Real Leaders Don’t Use the Word “Led”

Stop right now and look at your resume. Do you have one or more bullets that start with the word “Led”?

You have to get rid of it. The word “led” is a surefire way to identify yourself as an amateur with no real demonstrated leadership potential. That goes double if you are using the word “Lead.”

If the word “Lead” is on your resume it's because you are committing one of these two no-nos:

  • You have bullets in the present tense. NO!! Don’t do this. All bullets need to be past tense so they can showcase accomplishments (which inherently have to have happened in the past.)
  • Thinking that “lead” is the past tense of “lead.” Nope. It’s “led.” 

Starting your bullets with the word “led” makes you seem generic and unimaginative at best and pandering and pretentious at worst. Very unleaderly indeed. I recommend you remove this word from your vocabulary entirely.

Here's why.  The verb “led” is devoid of meaning. It is vague and unclear and therefore boring and irritating to the reader.

I mean, what does “led” REALLY mean?

  • That you organized a bunch of people to do something?
  • That you spearheaded a process involving multiple functions and project-managed the whole thing?
  • That you were just the most senior member of the team even though you didn’t manage others?
  • That you sat alone in your cubicle typing away on excel but without supervision?
  • That you coordinated conference calls and meetings so the group could get together?
  • That you created a spreadsheet to help others manage their time?
  • That you wrote a big document that others contributed to?

I could go on, but you get the idea. It could be any of these!!! Don’t you think that recruiter wants to know which????

The verb “led” is too imprecise. For your resume to rock, you need to choose powerful, vivid, specific verbs that fully capture the essence of what you did.

In particular, you need to look for the places where you took initiative, innovated, generated, designed, or started something. The places where your contribution added something beyond the status quo. If you look for those places where your work added something new to the equation, no matter how insignificant that contribution might seem, THEN you will be showing the reader that you are truly a leader and not just relying on lazy buzzwords.

More verbs to avoid as the first verb in the bullet

  • Assisted
  • Chosen to…
  • Responsible for… (NOT A VERB!! If you have this on your resume, read THIS now!! It's an emergency.)
  • Selected to…
  • Supported

Those verbs are too passive and imprecise.

These are the real leader verbs

  • Activated
  • Conceived
  • Conducted
  • Coordinated
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Devised
  • Directed
  • Established
  • Founded
  • Generated
  • Improved
  • Initiated
  • Innovated
  • Instigated
  • Instituted
  • Introduced
  • Invented
  • Launched
  • Orchestrated
  • Organized
  • Originated
  • Pioneered
  • Produced
  • Spearheaded
  • Started

These are true leader verbs – ones that describe the actions of a leader. If you can accurately capture your actions using one or more of these verbs, then you’re a leader alright. 😊

Strive to choose powerful vivid verbs for your resume. You will be helping the reader understand the exact kind of results-producing leader you are.

Download one of our free MBA Resume templates below. Since the most recent experience should come first so that it’s easy for the reader to follow chronologically, click on the appropriate image below to download your resume template.

Feel free to take these templates and use them to build your own perfect resume. And if you haven’t already, please check out the MBA Resume Protocol.

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

All Posts

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, March 2024)

Read More

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, February 2024)

Read More

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, January 2024)

Read More