How to Write a Meaningful Manifesto in Five Steps

Marcia Kent Culture, Leadership 21 Comments

Manifesto screen shotHave you ever wondered what makes a manifesto meaningful? How do you make it memorable? Why are some so compelling that it creates a call to action?

I remember the energy that Jerry Maguire poured into his manifesto, which was a game changer! One of my favorites is the Holstee Manifesto on “Life”. Every time I read it, I get inspired, take notice, and make conscious choices. It’s that powerful.

Manifestos are used by political parties, clubs, organizations and individuals to create action. A manifesto is defined as a public declaration or statement of ideas and intentions. Wikipedia’s definition adds that a manifesto is created through consensus and “promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions” for agreed upon behaviors.


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.


At the heart of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership‘s program is the tenet that what people do and what people think matters. This program brings together executives, entrepreneurs and forward thinkers in leadership and organizational development to create a unique learning environment. So it came as no surprise that our faculty would be true to their values on collaboration and charge us with the task of creating a manifesto for our cohort of executive doctoral students.

We worked in small groups and came up with ideas for our manifesto and then shared them with the group at large. A member of the faculty facilitated the discussion while another member wrote down our ideas on a white board. A few students volunteered to create a manifesto based on the collection of ideas. Once created, the manifesto was sent to the entire class to review and provide input. Every person in our class had an active role in the process.

Our experience offers a model for developing your own manifesto. Here are 5 steps for creating a meaningful manifesto that reflects your beliefs, values, and sage wisdom.

  1. Have a Meaningful Concept.

A sure way to get a clear concept about your manifesto is to start with meaningful questions.

  • What do you want your legacy (as an individual, group or organization) to be?
  • What gives your life purpose and meaning?
  • What types of actions are aligned with your values?
  • How do you want to show up in the world?
  • What do you want to accomplish in your life?
  • What are you willing to do to achieve those accomplishments?

The answers to those questions are the stuff that manifestos are made of! They are thought provoking and get to the heart of the matter. Those answers will help you clarify the main concept of your manifesto.

Listen to your heart, and invite your trusted teammates into the process as well. Think about what you know to be true based on your values and life experiences. That is where you can start to get clarity on the concept of your manifesto. 

  1. Create Inspiration.

In his famous speech that inspired hundreds of thousands, Martin Luther King Jr., said, “I have a dream.” He said it with emotion, with conviction and with purpose. He did not say, “I have a strategic plan.” If he had, it probably would not have moved people in the same way.

Use words that elicit imagination and create a sense of action. Find words that encourage people to dig deeper, connect with their aspirations and play with their passion. Select words that cause one to pause and think for a moment about the legacy they want to create. Consider metaphors, alliteration, or other poetic language.

Sometimes the best way to create inspiration is to go out and get inspired. Browse through a book of inspiring quotes. Watch an inspiring movie. Think about people you admire and respect. Check out Foundation for a Better Life for inspiring stories. The bottom line is you need to find words that lift one’s spirits, engage the heart and emotionally move you. Seek out words and phrases that make you want to lean in so your higher self can make values-driven and conscious choices.

  1. Be Concise.

Less is more. When writing a manifesto use words that are strong, bold and fierce. Get straight to the point. Be provocative with your grammar.

A well written manifesto is crisp and sharp. The focus is clear and there is exactness in the intention. The meaning and purpose are unmistakable.

If you have statements with too many words, ask yourself what is the most compelling part of the message? What do want I to have stand out? Once that has been indentified, let go of any extra words that are not essential to the core.

  1. Build Consensus.

If you are planning to use this document for your team, be sure to get their input. Plan time for a brainstorming session and get ideas from everyone. Ask people to think about the core values and behaviors they want reflected in their manifesto. Be sure to follow up with a final draft and ask for their input again.

  1. Create a Community and Spark a Connection.

Share your manifesto with people as a way to create a connection to it. Build a community around it and give people permission to support one another in living up to it.

Think of your manifesto as a blue print that will allow you and your team to build something spectacular! Make sure it includes all the required “construction specifications.” Your community has a team of talented and dedicated people: surveyors, engineers, architects, artisans, builders and quality assurance inspectors. You want them all to feel connected to the project which means they all need to have a copy of the blue print.

Display your manifesto where members of your community can see it. Place it somewhere that inspires you to live it. Think of it as a living document. Treat it with respect and reverence. Use it as a guidepost to help lead the way during difficult times and challenging circumstances. As with any building project, you can anticipate there will be challenges with resources, time lines, compliance, environmental factors and changes!

Manifestos Inspire Action

On the CVDL website, www.cvdl.org, I saw an intriguing invitation that asked if I wanted to “shape the global conversation about values-driven leadership and responsible business.” Those words read like a meaningful manifesto and catapulted me into action. I applied to the doctoral program the very same day! I said “YES” I want to be a part of the conversation. I am delighted to share I was accepted into the program and am now a proud member of the 3rd Cohort of Benedictine’s doctoral program in Values-Driven Leadership and Organizational Change.

As a group, we spent a considerable amount of time during our orientation weekend thinking about the values and the behaviors we wanted to highlight in our manifesto. We wanted the “terms of engagement” to help guide us in our journey towards the attainment of our doctorate degrees. I think we would all agree it was time well spent and has created our unique blue print for creating something spectacular in a way that is meaningful and reflected of our values.

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Kent thumbnailMarcia Kent is the president of BizPsych and a student in the Ph.D. program in values-driven leadership. She has a passion for words that begin with the letter “C” and serves on the Cohort 3 Manifesto Committee!

Comments 21

  1. Hi! I’m doing a manifesto as a candidate in kenya’s 2017 elections and find this very insightful.Thank you.

  2. Value – driven leadership has always been passionate to me. I always consider how attitudinal change in the workplace contributes to goal achievement and efficiency. At the moment I’m writing a manifesto that reflects this passion and found this five steps helpful. Continue the good work.

  3. Very beautiful and inspiring presentation. I am proud to associate with you and as an economic planning officer, of 35 experience years, I look forward to future communication and interaction with your varsity.

  4. Awesome piece and great work with examples for starter like me, you it seem really easy and guided me on how to go about. thank you.

  5. Good work
    I don’t still know why am still facing difficulty in constructing a good manifesto.
    But I will be very happy if you can help me out

  6. Good work
    I don’t still know why am still facing difficulty in constructing a good manifesto.
    But I will be very happy if you can help me out.
    Thank You

  7. Can you please help with a Manifesto for the position of the Public Relation Officer of a Banker association

  8. the five steps have really helped me write my manifesto. it has been so simplified to a point where manifesto writing seem so simple and straight forward. thank you

  9. Am aspiring for the post of genera secretary of my department in my school
    And I find this steps helpful

  10. I’m vying for the office of director of welfare in my school…….. How do I prepare the manifesto??

  11. Great post! I enjoy reading. I am very happy that I have a chance to read such an informative post of Write a Meaningful Manifesto in Five Steps Tips. Hopefully, I’ll get more informative posts about writing tips from you in the future. Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. Very inspiring.
    Do you by any means have a template for the manifesto for an aspiring Governor of a State?
    I would like to adopt one if you can help.
    Thank you.

  13. Wonderful tips. Hope I’m gonna benefit more and they are gonna guide me in the guild presidential election come 2019.

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