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Leadership Quotes

Top 60 Leadership Quotes


No 1 (Best quote!)Leadership Quotes

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists...when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, ‘We did this ourselves’.

- Lao Tzu (c604-c531 BC), Chinese philosopher, pictured right.


This is why Lao Tzu also says:Leadership Quotes

To lead people walk behind them

(similar to the South African leader Nelson Mandela’s , pictured right, idea of leading from behind)


Other related quotes are:

 Leadership Quotes

The best leader has not followers, but men and women working with him.

- Mary Parker Follett, pictured right, in Dynamic Administration (1941)


Leadership Quotes

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 1835–1919, pictured right , American steel manufacturer


Leadership Quotes

And when we think we lead, we are most led.

(from the 1821 play The Two Foscari)

- Lord Byron (1788-1824), pictured right, English writer.


Leadership Quotes

Only by standing on their [followers’] shoulders can true greatness in leadership be achieved.

- James MacGregor Burns (1918- )  American leadership expert, pictured right, in Leadership (1978)


I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?Leadership Quotes

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), British prime minister, pictured right.

(another British prime minister Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923, said the same)

 Leadership Quotes

In following him, I follow myself,

(Iago talking about Othello in Othello)

- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright, pictured right  


Leadership Quotes

The true leader is always led

 - Carl Jung (1875–1961),Swiss psychologist, pictured right.



No 2Leadership Quotes

You need courage born on integrity in order to be capable of powerful leadership. To achieve this courage you must search your heart, and make sure your conscience is clear and your behaviour is beyond reproach.

- Kanosuke Matsushita (1894-1989), founder of Panasonic, pictured right.

 Leadership Quotes

Confucius (551-479 BC), the Chinese philosopher (pictured right), also made two wise comments about the character of a leader:

The character of the leader is like the wind, and that of the people grass. The grass bends when the wind blows upon it.

The true leader takes humanity as his burden

 Leadership Quotes

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), pictured right, the Italian philosopher, takes a different view:

A prince should not deviate from what is good, if that is possible, but he should know how to do evil, if that is necessary



No 3Leadership Quotes

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor,

- Max De Pree, pictured right, Leadership is an Art (1989)


Leadership Quotes

This idea of servant leadership originated from Robert Greenleaf’s, pictured right, book Servant Leadership (1977). Here are two quotes from it:

The great leader is seen as servant first.

The servant always accepts and empathizes, never rejects.



No 4Leadership Quotes

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he wants to do it.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general and president , pictured right.


Leadership Quotes

Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), another American president, pictured right , says something similar:

A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.



No 5Leadership Quotes

 If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.

- Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), pictured right, American president.

Lincoln also comments:

 I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me



No 6Leadership Quotes

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

- Lord Acton (1834–1902) British historian, pictured right.



No 7Leadership Quotes

The endurance of organizations depends upon the quality of leadership and that quality derives from the breadth of the morality upon which it rests,

- Chester Barnard, pictured right. The Functions of the Executive (1938)


Leadership Quotes

So Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), pictured right, the American president, says:

The presidency is not merely an administrative office. It is permanently a place of moral leadership.



No 8Leadership Quotes

The task of leadership is to make the status quo more dangerous than launching into the unknown.

- John Harvey-Jones (1924-2008), boss of the British chemicals company, ICI , pictured right.



No 9Leadership Quotes

The boss says 'I'; the leader, 'we'.

- Harry Gordon Selfridge (1856-1947), American founder of the London department store, Selfridge’s, pictured right.



No 10Leadership Quotes

Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right.

- John Locke (1632-1704) English philosopher, pictured right


Leadership QuotesBrutus in Shakespeare's (pictured right) Julius Caesar also comments:

The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power



No 11Leadership Quotes

A leader leads by example, not by force.

- Sun Tzu (lived around 500 BC) a Chinese general, pictured right.



No 12Leadership Quotes

Effective leadership is a combination of idealism and practical efficiency.

- Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) American president, pictured right.



No 13Leadership Quotes

Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men -- the other 999 follow women.

- Groucho Marx (1890-1977), American comedian and film and TV star, pictured right.



No 14Leadership Quotes

Power based on love is a thousand times more effective than power derived from fear of punishment.

- Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian leader and philosopher, pictured right.


Leadership Quotes

William (Bill) Slim (1891-1970) World War Two British general, pictured right, agrees:

If you are any good, you know your men better than their mothers do and you love them just as much.



No 15Leadership Quotes

Every subject’s duty is the king’s, but every subject’s soul is his own,

(Henry V in Henry V)

- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright, pictured right.  



No 16Leadership Quotes

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.

- Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), American journalist, pictured right.



No 17Leadership Quotes

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

(Henry IV in Henry IV Part 2)

- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright, pictured right



No 18Leadership Quotes

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

- Harry S. Truman (1884–1972), American president, pictured right.



No 19Leadership Quotes

It is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant,

(Isabella in Measure for Measure)

 - William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright, pictured right



No 20Leadership Quotes

Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain. 

- Max De Pree, pictured right, Leadership is an Art (1989)



No 21Leadership Quotes

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

- Jack Welch, American boss of General Electric 1981-2001, pictured right.



No 22Leadership Quotes

It is essential for an officer to have that respect...If he loses it, he ceases to command. And what happens then? Demoralization and chaos.

- Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) in the film, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), pictured right.



No 23Leadership Quotes

True leaders...do or live what they preach or require in others.

- John Adair, pictured right, Effective Leadership 1983



No 24Leadership Quotes

That people can be lifted into their better selves is the secret of transforming leadership. 

- James MacGregor Burns (pictured right), Leadership (1978)  



No 25  Leadership Quotes

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.

- Bernard Montgomery (1887-1976) British World War Two general, pictured right.


So Montgomery makes two other comments on leadership:

The beginning of leadership is a battle for hearts and minds of men.

The leader must have infectious enthusiasm. 



No 26Leadership Quotes

A leader is a dealer in hope.

- Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), ruler of France, pictured right.



No 27Leadership Quotes

A leader has to have a vision of grandeur, a vision that can produce eager followers in vast numbers. In business, the followers are the customers,

- Theodore (Ted) Levitt, pictured right, Marketing Myopia (1960)



No 28Leadership Quotes

You have to reply to criticism with your intellect, not your ego,

- Mike Brearley (1942-) ,England cricket captain, pictured right.



No 29Leadership Quotes

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) American president , pictured right.



No 30Leadership Quotes

All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don't know by what you do; that's what I called ‘guessing what was at the other side of the hill’.

- Duke of Wellington 1769–1852), British general and politician, pictured right.



No 31Leadership Quotes

Power is not a means, it is an end.

(O’Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four)

- George Orwell (1903-50), pictured right, English writer.



No 32Leadership Quotes

It is far better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

- Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian philosopher, pictured right.



No 33Leadership Quotes

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

- Tony Blair (1953– ), British prime minister, pictured right.



No 34Leadership Quotes

The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.

- Harry Gordon Selfridge (1856-1947), American founder of the London department store, Selfridge’s, pictured right.


No 35Leadership Quotes

A genuine leader is...a moulder of consensus.

- Martin Luther King (1929–68), American civil rights leader, pictured right.



No 36Leadership Quotes

Power has only one duty - to secure the social welfare of the people.

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), British Prime Minister, pictured right.



No 37Leadership Quotes

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) American Second World War and president, pictured right.



No 38Leadership Quotes

Everything comes in time to him who knows how to wait,

(General Kutuzov in the novel War and Peace)

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), pictured right, Russian writer.



No 39Leadership Quotes

Leaders create not followers but partners in the common enterprise.

- John Adair, pictured right, Effective Leadership Masterclass (1996)



No 40Leadership Quotes

Leadership works through leadership and culture...Management works through hierarchy and systems,

- John Kotter, pictured right, What Leaders Really Do (1999)



No 41Leadership Quotes

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them,

(Malvolio in Twelfth Night)

- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright, pictured right  



No 42Leadership Quotes

Leadership is of the spirit...management is of the mind,

William (Bill) Slim (1891-1970) World War Two British general, pictured right



No 43Leadership Quotes

Being a president is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep riding or be swallowed,

- Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), pictured right, American president .


Truman also says:

A president cannot always be popular.



No 44Leadership Quotes

Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates.

-Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), ,pictured right, South African leader.


Mandela also says:

To lead one’s people one must also truly know them,


No 45Leadership Quotes

But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?

- Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), American president , pictured right



No 46Leadership Quotes

If you’re a leader of people, you’ve got to put people’s faults on one side and draw out all their good points.

-Richard Branson (1950- ), English businessman, pictured right.



No 47Leadership Quotes

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-63), pictured right, American president



No 48Leadership Quotes

All power is a trust…from the people, and for the people, all springs, and all must exist.

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81), British prime minister, pictured right.



No 49Leadership Quotes

Power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.

- Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), pictured right, British prime minister.



No 50Leadership Quotes

Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is co-ordinating those who work for me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.

- Walt Disney (1901-1966), American film maker (pictured right)



No 51Leadership Quotes

Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.

- Tom Watson Jr. (1914-93), ex-boss of IBM (pictured right) 


No 52Leadership Quotes

Enable, not direct. Use carrots, not sticks.

- Meg Whitman (1957-), chief executive of Hewlett-Packard since 2011 (pictured right)



No 53Leadership Quotes

If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship. He would keep it in port forever.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), Italian philosopher (pictured right).



No 54Leadership Quotes

He who is to be a good ruler must have first been ruled.

-Aristotle (384-322 BC), Greek philosopher (pictured right)



No 55Leadership Quotes

The difficulties in princes’ business are many and great, but the greatest difficulty is often in their own mind.

- Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher and politician (pictured right)



No 56

It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.

- Muhammad (570-632), founder of the Islamic religion.



No 57Leadership Quotes

The most important skill for any leader is the ability to take credit for things that happen on their own,

- Scott Adams (pictured right) in The Dilbert Principle (1996)

 Leadership Quotes


No 58

The new leader...is one who commits people to action, who converts followers into leaders.Leadership Quotes

-Warren Bennis , pictured right above, and Burt Nanus, pictured right, in Leaders (1985)




No 59Leadership Quotes

Execution - getting the task done, making it happen - is the most unappreciated skill of an effective business leader,

- Lou Gerstner, pictured right, in Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance (2002)



N60Leadership Quotes

Theory X leads naturally to an emphasis on the tactics of control. Theory Y, on the other hand, leads to a preoccupation with the nature of leadership.

- Douglas McGregor (pictured right) in The Human Side of Enterprise (1960)

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