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100 Best Leadership Quotes

By Kevin on October 22, 2012 in Best Of, leadership
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A great quote can provide personal inspiration and can be used to educate others. Below are my top 100 leadership quotes of all time. (Have a favorite quote that didn’t make my list? Share it out in the comments section below!)

  1. 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
  2. Where there is no vision, the people perish. —Proverbs 29:18
  3. I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? —Benjamin Disraeli
  4. You manage things; you lead people. —Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
  5. 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
  6. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis
  7. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way. — General George Patton
  8. Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch
  9. A leader is a dealer in hope. —Napoleon Bonaparte
  10. You don’t need a title to be a leader. –Multiple Attributions
  11. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. —John Maxwell
  12. 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
  13. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. —Peter Drucker
  14. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead
  15. The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground. —Sir Winston Churchill
  16. The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. —Warren Bennis
  17. To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. —Andre Malraux
  18. He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. —Aristotle
  19. Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy
  20. I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. —Ralph Nader
  21. Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. —Peter Drucker
  22. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. —Publilius Syrus
  23. A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  24. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. —Theodore Roosevelt
  25. Leadership is influence. —John C. Maxwell
  26. 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
  27. When I give a minister an order, I leave it to him to find the means to carry it out. —Napoleon Bonaparte
  28. Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. —Harry S. Truman
  29. People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. —John Maxwell
  30. So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. —Peter Drucker
  31. The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes. —Tony Blair
  32. The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh
  33. The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. —Kenneth Blanchard
  34. A good general not only sees the way to victory; he also knows when victory is impossible. —Polybius
  35. A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. —John Maxwell
  36. 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
  37. 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
  38. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton
  39. A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. —Douglas MacArthur
  40. A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward. —Ovid
  41. No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it. —Andrew Carnegie
  42. Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. —General Dwight Eisenhower
  43. The leader has to be practical and a realist yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist. —Eric Hoffer
  44. Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems. —Brian Tracy
  45. A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. —Max Lucado
  46. Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. —General George Patton
  47. As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. —Bill Gates
  48. 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
  49. Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway. —Eleanor Roosevelt
  50. Don’t necessarily avoid sharp edges. Occasionally they are necessary to leadership. —Donald Rumsfeld
  51. Education is the mother of leadership. —Wendell Willkie
  52. Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. —Stephen Covey
  53. 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
  54. Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths. —John Zenger
  55. He who has great power should use it lightly. —Seneca
  56. He who has learned how to obey will know how to command. —Solon
  57. I am reminded how hollow the label of leadership sometimes is and how heroic followership can be. —Warren Bennis
  58. I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody. —Herbert Swope
  59. If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities. —Maya Angelou
  60. If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing. —Benjamin Franklin
  61. If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams
  62. In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. —Thomas Jefferson
  63. It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself. —Latin Proverb
  64. It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. —Nelson Mandela
  65. Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead. —Ross Perot
  66. 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
  67. Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. —John C. Maxwell
  68. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. —John F. Kennedy
  69. Leadership cannot just go along to get along. Leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day. —Jesse Jackson
  70. Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise. —Woodrow Wilson
  71. Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. —Norman Schwarzkopf
  72. Leadership is solving problems. 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 or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. —Colin Powell
  73. Leadership is the key to 99 percent of all successful efforts. —Erskine Bowles
  74. Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. —Bill Bradley
  75. Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. —Tom Peters
  76. Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. —Stephen Covey
  77. Never give an order that can’t be obeyed. —General Douglas MacArthur
  78. No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. —Abraham Lincoln
  79. What you do has far greater impact than what you say. —Stephen Covey
  80. Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow. —Chinese Proverb
  81. One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency. —Arnold Glasow
  82. The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on. —Walter Lippman
  83. The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision. —Ken Blanchard
  84. The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. —Harvey Firestone
  85. To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult. —Friedrich Nietzsche
  86. To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way. —Pat Riley
  87. True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well. —Bill Owens
  88. We live in a society obsessed with public opinion. But leadership has never been about popularity. —Marco Rubio
  89. Whatever you are, be a good one. —Abraham Lincoln
  90. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt
  91. A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops. —John J Pershing
  92. 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 Maxwell
  93. There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage. —Fuchan Yuan
  94. I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t. —Dee Dee Myers
  95. A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men. —Stephen King
  96. My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. –Unknown
  97. A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. –George Patton
  98. The supreme quality of leadership is integrity. –Dwight Eisenhower
  99. You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership. –Dwight Eisenhower
  100. Earn your leadership every day. –Michael Jordan

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Kevin is a NY Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. His latest book is Employee Engagement 2.0.

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