain the challenge you faced. For example, "When I was a team leader for a software development project, our team was struggling to meet deadlines due to frequent changes in client requirements.".

  21. PDF My Leadership Journey

    All actions have reactions - no matter how small the act is. Leadership is demonstrated in all different ways. Don't sell yourself short. It's never too late to start. Use your influence to benefit others - the world can often feel extremely negative, the positivity we spread can greatly help others. Thank Yous!!