By December 7, 2011 Read More →

Leadership Quotes

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This is my collection of leadership quotes drawing from John Maxwell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sun Tzu, and more.   It’s wisdom of the ages and modern sages, all focused on the topic of leadership.  Use these quotes to add to your own repertoire of leadership knowledge.

When you think of your favorite leaders, what words come to mind?   Some of the words I think of are courage, compassion, connection, and conviction.  I also think of heart, hope, encouragement, inspiration, and optimism.  I also think of accountability, self-awareness, learning and growth.  These are the words I used to organize my leadership quotes.

(Note — If you’re looking more insight on personal leadership, check out my book on Getting Results the Agile Way!  It helps you think, feel, and be your best.)

The Art of Leadership

There are many lessons we can learn on the art of leadership, but some of the most important I think are start with heart, lead by example, lead yourself first, focus on the greater good, know when to follow, don’t ask people to do what you wouldn’t do yourself, and balance connection with conviction.

For me, to put it simply, I think effective leaders bring out the best in people.

Read on to explore leadership in depth from a variety of people and perspectives.

Top 10 Leadership Quotes

  1. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” –  John C. Maxwell
  2. “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” – Anonymous
  3. “All Leadership is influence.” — John C. Maxwell
  4. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” — General George Patton
  6. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis
  7. “Managers help people see themselves as they are; Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are.” — Jim Rohn
  8. “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes.  It is very easy to say yes.” — Tony Blair
  9. “The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill
  10. “When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.” — Lao Tzu

A Leader Is …

  • “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” — Robert Townsend
  • “A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” — David R. Gergen
  • “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” — Lao Tzu
  • “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” — Leroy Eimes

Boldness and Courage

  • “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” — William Shedo
  • Boldness, more boldness, and always boldness!” — George Jacques Danton
  • “Courage is the enforcing virtue, the one that makes possible all the other virtues common
    to exceptional leaders: honesty, integrity, confidence, compassion and humility.”
    — John McCain
  • Leaders make decisions that create the future they desire.” — Mike Murdock
  • “Rely on your own strength of body and soul. Take for your star self-reliance, faith, honesty and industry. Don’t take too much advice — keep at the helm and steer your own ship, and remember that the great art of commanding is to take a fair share of the work. Fire above the mark you intend to hit. Energy, invincible determination with the right motive, are the levers that move the world.” — Noah Porter
  • “The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.” — Faye Wattleton

Challenges and Difficulty

  • “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” — Publilius Syrus
  • “Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Confront issues and challenges – not each Other.” — Suzanne Mayo Frindt
  • “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” — Winston Churchill
  • “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing.  The worst thing you can do is nothing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” — Vince Lombardi
  • “Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” — Warren Bennis
  • “Misfortunes, untoward events, lay open, disclose the skill of a general, while success conceals his weakness, his weak points.” – Horace
  • “One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” — Arnold H. Glasgow
  • People who let events and circumstances dictate their lives are living reactively. That means that they don’t act on life, they only react to it.” — Stedman Graham
  • “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which have been overcome while trying to succeed.” — Booker T. Washington
  • “The hallmark of a well-managed organization is not the absence of problems, but whether or not problems are effectively resolved.” — Steve Ventura
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Character

  • “Character creates consistency, and if your people know what they can expect from you, they will continue to look to you for leadership.” — John Maxwell
  • “Character makes trust possible, and trust is the foundation of leadership.” — John Maxwell
  • “I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.” — Stephen R. Covey
  • “I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.” — Lao-Tzu
  • If you have no character to lose, people will have no faith in you.” — Mahatma Gandhi
  • “It’s true that charisma can make a person stand out for a moment, but character sets a person apart for a lifetime.” — John Maxwell
  • “Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character; it requires moral rather than athletic or intellectual effort, and it imposes on both leader and follower alike the burdens of self-restraint.” — Lewis H. Lapham
  • “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” — Norman Schwarzkopf
  • “Over time, is it easier or harder to sustain your influence within your organization?  With charisma alone, influence becomes increasingly more difficult to sustain. With character, as time passes, influence builds and requires less work to sustain.” — John Maxwell
  • “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” — Jim Rohn
  • “The greater a man is in power above others, the more he ought to excel them in virtue. None ought to govern who is not better than the governed.” — Publius Syrus
  • “The real leader has no need to lead — he is content to point the way.” — Henry Miller
  • “The three C’s of leadership are Consideration,Caring,and Courtesy.Be polite to everyone.” — Brian Tracy

Communication

  • “Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicate excellence.” – John Maxwell
  • “Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.” – John Maxwell
  • “Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.” – John Maxwell
  • “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” — General Colin Powel
  • “Leadership is about magnetic communication. Leaders have a way of communicating that draws people toward the vision and the horizon.” — Doug Firebaugh
  • “Persuasive communication involves enthusiasm, animation, audience participation, authenticity and spontaneity.” — John Maxwell
  • Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” — Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Take the emotional temperature of those listening to you. Facial expressions, voice inflection and posture give clues to a person’s mood and attitude.” – John Maxwell
  • “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and will to carry on.” — Walter J. Lippmann

Connection

  • “A big man is one who makes us feel bigger when we are with him.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “A good leader can’t get too far ahead of his followers.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” –  John Maxwell
  • “As a leader you should always start with where people are before you try to take them to where you want them to go.” — Jim Rohn
  • “I light my candle from their torches.” — Robert Burton
  • “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” — Indira Gandhi
  • “High sentiments always win in the end, The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.” — George Orwell
  • “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” – John Maxwell
  • “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — Colin Powell
  • “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” — Woodrow Wilson
  • “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.” — Charles de Montesquieu
  • “To lead people, walk beside them.  As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate.  When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” — Lao-Tsu

Conviction

  • “A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done.” — Ralph Nader
  • “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.” — Rosalynn Carter
  • “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” — Max Lucado
  • Consensus is the negation of leadership.” — Margaret Thatcher
  • “Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to cut all sources of retreat. Only by doing so can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win which is one of the essentials to success.” — Napoleon Hill
  • “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody.” — Herbert B. Swope
  • “If I have the belief that I can do it, I will surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning.” — Mahatma Gandhi
  • “In this world a man must either be an anvil or hammer.” — Henry W. Longfellow
  • Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise.” — Woodrow Wilson
  • “Let him who would be moved to convince others, be first moved to convince himself.” — Thomas Carlyle
  • “My leadership began to take flight when I allowed myself to press people to change—whether they thanked me or cursed me.” – John Maxwell
  • “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” — Samuel Johnson
  • With the power of conviction, there is no sacrifice.” — Jim Rohn
  • We will either find a way or make one.” – Hannibal

Credibility

  • “A highly credible leader under-promises and over-delivers.” – John Maxwell
  • Credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt.” – John Maxell
  • “Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon them and to let them know that you trust them.” — Booker T. Washington
  • “Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, ‘I’ll get a bigger job, then I’ll learn how to be a leader.’ But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.” — John Maxwell

Encouragement and Empowerment

  • “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself or herself, a leader is interested in the group.” — Russell H. Ewing
  • “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” — Marianne Williamson
  • “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates
  • “Coaching isn’t an addition to a leader’s job, it’s an integral part of it.” — George S. Odiorne
  • “I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” — Charles M. Schwab
  • “If you are going to help people reach their potential, they need to be recognised and rewarded. Everyone needs that.” — Jacqueline Norcel
  • “If you wish a general to be beaten, send him a ream full of instructions; if you wish him to succeed, give him a destination, and bid him conquer.” — Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare
  • “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” — George Patton
  • “No general can fight his battles alone. He must depend upon his lieutenants, and his success depends upon his ability to select the right man for the right place.” — Philip Armour
  • “Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise.   They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.” — Sam Walton
  • People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough that they are able to.” – John Maxwell
  • “Talented performers flock to the best and brightest leaders, and these leaders in turn lift the lids off their people and uncork the latent talent inside of them.” – John Maxwell
  • “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” — Theodore Roosevelt
  • “The people who are lifting the world onward and upward are those who encourage more than they criticize.” — Elizabeth Harrison
  • The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.” — John Buchan
  • “The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement.” — Charles Schwab
  • “There is no more noble occupation in the world than to assist another human being to help someone succeed.” — Alan Loy McGinnis
  • “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Example and Leading by Example

  • “A leader leads by example not by force.” — Sun Tzu
  • Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily;even if you had no title or position.” — Brian Tracy
  • “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.” — Albert Schweitzer
  • “I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.” — Scott Berkun
  • Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” – Proverb
  • Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” — Thomas J. Watson
  • “The older I get the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.” — Andrew Carnegie
  • “True leaders always practice the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all their actions.” — Anonymous

Fear and Failure

  • Don’t buy into the notion that mistakes can somehow be avoided. They can’t be.” – John Maxwell
  • “’Failing forward’ is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistake, and move forward in a better direction.” – John Maxwell
  • “Failure is not a one-time event; it’s how you deal with life along the way. Until you breathe your last breath, you’re still in the process, and there is still time to turn things around for the better.” – John Maxwell
  • “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” — Babe Ruth
  • “Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. “ — Robert Jarvik
  • “Seek advice, but make sure it’s from someone who has successfully handled mistakes or adversities.” – John Maxwell
  • “The leader has a clear idea of what he wants to do professionally and personally, and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures.” — Warren G. Bennis
  • “You are the only person who can label what you do a failure. Failure is subjective.” – John Maxwell

Following

  • “A man is only a leader when a follower stands beside him.” — Mark Brouwer
  • “Every leader needs to look back once in a while to make sure he has followers.” – Anonymous
  • “He that cannot obey, cannot command.” — Benjamin Franklin
  • He who has learned how to obey will know how to command.” – Solon
  • “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” – Aristotle
  • “If you want to lead, first learn how to follow.” — Rick Beneteau
  • “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” — Steve Jobs
  • Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” — Tom Peters
  • Look over your shoulder now and then to be sure someone’s following you.” — Henry Gilmer
  • One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you.” — Dennis A. Peer
  • “Take care, don’t fight, and remember: if you do not choose to lead, you will forever be led by others. Find what scares you, and do it. And you can make a difference, if you choose to do so.” — J. Michael Straczynski
  • “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader
  • “The height of ability in the least able consists in knowing how to submit to the good leadership of others.” — François de la Rochefoucauld
  • “The leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal shared by leaders and followers … Leaders, followers and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership.” — Gary Wills
  • “The led must not be compelled, they must be able to choose their own leader.” — Albert Einstein
  • “Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob.” — Oscar Wilde
  • “To lead the people, walk behind them.” — Lao-Tzu
  • “You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.” — Sam Rayburn

Heart

  • “A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward.” – Ovid
  • “Great leadership usually starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference.” — Mac Anderson
  • “He is greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.” — Henry Ward Beecher
  • “It is impossible to imagine anything which better becomes a ruler than mercy.” – Seneca
  • “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “People don’t mind being challenged to do better if they know the request is coming from a caring heart.” — Ken Blanchard
  • “The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership.” — Jim Loehr
  • “The power is detested, and miserable the life, of him who wishes to be feared rather than to be loved.” — Cornelius Nepos
  • “They may forget what you said, they may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” — Carl W. Buecher

Influence

  • “He who has great power should use it lightly.” – Seneca
  • “I strongly believe that the responsibility of leadership is to shape the debate—to practice and project the right attributes—whether in a business enterprise, in our society, and even in our religions.” — Farooq Kathwari
  • “Ill can he rule the great that cannot reach the small.” — Edmund Spenser
  • “In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people … they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.” — Ken Blanchard
  • No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” — Abraham Lincoln
  • “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” — Kenneth Blanchard
  • “There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple, and useful life.” — Booker T. Washington
  • “What makes leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.” — Harry Truman
  • “What you cannot enforce, do not command.” – Sophocles
  • “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” — Ken Kesey

Inspiration and Hope

  • “A leader is a dealer in hope.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
  • “A person, who no matter how desperate the situation, gives others hope, is a true leader.” — Daisaku Ikeda
  • “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams
  • “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization.   When that happens, people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.” — Warren Bennis
  • Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead.” — Ross Perot
  • “Nobody rises to low expectations.” — Calvin Lloyd
  • “One cannot consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar.” — Helen Keller
  • “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or to be the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton
  • We should seize every opportunity to give encouragement. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. The days are always dark enough. There is no need for us to emphasize the fact by spreading further gloom.” — George M. Adams
  • Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.” — John Maxwell

Leadership Is …

  • Leadership is action, not position.” — Donald H. McGannon
  • Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” — Vince Lombardi
  • “Leadership is getting people to help you when they are not obligated to do so.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” — Tom Landry
  • “Leadership is influence.” — John C. Maxwell
  • Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice.” — Max Depree
  • “Leadership is no longer about your position. It’s now more about your passion for excellence and making a difference.  You can lead without a title.” — Robin Sharma
  • “Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration — of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.” — Lance Secretan
  • “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” — Harold S. Geneen
  • “Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values.” — Mike Vance
  • “Leadership is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people.” — Brian Tracy
  • “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren G. Bennis
  • Leadership is the challenge to be something more than average.” — Jim Rohn

Learning and Growth

  • Confront your inadequacies and push your personal boundaries: It’s the surest way to grow, improve and expand the scope of your influence.” – John Maxwell
  • Education is the mother of leadership.” — Wendell Lewis Wilkie
  • “Every relationship in your organization will affect you one way or another.  Those who do not increase you will inevitably decrease you. “ – John Maxwell
  • It all comes down to this: If you want one year of happiness, grow grain, if you want 10 years of happiness, grow trees, if you want 100 years of happiness, grow people.” — Harvey Mackay
  • “In order to be happy, human beings must feel they are continuing to grow. Clearly, we must adopt the concept of continuous improvement as a daily principle.” — Tony Robbins
  • Leaders don’t rise to the pinnacle of success without developing the right set of attitudes and habits; they make every day a masterpiece.” – John Maxwell
  • Leaders never outgrow the need to change.” — John Maxwell
  • Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — John F. Kennedy
  • Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.” — Harold Geneen
  • “The better you are at surrounding yourself with people of high potential, the greater your chance for success.” – John Maxwell
  • “The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone.  You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.” — Elaine Agather
  • The more seriously you take your growth, the more seriously your people will take you.” — John Maxwell
  • “The most important part of being a leader is maintaining the desire to keep on learning. That means learning about yourself, about your peers, and about the people you serve.” — Brian Koval
  • “The most valuable “currency” of any organization is the initiative and creativity of its members. Every leader has the solemn moral responsibility to develop these to the maximum in all his people. This is the leader’s highest priority.” — W. Edwards Deming

Self-Leadership

  • “It’s amazing how many cares disappear when you decide not to be something, but to be someone. “ — Coco Chanel
  • “Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It is, rather, the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things.” — Stephen Covey
  • “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands.” — Robert M. Pirsig
  • “To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.” — Harry Truman
  • “Whatever you are, be a good one.” — Abraham Lincoln

Servant Leadership

  • “A person who is worthy of being a leader wants power not for himself, but in order to be of service.” — J. Ervin, Jr.
  • Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  • Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” — Martin Luther King Jr
  • Men are governed only by serving them; the rule is without exception.” — V. Cousin
  • “Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.” — M. Scott Peck
  • “The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of like is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give.” — William Arthur Ward
  • “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max DePree
  • “True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.” — John C. Maxwell

Teamwork

  • “Coming together is a beginning, and staying together is progress, but only when teams sweat together do they find success.” – John Maxwell
  • It is the very essence of good leadership to give away all credit for positive achievement, to identify only team goals and always to refer to them as such.” — Joe Klock
  • “Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says ‘Go!’ … a leader says ‘Let’s go!’  — E.M. Kelly
  • “Teams make you better than you are, multiply your value, enable you to do what you do best, allow you to help others do their best, give you more time, provide you with companionship, help you fulfill the desires of your heart and compound your vision and effort.” – John Maxwell
  • The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I’. They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” — Peter Drucker
  • “The goal of an effective leader is to recondition your team to be solution focused rather than problem focused.” — Jim Rohn
  • “Values hold the team together, provide stability for the team to grow upon, measure the team’s performance, give direction and guidance and attract like-minded people.” – John Maxwell

Vision

  • A leader’s job is to look into the future and see the organization, not as it is, but as it should be.” — Jack Welch
  • “All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” — Orison Swett Marden
  • “Big thinkers are specialists in creating positive, forward-looking, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others.” — David J. Schwartz
  • Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” – Goethe
  • “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” — John Welch
  • “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants.” — Isaac Newton
  • “Leaders need to be optimists.  Their vision is beyond the present.” — Rudy Giuliani
  • “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” — Stephen R. Covey
  • “The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” — Eric Hoffer
  • “The most elusive and desired quality of leadership is vision. Vision is the perfume of the mind.” — Harriet Rubin
  • The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” — Theodore M. Hesburgh
  • “Transmit your vision emotionally by gaining credibility, demonstrating passion, establishing relationships and communicating a felt need. Transmit it logically by confronting reality, formulating strategy, accepting responsibility, celebrating victory and learning from defeat.“ – John Maxwell

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Posted in: Leadership, Quotes, Success

36 Comments on "Leadership Quotes"

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  1. Alik Levin says:

    Nice!
    My favorites are:
    * “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
    * “A leader leads by example not by force.” — Sun Tzu
    * “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” — Babe Ruth
    * “He that cannot obey, cannot command.” — Benjamin Franklin
    * “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” — Tom Peters
    * “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” — Abraham Lincoln

  2. Great collection of quotes, JD! I personally love anything by John Maxwell. His leadership books were extremely influential in the early days of my leader development. I think he can sometimes be overrated in terms of businesses and modern churches, but that doesn’t make what he has to say less valid. They can just get in a rut where they don’t read anything by anything else. (Especially some churches I have associated with.)

    Also, loved this: “Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. Thanks J.D. Today I am most inspired by this one. “Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to cut all sources of retreat. Only by doing so can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win which is one of the essentials to success.” — Napoleon Hill

  4. Dia says:

    Hi JD,

    WOW, what a list you have here. You have encyclopedia of quotes ;) There are many that I love, especially this one by Ganghi
    “If you have no character to lose, people will have no faith in you.” — Mahatma Gandhi

  5. J.D.,

    You certainly went all out with this quotes list. They are all cool. This one speaks to me today.

    “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” — Lao Tzu

    We could use this kind of leadership in the world. A good leader gets folks to co-lead with him/her. I’ve started a group and I’m trying to get everyone to lead some part of our effort.

    Thanks! G.

  6. JD says:

    @ Alik — I really think vision is a distinguishing mark of effective leaders, both for thought leaders and for people leaders.

    @ Bryan — Thank you. Yes, John Maxwell has an amazing set of leadership books and an incredible set of leadership quotes. He knows how to put things in a way that’s inspirational, aspirational, and yet down to Earth.

    I like to mix it up by drawing from a wide range of sources. Variety is more than the spice of life … it’s growth.

    @ Tom — The state of mind of burning desire is a powerful one. I think it’s that very passion that inspires others to action, gives folks confidence in the face of fear, and is contagious in a good way.

    @ Dia — I love the matter of fact way Gandhi puts things, and how his words so precisely hit the mark.

    @ Giulietta — I really wanted to put a rich set of leadership quotes at our fingertips.

    That leadership quote very much reminds me of the rule that we had on our team, which was, “don’t leave a wake.” It was about influencing, staying connected, and quiet leadership.

    It’s a powerful thing when you get a team together and unleash their best. When things go well, it’s the difference between playing solo and being part of a band.

  7. What a treasure chest, J. D. It seems like Christmas this month at Sources of Insight. This one struck me as stunningly beautiful:

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  8. John Sherry says:

    What a tremendous collection on leadership and the energy of standing tall and standing up for something JD – boy, do we need leaders like never before. But the leaders don’t have to be Presidents or Kings or Prime Ministers – WE CAN ALL LEAD in our own way, in standing for our values, showing respect and support for each other, by helping and encouraging other people, and by doing it from the front with dignity and integrity, not the rear with a heckler’s voice. We are the leaders and it’s time to lead and the time is NOW. The world is ready….

  9. Shevonne says:

    These are quotes to keep with you always. Thank you so much for this great collection.

  10. Hi JD,

    My favorite quote was, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates

    That really resonates with me. I hope I can do the same for others in the writing and work I do.

    Bryce

  11. JD says:

    @ Sandra — Thank you. Yes, Christmas is in full swing ;)

    That quote is a true testament to the power of inspiration. Rather than command … inspire and empower.

    @ John — Thank you.

    I agree, we can all lead in our own way, and at our own level. The simplest place to start is to lead ourselves first, and expand from there.

    @ Shevonne — Ah, the beauty of timeless wisdom … the gift that keeps on giving.

    @ Bryce — I am a fan of empowerment (actually, the heart of Sources of Insight is personal empowerment.)

    What I think is great is how Bill Gates really did break away from the command-and-control leadership style, and used empowerment as a way to shape great change.

  12. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. “Forgiveness” – Mandela, survivors of terror ..

    Thanks – great having these up within your Great Quote tab .. cheers Hilary

  13. JD says:

    @ Hilary — Thank you.

    My goal is to put wisdom at your finger tips. I’m finding that quotes are yet another way to express the principles, patterns, and practices of timeliness insight.

  14. franilen says:

    these are so great. I need a lot of them :)

  15. Roy Sharples says:

    “Success is in the mind. You have to believe you are the best. Then make sure you are.” Bill Shankly

  16. JD says:

    @ Franilen — Thank you.

    @ Roy — So true — Belief goes a long way.

  17. Awesome collection of quotes.

    This post is the home of my browser. Start the say reading some words of advice like this is just fantastic.

    Thanks for your efforts on bringing it all together,

    Best Regards,

    Leo Todeschini

  18. Ratna Shrestha says:

    Hi JD,
    Greetings from Nepal. Thanks a lot for your great collection. Its really worth reading and very useful in personal and professional life. I strongly recommend to the leaders of my country, Nepal to go through this at least once.

    Best
    Ratna

  19. Justin Clark says:

    “A leader’s job is to make leaders of his followers”

  20. Shad says:

    Hi JD,

    This is really “Hidden treasure” Kudos!!! for this great work..When ever I goes down, your collection pulls me up!!

    Thanks for pulling me up!!

    Rgds.,
    shad

  21. Odunayo kolawole says:

    I’m so excited to be one of the reader of the leadership quote. “a leader would say let’s go”

  22. Samia Tariq says:

    Amazing collection of quotes.Really worth appreciating.Thanks alot.

  23. harshit says:

    wow nice collection….

  24. naphtalie says:

    leadership is my field.

    i really had great time reading your collection of leadership quotes.
    thank you JD.

    i only have book of LEADERSHIP GOLD – JOHN MAXWELL..who teaches me a lot as a leader..

    i just hope that their will be free books of leadership i can acquire :)

    GOD bless you.

  25. Adebayo A. Ajayi says:

    dis quote is gôod he that cannot obey,cannot command by Benjamin Franklin

  26. Frances says:

    Hi JD,
    Thanks for this exhaustive list! I like so many but my personal favorite is this one of Tom Peters, it is brief and straight to the point. “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

    Let me add one which was attributed to our home-grown ‘hero’ whose tragic death was a big loss to us, Jesse M. Robredo.

    “The most important ingredient of leadership is character. Most of the proficiencies can be learned, but what’s inside you is something that’s difficult to change.”

  27. Doms says:

    Hi JD,

    Thank you for this collection of quotes.

    “To lead the people, walk behind them.” — Lao-Tzu

  28. stuart says:

    cograturations upoon educating the world , indeed a’m encouraged to join leader ship because such inspirations