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
Here's our quick-start guide to listing leadership skills on a resume:
- Look at the job description you're applying for to get a sense of what specific leadership skills you need.
- Start each bullet point accomplishment with a strong action verb.
- Explain the task or project and what your role was.
- Include metrics to show the impact of what you accomplished.
- Highlight positions of leadership in your resume title and summary.
- Get personalized feedback on any potential areas of improvement before you hit "submit."
What to do: An example of showing leadership
Here’s what a good example of leadership skills on a resume looks like:
Include the right leadership skills
Leadership is more than just managing a team (though that’s a great place to start). Leadership skills employers are looking for might include:
- Managing employees
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Team building
- Conflict resolution
- Risk taking
The best way to know exactly what leadership skills a recruiter is looking for is to check the job description. For each duty mentioned in the job ad, include a bullet point on your resume that demonstrates that particular skill. For example:
If the job description says "creating a positive team culture."
Your accomplishment could say "spearheaded an employee engagement program, resulting in a 10% decrease in annual employee turnover."
If the job description says "setting clear goals."
Your accomplishment could say "conducted yearly performance reviews and established goals, increasing efficiency by 10%."
Read more: How to tailor your resume to a job
Start with a strong action verb
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.
Read more: Resume action verbs for 2022
Explain what you did
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 more specific you can be here, the better. For example:
Bad: Increased productivity.
Okay: Increased productivity by discovering and sharing new techniques.
Excellent: Increased productivity by 20% through becoming a subject matter expert of a new automated tracking tool and sharing it with the team.
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.
That's also why you should generally always try to use the past tense when describing your accomplishments. This helps you focus on things you've done (i.e. in the past), versus things you are doing now (i.e. responsibilities).
Read more: How to say you manage employees on a resume
Include clear metrics
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. Let's take a quick look at an example:
Read more: How to quantify your resume
Highlight leadership in your resume summary
Including a resume summary is optional, but can be a good idea if you're trying to highlight a specific skill, like leadership. A resume summary should go above your work experience and be limited to 3-5 lines. Be sure to include any key skills and standout accomplishments, including specifics about the size and context of previous teams you've led.
Get personalized feedback
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 not to do: Avoiding common mistakes
Don't use leadership buzzwords
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.
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.
Read more: How to beat ATS
Don't list soft skills
When including leadership skills on your resume, avoid adding a skills section on your resume that does 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.
Read more: How to include soft skills on your resume
Don't keep repeating yourself
If your eyes are starting to glaze over after the fifth time you've started a sentence with "Led ..." it's likely that any hiring manager is starting to skip over it — and potentially missing some inportant information along the way. Avoid repetition by using approriate synonyms for the specific skills you're trying to convey.
Here are some synonyms for leadership skills to include on your resume:
If you led a project from the ground up
If you led a team or managed employees
If you led coaching or training
If you have strong teamwork and communication skills
Read more: Synonyms for common resume power verbs
Examples of leadership skills on a resume
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.
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.
Hired and trained team of six employees with two direct reports; promoted 6 months ahead of schedule
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.
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.