Leadership Quotes

I hope you enjoy this vast collection of leadership quotes from presidents, military leaders, CEOs, and other famous people.

Leadership Quotes Index

About Leadership
Bad Leaders
Boss vs. Leader
Great Leaders
Importance of Leaders
Leaders and Followers
Leadership Advice
Leadership Defined
Leadership is NOT…

About Leadership

"Leadership is action, not position."
~ Donald H. McGannon

"The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes."
~ Tony Blair

"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

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
~ John Quincy Adams

"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

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"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been."
~ Henry Kissinger

"The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there."
~ John Buchan

"Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned."
~ Harold Geneen

"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

"Speak Softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
~ Jack Welch

"One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency."
~ Arnold Glasow

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Bad Leaders

"A leader who doesn't hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader."
~ Golda Meir

"Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish."
~ Anne Bradstreet

"Management is nothing more than motivating other people."
~ Lee Iacocca

"The power is detested, and miserable the life, of him who wishes to be feared rather than to be loved."
~ Cornelius Nepos

"Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry."
~ Winston Churchill

"Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others may receive your orders without being humiliated."
~ Dag Hammarskjöld

"He makes a great mistake ... who supposes that authority is firmer or better established when it is founded by force than that which is welded by affection."
~ Terence

"Leadership is difficult but it is not complex."
~ Michael McKinney

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Boss vs. Leader

"Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says 'Go!' - a leader says 'Let's go!'"
~ E.M. Kelly

"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

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"Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave."
~ Henry Peter Brougham, The Present State of Law, 1828

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Great Leaders

"Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders."
~ Tom Peters

"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

"The real leader has no need to lead - he is content to point the way."
~ Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart

"A leader leads by example not by Force."
~ Sun Tzu

"Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow."
~ Vince Lombardi

"I praise loudly, I blame softly."
~ Catherine the Great

"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

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"Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves."
~ Lao Tzu

"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership."
~ John Kenneth Galbraith

"Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and of tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them. What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away."
~ Admiral James B. Stockdale

"Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand."
~ General Colin Powell

"The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership."
~ Jim Loehr

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"You will never see kids playing follow the manager."
~ Bill Rinko-Gay

"There go the people.I must follow them for I am their leader."
~ Alexandre Ledru-Rollin

"The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it."
~ Elaine Agather

"We have great managers who haven't spent a day in management school. Do we have great surgeons that haven't spent a day in surgical school? "
~ Henry Mintzberg

"Look over your shoulder now and then to be sure someone's following you."
~ Henry Gilmer

"As a leader, you're probably not doing a good job unless your employees can do a good impression of you when you're not around."
~ Patrick Lencioni

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Importance of Leaders

"Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity."
~ Paul R. Lawrence, Driven To Lead

"The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."
~ Ralph Nader

"The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership."
~ Harvey S. Firestone

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"You can't lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself."
~ Gene Mauch

"You don't have to hold a position in order to be a leader."
~ Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

"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

"One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you."
~ Dennis A. Peer

"I suppose that leadership at one time meant muscle; but today it means getting along with people."
~ Indira Gandhi

"There is a significant difference between a leader and a cheerleader."
~ Author Unknown

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"No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent."
~ Abraham Lincoln

"To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

"No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings."
~ Peter Drucker

"Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."
~ Stephen R. Covey

"The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority."
~ Kenneth Blanchard

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"Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Leaders and Followers

"More than anything else today, followers believe they are part of a system, a process that lacks heart. If there is one thing a leader can do to connect with followers at a human, or better still a spiritual level, it is to become engaged with them fully, to share experiences and emotions, and to set aside the processes of leadership we have learned by rote."
~ Lance Secretan, Industry Week, October 12, 1998

"A man is only a leader when a follower stands beside him."
~ Mark Brouwer

"In this world a man must either be an anvil or hammer."
~ Henry W. Longfellow

"The best is he who calls men to the best. And those who heed the call are also blessed. But worthless who call not, heed not, but rest."
~ Hesiod8th Century BC Greek poet

"I am reminded how hollow the label of leadership sometimes is and how heroic followership can be."
~ Warren Bennis

"The led must not be compelled; they must be able to choose their own leader."
~ Albert Einstein

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Leadership Advice

"Four rules of leadership in a free legislative body:

First, no matter how hard-fought the issue, never get personal. Don't say or do anything that may come back to haunt you on another issue, another day....

Second, do your homework. You can't lead without knowing what you're talking about....

Third, the American legislative process is one of give and take. Use your power as a leader to persuade, not intimidate....

Fourth, be considerate of the needs of your colleagues, even if they're at the bottom of the totem pole...."
~ George Bush, Former President of the United States

"Lead and inspire people. Don't try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead."
~ Ross Perot

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."
~ Albert Schweitzer

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
~ George Patton

"A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward."
~ Ovid

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"What you cannot enforce / Do not command."
~ Sophocles

"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

"Never give an order that can't be obeyed."
~ General Douglas MacArthur

"Now there are five matters to which a general must pay strict heed. The first of these is administration; the second, preparedness; the third, determination; the fourth, prudence; and the fifth, economy."
~ Wu Ch'i (430-381 BC)

"He who has great power should use it lightly."
~ Seneca

"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, Industry Week, October 12, 1998

"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy."
~ Norman Schwarzkopf

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Leadership Defined

"Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them."
~ Robert Jarvik

"A leader is a dealer in hope."
~ Napoleon Bonaparte, attributed

"Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Leadership is intentional influence."
~ Michael McKinney

"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 getting people to work for you when they are not obligated."
~ Fred Smith

"My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence."
~ General Montgomery

"Leaders conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts."
~ John Gardner

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Leadership is NOT…

"Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not "making friends and influencing people", that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."
~ Peter F. Drucker

"You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That's assault, not leadership."
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers."
~ Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Visa

"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

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"If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny."
~ Dee Hock

"I am more afraid of an army of one hundred sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep."
~ Charles Maurice, Prince de Talleyrand-Périgord

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"It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself."
~ Latin Proverb

"Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow."Chinese Proverb

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