How to Write a Research Paper on Leadership (Tips and Steps)

Last Updated: 06 June 2024

Leadership is a fundamental area of study that has drawn many students in recent years. As a field that has continuously grown, students must write a research paper as part of the course requirements.

With the understanding of writing a perfect leadership paper, you will have fun applying foundational leadership concepts, theories, and frameworks to address leadership gaps and challenges. 

Even though writing a leadership research paper can be an enlightening and rewarding academic endeavor, most students still struggle with the craft. This is the key reason why our wonderful research paper writing team came up with this comprehensive guide. It has been a long time coming, given requests by our wide base of readers currently undertaking or are planning to undertake leadership studies.

It does not matter whether you are exploring servant leadership, transactional leadership, charismatic leadership, bureaucratic leadership, transformational leadership, or any other type, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps to create an impactful research paper.

What is a Leadership Research Paper?

A leadership research paper is an academic work that explores various aspects of leadership, including theories, frameworks, styles, behaviors, and their impacts on organizations and individuals.

This type of paper aims to analyze and provide insights into how leadership operates within different contexts, such as business, education, music, journalism, church, healthcare, and government.

The paper typically involves a thorough review of existing literature, identification of gaps or areas needing further exploration, and the application of appropriate research methodologies to gather data and analyze findings.

Key components of a leadership research paper include a clear and concise introduction, a comprehensive literature review, a detailed methodology section, presentation of results, discussion of the implications, and a well-rounded conclusion. The research findings aim to contribute to the academic field by offering new perspectives, practical applications, or recommendations for future research.

From what we have seen, the ideal length for a standard leadership research paper ranges between 10-15 pages. However, you should check with your professor’s instructions or the prompt to confirm the exact length that you are expected to write.

You can write the paper in APA, Harvard, Chicago/Turabian, Oxford, or MLA formats, depending on what your instructor prefers.

For a coherent paper, use at least 10 credible sources, including books, reputable online publications, and peer-reviewed leadership journal articles.

How to Select a Good Leadership Topic for Your Paper

Most often, students who turn to us for paper writing assistance bite more than they can chew when it comes to selecting a great topic for their research paper. We have noticed this widespread problem with both undergraduate and graduate students.

Choosing a good topic for a leadership research paper writing much depends on what you have chosen to explore. It can make or break your grades. It is also a determinant of whether your paper becomes engaging, relevant, and impactful.

If you are lucky enough, your professor will suggest a few topics, which is rare. If you are to select the topic, here are some tips that can come in handy:

  1. Identify your interests. Choose a topic that genuinely interests you. Your enthusiasm for the subject will make the research process more enjoyable. Besides, it also makes your writing more passionate and engaging.
  2. Consider Relevance and Timeliness. Select a topic that is relevant to current trends and issues in leadership. Timely topics are more likely to attract attention and contribute to ongoing discussions in the field.
  3. Review Existing Literature for Gaps. Conduct a preliminary review of existing literature to identify gaps in research. This can help you choose a topic that adds new insights or perspectives to the field of leadership.
  4. Spend some time brainstorming and listing potential topics. Write down all ideas that come to mind and then narrow them down based on the criteria mentioned above.
  5. Narrow your focus. You can narrow broad topics to specific aspects of leadership. For example, instead of writing about "leadership in education," you could focus on "The impact of transformational leadership on teacher motivation in high schools."
  6. Think Pragmatically. Choose a topic that has practical applications and can provide actionable insights. This makes your research more valuable to practitioners and organizations.
  7. Consider the availability of resources. Ensure there are enough resources and data available on your chosen topic. Adequate sources will provide a strong foundation for your research and help you build a robust argument.
  8. Check the assignment prompt. Make sure your topic meets the requirements and guidelines provided by your instructor or institution. This includes considering the scope, length, and format of the paper.
  9. Think about future research opportunities and how your topic might pave the way for future research. A well-chosen topic can serve as a stepping stone for more in-depth studies or related projects.
  10. Focus on the scope of the topic. Choose a topic that is manageable within the constraints of your paper. Avoid topics that are too broad or too narrow, and ensure you can thoroughly explore the subject within the given word count.

Structuring Your Leadership Research Paper

One thing is for sure: writing a leadership research paper requires strong organizational and substantial analytical work. If you are writing a research-based paper, you will have to conduct research whose precursor is a research paper proposal. Once it is approved and you have researched, you will follow the IMRAD format for scientific papers.

A well-structured paper makes your arguments clear and engaging. Here is a typical structure for a leadership research paper:

Let us now explore each aspect of the research paper independently.

Title Page

The title page should include the title of your paper, your name, institutional affiliation, course name, instructor’s name, and the due date. A compelling title is crucial as it sets the stage for your reader’s expectations.


The abstract is a concise summary of your paper, typically 150-250 words. It should provide a brief overview of the research question, methods, results, and conclusion.


The introduction should capture the reader’s interest and provide context for your research. Introduce your research question, explain its significance, and outline the structure of your paper.

Literature Review

The literature review surveys existing research on your topic. It identifies gaps in the literature that your research aims to fill. This section demonstrates your understanding of the field and positions your research within the broader academic conversation.


The methodology section describes the research methods you used to gather data. This can include qualitative methods (like interviews and focus groups) and quantitative methods (like surveys and experiments). Be detailed so that other researchers can replicate your study.


In the results section, present your findings in a clear and logical manner. Use tables, charts, and graphs to illustrate your data. Avoid interpreting the data here; simply present it.


The discussion is where you interpret your results, explaining their significance and how they relate to your research question. You also discuss any limitations of your study and suggest areas for future research.


The conclusion summarizes your findings and their implications. Reinforce the importance of your research and restate how it contributes to the field of leadership studies.

Future Implications

The "Future Implications" section of a leadership research paper outlines the potential impact and relevance of your findings for future research, practice, and policy. Here is what to include:


The "Limitations" section acknowledges the constraints and potential weaknesses of your study. This transparency enhances the credibility of your research. Include the following:


The references section lists all the sources you cited in your paper. Follow the citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) required by your instructor. Proper referencing is essential for academic integrity.


Tips for Writing a High-Quality Research Paper on Leadership

As an aspiring leader, whether in the business, education, healthcare, politics, government, or whatever sector, writing an outstanding research paper gives you an edge. It helps you to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead of you and shapes your leadership philosophy.

Your professor anticipates reading a comprehensive paper that provides a deeper understanding of leadership dynamics, helping to shape better leaders for the future. Here are some tips to help you earn the best grades.

Choose the Test Topic

We cannot tire of emphasizing the importance of choosing an interesting, manageable, relevant, and current leadership topic. This topic determines whether anyone reading the paper gets its gist or simply skims through it without enthusiasm.

Select a topic that is both relevant to current discussions in leadership and interesting to you. This will keep you motivated and engaged throughout the research and writing process. Ensure your topic fills a gap in existing research or offers a new perspective.

Conduct a Comprehensive Research

Gather information from a variety of credible sources, including peer-reviewed journals, books, and reputable online publications. Ensure you understand the key theories, frameworks, models, and current trends related to your topic.

Optimize your Research Paper Title

After selecting the topic, ensure that you optimize your title. It is the first thing that your readers engage with and it should leave a great impression. Your title should be clear, concise, and informative. It should give a snapshot of your research and include keywords to help the reader comprehend what to expect. It should signpost the ideas that are in the paper. Avoid jargon and ensure it accurately reflects the content of your paper.

Develop a Strong Thesis Statement

The thesis statement for your leadership research paper should clearly convey the main argument or purpose of your paper. It should be specific and provide a roadmap for your research. A strong thesis will guide your writing and help you stay focused.

Create a Detailed Outline

An outline helps organize your thoughts and ensures a logical flow in your paper. It should include sections such as the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. An outline will make the writing process smoother and more efficient.

Plan the Research

Given that a research paper is a precursor of a research paper (well, at least some of the time), ensure that you prepare adequately. Seek permissions from relevant authorities, acquire the needed equipment, prepare interview guides and questionnaires early, and communicate with your participants early enough, including through reminders.

Conduct a thorough Literature Review

Do not be like every other student who superficially scratches the literature surface, leaving much to desire.

The literature review should survey existing research on your topic, identify gaps, and position your study within the broader academic conversation.

Critically evaluate the sources and discuss how your research contributes to the field.

Counter the findings, theories, and statements by different authors to give a rationale for your study. Ensure that you also have enough resources to back up your findings.

Clarity and Precision

Write clearly and concisely. Avoid unnecessary jargon and complex sentences. Be precise in your language and ensure your arguments are easy to follow.

Use Active Voice

You wrote the research paper in the future tense, but now it has to be in the active voice as you are reporting the findings of the research.

Use active voice to make your writing more engaging and direct. For example, instead of "The survey was conducted by the team," write, "The team or I conducted the survey."

Use Real World Examples

Incorporate real-world examples and case studies to illustrate your points and add depth to your analysis. This not only makes your paper more engaging but also demonstrates the practical applications of your research.

Cite and Reference Sources

Ensure your work is original and properly cite all sources. Avoid plagiarism by paraphrasing information in your own words and providing appropriate credit to original authors.

Proofread and Edit Thoroughly

Proofread your paper multiple times to catch any errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Editing is crucial for refining your arguments and improving the overall flow of your paper. Consider seeking feedback from peers, professional proofreaders and editors, supervisors, friends, colleagues, family, or mentors.

66 Leadership Research Paper Topics

Selecting the right topic is crucial for a successful research paper. Your topic should be both interesting to you and relevant to current discussions in leadership.

Here are a few examples of well-defined topics that incorporate the tips we mentioned earlier:

  1. The role of emotional intelligence on transformational leadership: A case Study of Tech Startups
  2. Servant leadership and employee job satisfaction.
  3. The impact of transformational leadership on organizational innovation.
  4. The influence of gender on leadership styles.
  5. Impacts of leadership communication on organizational change.
  6. The influence of adaptive leadership in crisis management.
  7. The leadership aspects of why startups thrive in Silicon Valley.
  8. Impacts of leadership behavior on corporate culture: A case of Jonson & Jonson
  9. Effectiveness of organizational leadership during downsizing.
  10. Organizational leadership and change at Lululemon
  11. Impacts of community leadership on development.
  12. Impacts of strategic leadership management in organizations.
  13. The impacts of autocratic leadership on employee satisfaction.
  14. The link between poor organizational leadership and employee burnout.
  15. The link between organizational leadership and employee attrition.
  16. The impacts of transactional leadership on organizational performance.
  17. The role of ethical leaders in shaping the ethical compass of an organization.
  18. The impact of ethical leadership on organizational culture.
  19. The impacts of lack of diversity in key leadership positions on organizational performance.
  20. Strategies to increase diversity in organizational leadership.
  21. Characteristics of effective leadership in the hospitality industry.
  22. The impact of transformational leadership on change management processes.
  23. The Impact of transformational leadership on employee motivation and job satisfaction.
  24. Impact of transformational leadership on employee motivation and job satisfaction.
  25. Impact of transformational leadership on employee motivation and job satisfaction.
  26. Using leadership as a yardstick for organizational development.
  27. Impacts of poor leadership on startup failure: A case of African Startups
  28. The link between leadership and rewards management.
  29. The role of mentoring in leadership development.
  30. The impacts of coaching on leadership skill development.
  31. Strategies to enhance leadership succession planning in organizations.
  32. How leaders can use feedback to motivate their followers.
  33. The role of leaders in developing followership styles.
  34. The impacts of charismatic leadership on the stock performance of tech companies.
  35. Role of leaders in promoting customer-centric culture.
  36. How leaders can induce organizational belongingness for employees.
  37. Role of strategic leaders in organizational decision-making.
  38. How leadership promotes innovation in organizations.
  39. Role of leaders in addressing organizational conflicts.
  40. The role of leadership behavior in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
  41. Role of leadership in developing effective reward systems for employees.
  42. Servant leadership and employee engagement.
  43. Role of leadership in managing a generationally diverse workforce.
  44. Strategies leaders can use to engage and motivate Gen Z and Millenials in the workplace.
  45. Importance of leaders in managing change resistance in organizations.
  46. How organizational leaders can become employee advocates.
  47. Role of leaders in creating “employer of choice” organizations.
  48. Investigating the leadership ethics in the banking and insurance industry.
  49. Impacts of strategic leadership on brand reputation.
  50. How leaders can overcome ethical dilemmas.
  51. Role of trust in effective leadership.
  52. How leaders can build trust among their followers.
  53. Impacts of transformational leadership in educational settings.
  54. Strategies for developing leadership competencies.
  55. Role of leadership on community development.
  56. The impacts of artificial intelligence on the selection of organizational leaders.
  57. Impact of transformational leadership on employee motivation and job satisfaction.
  58. Military leadership: Strategies and principles.
  59. Are leaders who are ex-military people better at managing organizations?
  60. Does it only take a leader to turn around an organization in crisis?
  61. The psychology of political leadership: Understanding why political leaders behave so
  62. Comparing transactional and transformational leadership styles.
  63. Cross-cultural leadership: Challenges and strategies.
  64. The impact of digital transformation on leadership.
  65. Strategies to promote leadership skills among students.
  66. Leadership succession planning in family-owned businesses.

That is a Wrap!

When writing a leadership research paper, you can consider leadership styles such as transformational, transactional, authentic, ethical, servant, situational, and charismatic leadership. Ensure that you follow the format we have highlighted above and use the tips to write a perfect paper that a professor reads and clings to or even shares widely. If you write a great leadership research paper, you can refine it further and publish it in a leadership journal for access by other scholars.

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