Writing a Manifesto | How To

How to Write a Manifesto, with Manifesto Writing Examples

James D. Ludema & Amber A. Johnson Change, Leadership, Values-Driven Leaders 57 Comments

Writing a manifesto doesn’t have to be reserved for life-changing events. Learn how to write a manifesto or aspirational statement for your current project, and see how it shifts your thinking and jumpstarts your strategy.

Writing a Manifesto | How To

Manifestos are public declarations of your intention around a topic or idea. We often think of them as weighty subjects, reserved for politics or life-changing decisions. But in our consulting work we teach executives to write manifestos for the projects they lead. Sometimes we call them aspirational statements, or provocative propositions. You can choose the language that’s comfortable for you. Regardless, the manifesto format can be simple and doesn’t have to take long to write. We think you’ll find the results will ripple through your organization.

Here’s how to write a manifesto for your initiatives, and some samples we find compelling and inspiring.

Editor’s note: To our surprise, this article has become one of our most read. We’re glad so many people find it useful. Please note, however, that we are unable to provide individual advice on drafting manifestos. If you are interested in our consulting services, please see Programs > Consulting.

How to Write a Manifesto: Characteristics of a Manifesto

Manifestos are most compelling when they are written in the present tense, as if though the desired outcome is already happening. We find the best manifestos have three characteristics:

  • They are provocative.
    Manifestos are powerful because they interrupt the status quo. The language of your manifesto or aspirational statement should stretch and challenge what currently exists. This is why we sometimes call manifestos “provocative propositions.”
  • They are grounded.
    At the same time, manifestos cannot be fanciful. They have to be grounded in reality and built upon the strengths of the people, team or product they advance.
  • They are really desired.
    Finally, manifestos generate results when they reflect something that is truly desired. It’s no use to write a manifesto for something that doesn’t excite emotion or meet a real need. A manifesto is meant to motivate; motivation begins with desire.

How to Write a Manifesto: Four Steps to Your First Draft

With the three characteristics (above) in mind, it’s now time to write a first draft of your manifesto. Manifesto formats vary and there is no set length. As you’ll see from the examples we provide below, powerful statements can be quite short. (Sometimes that’s even better, as shorter explanations are more memorable.)

Consider gathering a few colleagues to join you in writing a manifesto: working together to draft your statement will likely lead to stronger content, and will cement each participant’s commitment to the goal you espouse. Whether working in a group or alone, follow these steps:

  1. First, hold a brainstorming session to identify what you truly want. If working in a group, we recommend writing your project’s name on a flip chart paper hung on the wall, then giving each participant a stack of Post It Notes. Write individual ideas on your sticky note, and hang them on the flip chart paper. Continue for 15 minutes or more, until the paper is covered in ideas.If working alone, you can brainstorm on a notepad or on your computer. However, we recommend trying the Post It Note approach even when working individually – you’ll see why in the next step.
  2. Next, identify the most compelling and desired aspects of the future you want.Some of the ideas you brainstormed will seem more powerful, more inspirational, or more visionary than the others. Rearrange the Post It Notes to group those ideas together. Think of these items as the key “ingredients” you would like to see represented in the manifesto for your initiative.Once you’ve rearranged the ideas, ask these questions: Are they provocative? Grounded? Desired? Revise accordingly.(At this point, you can remove all the Post It Notes that didn’t make the final cut, but don’t throw them away. They can be a great resource for next-level thinking for the initiative.)
  3. Now, create a first draft of your manifesto or aspirational statement. Try to write two or three killer sentences that really capture the concept, rather than pages of text that outlines it in details. As you write, revisit the characteristics to make sure your language is provocative, grounded, and desired. Draft your sentences in the present tense, as if it were already happening.
  4. Test, revise, and publicize your manifesto.Finally, you need to review your manifesto and make sure it’s right before taking it to the public. This final step can be a few minutes long, or can take place over months, depending on the scope of your project.To test your manifesto, share it with others and ask for their reactions. Does it compel and inspire? Does it challenge the status quo? Could the language be more evocative or engaging? Does it reflect a real desire that others share?Take the feedback you receive from others and revise the manifesto to make it stronger.

    Then, take the statement to the public. After all, a manifesto is (by definition) a public declaration. Find the right channels to Publicize your manifesto based on the focus and scope of your initiative. It might be a simple as writing the statement on a flip chart paper and hanging it in a conference room; emailing it to project team members; or putting it at the top of all your planning documents. For bigger initiatives, you can make your public declaration on your website, through social media, or as an announcement to the press or at a public event.

    Why is publicizing your manifesto important? Doing so serves several purposes: it cements your intention and creates accountability for project leaders and participants; it build excitement and energy for the initiative; it creates awareness with your audience, who can show their support for your ideas or cause; and the conversations that occur are an important spark in making the future you want a reality.

How to Write a Manifesto: Manifesto Writing Examples

Does the idea of writing a manifesto still seem too daunting? The following examples may share how simple the process, and outcome can be. In each case, the relatively simple language and concepts resulted in powerful changes for the individual or organization.

Manifesto Example 1: Setting a New Personal Direction

In this example, a senior leader wanted to work toward becoming a more positive influence in her professional and personal life. She followed a similar process as outlined above to write a manifesto that reflected who she wanted to become. As you read the short statement below, consider how the individual used the present tense:

I am a mold-breaker. Each day at work, I help my colleagues raise their horizon by asking positively powerful questions that inspire and point us toward a better future. I turn negativity into inspiring dreams for the future and then equip my team with the resources they need to get the job done. At home, I support my family through a belief in the best of who they are. My kids know they are deeply loved; my spouse feels appreciated every day – I know his strengths, I see the best in him, I am eager to live out the future we’ve designed together.

Manifesto Example 2: Creating a New Organization

This example looks at a broader challenge: launching a significant new program through our Center.We’re happy to announce that several months after this was written, the program it envisions is now a reality!

In this case, our team wrote the manifesto with very specific goals in mind. As you read, consider how the new vision is established on the strengths the organization has exhibited in the past.

We are changing the way business is done and the way leadership is taught in business schools around the country and around the world, all from a values-driven perspective. Our Master of Science in Values-Driven Leadership (MSVDL) Program is the newest example of how our center makes innovative, values-driven leadership education accessible to business leaders. The program is a digital-gaming-based program, benchmarked against the world’s best leadership programs. It is tailored for managers and executives, offered in multiple formats, and has a modular, stackable design so it can be used with companies in executive education. 

Manifesto Example 3: Defining What We Mean By Our Corporate Values

In our final example, we share how manifestos can be used to define corporate values. This example comes from a regional non-profit who wanted their diverse workforce to have a shared understanding of the seven core values the organization identified. Team members used a process similar to the one outlined above to create short statements for each value. Here we share an example that was offered to the participants. As you read it, consider how it is short but compelling, and how it challenges team members to think differently about their work.

Core Value: Creativity
We live and breathe creativity: we find creative solutions to problems, bring new ideas to familiar programs, and celebrate the unique and colorful people with whom we work.

Why Manifestos Matter

We often use the phrase “words create worlds” to describe a phenomena we’ve observed: once groups get the right language around a project or initiative, the strategy, planning, and execution of that initiative becomes much easier. The words (in this case, your manifesto) created the world (your initiative). Manifestos help clarify what you really want; they align team members and inspire action; they empower and elevate.

You can find more about writing a manifesto at this link. Tell us about your own experience in the comments section, or by emailing info@cvdl.org.


Authors Jim Ludema, Ph.D., and Amber Johnson teach manifesto writing as part of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership’s Appreciative Inquiry Executive Workshop Series. Jim is the co-founder and director of the Center and a professor of global leadership. Amber is the Center’s chief communications officer and senior research associate.

Comments 57

  1. My daughter wants to be a health prefect in her school, so she wants a manifesto example.

  2. My daughter wants to be a health prefect in her school,so she needs a manifesto example

  3. Am aspiring for hostel rep in my school and I need a sample of manifesto use

  4. I want to write a manifesto for the post of Nigerian President ,so please help.

  5. I want to write a manifesto for the post of Nigerian President, so I need your help

  6. My Professional Manifesto:
    I believe in the practice of continual improvement, both personally and professionally, in and out of the office. I believe the most valuable asset I offer to any corporation or business as an employee is my enthusiasm for and natural ability to learn easily. With the rapidly changing climate of technology and business, I believe employers should be looking for employees with the ability and tenacity to be able to “figure things out and adapt” vs. the old mindset of what “tangible skills” they bring to the table.
    If find the right “mind,” they’ll learn the necessary skills to become successful in any position. Find the right personality and they will develop and adapt with the company’s growth and changing needs, and they will direct and inspire others to act and behave the same way. If you find someone with BOTH the right mind and personality, they will bring you more value for your dollar than the combination of 3 employees, MBAs or not, who’s skills are fabulous but personalities and mindsets leave something to be desired.
    I believe, I am that person. But, Don’t take my word for it, check my references, talk to people that know me. More importantly, Am I the RIGHT person for YOUR organization specifically? Is YOUR organization RIGHT for ME? Let’s talk and find out.

  7. Please tell me a manifesto for my school elections as a school minister and also the developments i can make.

  8. i want to contest for education and sports minister in an institution in Uganda,
    help me develop a manifesto
    Herman Makanga

  9. I want to write a manifesto for the post of ministerial position in my country, I need your help for a sample

  10. I want to write a manifesto. Aspiring for Agriculture college student union ACSU Prefect

  11. I am vying for a post as the girls prefect in my school can you please help me with a manifesto?

  12. Running for the post of Academics prefect. Know what I want to say, but I don’t want to make it sound like a lecture and I want to relate to the audience. Please help me out.

  13. I want to write a manifesto for the public relations officer in a nursing institution,please help

  14. Aspiring for the general secretary of student representative council please help me write my manifesto

  15. A personal manifesto is a declaration of your core values. It’s like a mission statement and owner’s manual for your life, so don’t let it sit in a drawer or a file you never open on your computer. Hang it over your workspace, put it on the fridge, make it your desktop background, or print it on a laminated card you keep in your wallet: the idea is to read your manifesto regularly to reaffirm those values and remind you of your goals.

    thank you

  16. Please am contesting for Financial secretary position in Student representative council, plz i need help in my manifesto writing. Thank u

  17. Good way of telling, and pleasant article to take information on the topic of
    my presentation focus, which i am going to present in institution of higher education.

  18. A personal manifesto is a declaration of your core values. It’s like a mission statement and owner’s manual for your life, so don’t let it sit in a drawer or a file you never open on your computer. Hang it over your workspace, put it on the fridge, make it your desktop background, or print it on a laminated card you keep in your wallet: the idea is to read your manifesto regularly to reaffirm those values and remind you of your goals.

    thank you

  19. My sister want to write a manifesto for a girls prefect how will she write it

  20. I want to write a manifesto to become a chairman in a vocational association… Please kindly help me.

  21. Good day Team,
    Trust your day is fruitful.
    My daughter has be selected to be voted for the position of HEALTH PREFECT in her school.
    Kindly assist with a manifesto as health prefect.
    She needs it urgently.
    God bless you.

  22. am contesting the position of the 2nd vice chair in my organization to kindly assist me to write a manifesto that effect .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *