Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the International Bestseller Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder

© 2016 Richard Louv

Original website by Juxtaprose | Developed by Hop Studios | author photo by Eric B. Dynowski

From the Blog

15 Characteristics of Leadership Writing

A few years ago, I worked with a national awards program called Leadership for a Changing World. Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, it honored grassroots leaders who were making life better in communities of hardship and possibility. That program continued as an initiative of New York University|Wagner. Curiously, these inspiring people did not think of themselves as leaders. But surely they practiced the kind of leadership we need most.

My job was to advise the award-winners on how to best frame and communicate their issues. As part of that work, I put together a list of characteristics of what I considered Leadership Writing. In 2018, these principles may seem archaic, even naive, but I continue to believe in their effectiveness and practice them. I hope these 15 principles are useful to you. Also, as you read the work of journalists, columnists, bloggers—or listen to the speeches of politicians—ask yourself if they exhibit these traits. My favorite leaders do.

Leadership Writing ....

  1. Paints a picture of a world people will want to go to.
  2. Consists of one third complaint, two-thirds solution.
  3. Builds bridges rather than calling names.
  4. Compares and contrasts in a respectful way.
  5. Kills jargon.
  6. Appeals to higher values shared by the opposition.
  7. Offers contrarian, unexpected points of view.
  8. Undermines stereotypes, reaches beyond the writer’s own culture.
  9. Anticipates unintended consequences.
  10. Avoids over-reliance on the “importance” of the issue. (Every issue is “important.”)
  11. Looks for the simplifying model.
  12. Helps people see what they already know but cannot picture.
  13. Uses humor whenever possible.
  14. Serves as an antidote to cultural depression.
  15. Offers accurate hope, because there is no practical alternative.


Richard Louv is the author of “The Nature Principle,“Last Child in the Woods,” and other books about the human-nature connection. Among his other roles, he is chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network and a board director of ecoAmerica, a nonprofit building a broader base of support for climate change action. Kids on Ridge photo credit: R.L.

More writing and resources:

Dear Virginia: On Writing
Writers on Writing: A collection of quotes that inspire me
The Lady Across the Lake: How nature stimulates creativity and community
The Hybrid Mind
Are You a Leader?

Next post: The Work of Children & Nature Network

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As an environmental wellness writer, these are excellent guideposts toward positive writing, as we aim to support our children into becoming environmentally responsible leaders themselves. Thank you for the valuable counsel - I am printing these out and tacking them up for reference!

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