Quotes on Leadership

For many years, I have been collecting quotes that apply to leadership and business. In a series of blogs, I will be sharing some of the quotes that I have collected. Please feel free to use them to pepper your speeches, conversations or presentations. If you have good quotes that I have not included, please share them. Also note that the sources of some quotes are not named, I have forgotten where I got the quotes from and must apologize. If you must have a source for a quote that you want to use, just credit it to either Winston Churchill or Mark Twain. They both said a whole bunch of clever quotes about nearly everything throughout their lives. In addition, quoting good old Winston or Mr. Twain always sounds impressive.

General Quotes on Leadership

  1. “A leader is an individual who can consistently cause others to win”
  2. “As a leader, it is important to do the right thing and to be seen doing the right thing.” Hank Paulson
  3. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren Bennis
  4. “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” Stephen Covey
  5. “There is a real difference between managing and leading. Managing winds up being the allocation of resources against tasks. Leadership focuses on people. My definition of a leader is someone who helps people succeed.” Carol Bartz (CEO, Autodesk and Yahoo!)
  6. “Managers are people who do things right; leaders are people who do the right thing.” Warren Bennis
  7. “You lead and empower people. You manage and control things.” Stephen Covey
  8. A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”  Arnold H. Glasgow
  9. “The job of the leader is to do the job of leadership appropriate for the time and situation that you are in.” Jeff Immelt
  10. “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. Example is leadership.” Albert Schweitzer
  11. “He that gives good advice builds with one hand. He that gives good counsel and example builds with both. But he that gives good thoughts and bad example builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.” Francis Bacon
  12. “We judge ourselves by our intentions; others judge us by our actions.”
  13. “As a leader, you get the people you deserve. Great people want to work for great leaders.” Brad Sugars
  14. “The key element of leadership is not just making decisions, but drawing out the strengths of your group.” Dan Nyce
  15. “If you are a leader, lives should be better because of the influence you have had.” Tony Dungy
  16. “As a leader, don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.” Clayton Christensen
  17. “The lessons for leaders: Your job is to provide resources and support that build the confidence of players in themselves, each other, the team, and the excellence of the surrounding system. Ethics, fair play, mentoring, smooth transitions, continuity, and collaboration should not be luxuries or lip service; they create the margin of victory.” Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  18. “Being powerful is like being a lady; if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Margaret Thatcher




Quotes on the Characteristics Required of a Leader

  1. “See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.”   Pope John XXIII
  2. “The great leader speaks little. He never speaks carelessly. He works without self-interest and leaves no trace. When all is finished, the people say: ‘We did it ourselves.'” Lao-tzu
  3. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller
  4. “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
  5. “Like all great leaders, he was truly disciplined.” It’s Your Ship
  6. “Nothing great was every accomplished without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  7. “To possess self-confidence and humility at the same time is called maturity.” Jack Welch
  8. “Empowerment means freedom to do the right things rather than what someone feels like doing.”
  9. “He that questions much shall learn much.” Francis Bacon
  10. “You add value to people when you value them.” John Maxwell
  11. “Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.” Brian Adams – Author
  12. “Leaders need courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else [the success of the company] is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon
  13. “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” Tim Ferriss
  14. “Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal.” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
  15. “If they hope to be CEOs or heads of strategic business units, the ability to take multiple perspectives on the same problem will be critical for their success.” Larry Stybel
  16. “The key to leadership is self-control: primarily, the mastery of pride, which is more difficult to subdue than a wild lion (“If you cannot swallow your pride, you cannot lead.”); secondarily, the mastery of anger, which is more difficult to defeat than the greatest wrestler.” Genghis Khan
  17. “Principled leaders make a difference in the world. To be a principled leader, a person must have many skills and qualities, including the highest standards of integrity, sound judgment, and a strong moral compass – an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong.” Kim Clark, HBS
  18. “To be a success, you need a reasonable degree of intelligence, a strong work ethic, the ability to get along with others, a desire to build something important, and the ability to keep one’s ego in check.” David Rubenstein
  19. “He that would govern others first should be master of himself.” Philip Massinger
  20. “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
  21. “To lead in the 21st century, you will be required to have both character and competence.” Norman Schwarzkopf
  22. “Leadership without the discipline of execution is incomplete and ineffective. Without the ability to execute, all other attributes of leadership become hollow.” Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy


…And Quotes on Characteristics a Leader Should Avoid

  1. “Whom the Gods want to destroy, they first make angry.” Ancient Greek Saying
  2. “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it stands than to anything on which it is poured.” Mahatma Ghandi
  3. “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman, Physicist
  4. “A prince who is not himself wise cannot be well advised.” Machiavelli
  5. “Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you.” Lao Tzu
  6. “90% of all leadership failures are character failures.”

About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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