If you’re applying for a senior-level role or one that involves managing others, hiring managers will be looking for evidence of leadership skills. That part’s pretty straightforward — what’s less straightforward is communicating those skills on your resume. Unlike hard skills like programming or foreign language proficiency, leadership is a soft skill, which means you can’t simply list it in your skill section and move on. So, how do you demonstrate leadership on your resume?
How to list leadership skills on your resume
When it comes to leadership skills, like any kind of soft skills, you need to show, not tell! Include accomplishments in your bullet points that show your ability to lead, whether that’s teams you’ve led, initiatives you’ve created, or products you’ve launched.
Always start with a relevant action verb — remember, you want to keep the focus on what you actually did. Verbs like Led, Launched, Directed, and Spearheaded all paint a picture of a strong, proactive leader, which is what you’re aiming for. Need help brainstorming? Our action verbs database has more examples you can plug straight into your resume.
After your action verb, be specific about what it is that you accomplished. If you led a team, how many people were on it? If you organized a training program or other employee initiative, how much did it increase productivity? Hard numbers are your friend — think of them like the proof to back up your claims.
Once you’ve finished, upload your resume to Score My Resume. This free tool will rate you on core competencies — including leadership skills — and give you instant feedback on how to optimize your resume to land the job you want.
What to do: An example of showing leadership
Here’s what a good example of leadership skills on a resume looks like:
If you’re applying for a leadership role, your accomplishments should be focused on how you’ve already demonstrated leadership skills. Increasing revenue, coordinating stakeholders, managing a team, and acquiring new talent are all things that employers will want their senior-level staff to do, which makes them perfect additions to a resume.
The majority of your bullet points should focus on high-level outcomes rather than individual responsibilities — the purpose of your resume is to show a hiring manager what you could bring to the company, which means every achievement you include needs to be relevant to the specific role you’re applying for.
What not to do: Avoid leadership buzzwords
When including leadership skills on your resume, avoid doing this:
These are all soft skills, which means they don’t belong in your skills section. Leadership, like any soft skill, is subjective, so including it as if it’s a fact will be unconvincing at best and may actively call your judgment into question at worst. There’s also no point listing “leadership” as an important keyword — while Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) do scan for keywords, they tend to search for hard skills only.
If you choose to include a resume summary or cover letter, leave out the buzzwords. No hiring manager will be impressed that you’re a self-described “visionary leader” — while it’s good to show confidence, excessive hubris is more likely to land you straight in the ‘no’ pile. Instead, include accomplishments that demonstrate those skills in action and let the recruiter come to their own conclusions.
Examples of showing leadership
Here are some examples of resume bullet points for leadership skills that effectively demonstrate leadership skills for you to use as a jumping off point — whether you’re just starting out in a leadership role or applying for an executive-level position.
Entry-level: If you’re just starting out in leadership
Promoted within 12 months due to strong performance and organizational impact (one year ahead of schedule).
Not all leadership skills involve managing others. Promotions demonstrate your commitment and ability to add value to the company, which all hiring managers are looking for.
Oversaw daily administration of 5-person team.
Show that you can do the day-to-day work of management by detailing the number of people in the teams you’ve led or the size of the company. This is true even if you’ve only led small teams to date — if you’re applying for a job leading a much larger team or facility, you can address that in your cover letter.
Coached 3 summer interns and submitted final performance evaluations.
If you’ve never led your own team, you can still show leadership skills and your ability to manage others through accomplishments like coaching, mentoring, and leading individual projects.
Mid-Level: If you have some leadership experience
Drove redevelopment of internal tracking systems in use by 125 employees, resulting in 20+ new features, reduction of 20% in save/load time and 15% operation time
The ability to take initiative is an important aspect of leadership. You can highlight this even without direct leadership experience by describing a time you spearheaded a new development and what the results were.
Managed business development opportunities that resulted in a 45% increase in partnerships.
Good leaders are also effective communicators. This is another soft skill that doesn’t belong on a list, but you can demonstrate it by mentioning what you did in terms of outreach, management, or external partnerships, and what benefit it had to the company.
Developed strategic insights across 5 product teams, including revenue, marketing and operations departments.
Recruiters are looking for leaders who understand their business and are able to help it grow. Emphasize this skill by including accomplishments related to business development, strategy, and analysis.
Senior-level: If you’re applying for high-level leadership positions
Directed agency fundraising revenue generation, daily program business operations, community outreach membership recruitment, and human resources in 30 suburbs in the city for organizations with assets of $8M.
The best thing you can do to demonstrate your leadership experience is to be specific. What exactly did you do? What aspects of running the business were you in charge of? What was the scope of your work? The more detailed your metrics are, the more impressive your accomplishments will be.
Launched Miami office with lead Director and recruited and managed new team of 10 employees; grew office revenue by 200% in first nine months (representing 20% of company revenue).
If you’re applying for a high-level position, you need high-level accomplishments. Launching an office shows that you can lead new developments while the increase in revenue emphasizes that you can do it effectively.
Worked with CEO and 5 development team members to plan strategic goals to grow as a global company in the next 3 years.
Another crucial aspect of high-level leadership is the ability to drive the company forward. Developing new strategic goals in addition to achieving existing ones shows your ability to be proactive, not just reactive.
Leadership skills to include
Leadership is more than just managing a team (though that’s a great place to start). Leadership skills employers are looking for might include:
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Team building
- Conflict resolution
- Risk taking
When writing your resume accomplishments, try to think of a time when you’ve demonstrated each of these skills.