The 40 Best Leadership Quotes

Ship prow figurehead
There’s a good reason leadership quotes are popular. A few lines can pack a lot of information that teach and inspire.

In A Tweet, a Blog Post, and a Profound Teaching I shared quotes from my own writing.

These are the top leadership quotes by others. (If I missed one of your favorites, please share it in the comments.)
 

 
The only safe ship in a storm is leadership. 
Faye Wattleton, Political Activist

People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. – A company is only as good as the people it keeps.  
Mary Kay Ash, Entrepreneur and Business Leader

A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more. 
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.
Gloria Steinem, Political Activist

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, Management Consultant

Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.
Dianne Feinstein, Mayor of San Francisco

You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.
Grace Hopper, Rear Admiral, US Navy

Leading an organization is like frying a small fish.  You spoil it with too much poking.
from the Tao te Ching

The things we fear most in organizations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances – are the primary sources of creativity.
Margaret Wheatley, Management Consultant

What is needed is people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others.
Ella J. Baker, Civil Rights Activist

True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.
Sheri L. Dew CEO, Deseret Book Company

The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner, Management Consultants

It is difficult to steer a parked car.
Henrietta Mears, Religious Leader

Those who do not move do not notice their chains.
Rosa Luxemburg, Revolutionary

The important thing is that when you come to understand something you act on it, no matter how small that act is. Eventually it will take you where you need to go.
Sister Helen Prejean, Activist

The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt, American Politician

You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go.
Jeanette Rankin, Member US House of Representatives and Congress

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when the work is done, they will say: we did it ourselves.
Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.
Marian Anderson ~Contralto

Leadership that brings peace is far more courageous than the one which opens fire and goes for war.
Asthma Jehangir, Pakistani Activist

A leader who does not hesitate before sending the nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

When people made up their minds that they wanted to be free and took action, then there was a change.
Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Activist

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
Helen Keller, Activist

“Organize, agitate, educate,’ must be our war cry.
Susan B. Anthony, Activist and Newspaper Publisher

We have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.
Michelle Obama, American Lawyer

Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by traffic from both sides.
Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister

He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.
Aristotle, Greek Philosopher

You have to look at leadership through the eyes of the followers and you have to live the message. I have learned that people become motivated when you guide them to the source of their own power.
Anita Roddick, English Entrepreneur

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

Power is not an end in itself, but an instrument that must be used toward an end.
Jeane Kirkpatrick, US United Nations Ambassador

I do not think that power can be delegated because I believe that genuine power is capacity. Coercive power is the curse of the universe; coactive power, the enrichment and advancement of every human soul.
Mary Parker Follett, Management Consultant

Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.  
Warren Bennis, Management Consultant

True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook

The moral authority of leaders is the essential ingredient to human security.
Florence Mpaayei, Kenyan Peace Activist

If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself.
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO Pepsico

We are willing to follow leaders only to the extent we believe they call on our best, not our worst.
Rachel Maddow, Political Commentator

There go the people. I must follow them for I am their leader.
Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, French Politician

Clearly no one knows what leadership has gone undiscovered in women of all races, and in black and other minority men.
Gloria Steinem, Political Activist

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Never doubt that a small number of dedicated people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist


p.s I can’t resist adding this one of my own:
Leadership is about going somewhere. If you don’t have a vision, how do you know where you’re going?”
Jesse Lyn Stoner and Ken Blanchard, Management Consultants

23 comments to The 40 Best Leadership Quotes

  • Thanks for sharing Jesse! I love Leadership Quotes! (…Especially the last one!)

  • Carlos Ribeiro

    Very good quotes, Jesse!!
    Also, I’d like to share one more:

    “About hte only that comes to us without effort is old age” – Gloria Pitzer – American writer

  • Tagrid Sihly

    One of my all time favorites is: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” by JFK

  • roberto

    Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way. — General George Patton

  • I want to keep all of these. One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne)

    “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
    and then this one
    “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’”

  • Leadership is about knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do .

    Thanks for the inspiration Jesse,

    Best wishes,

    Cameron

  • PJ Osborn

    “When you’re through learning, you’re through.”
    —- Coach Wooden

  • Comrade Dike Stanley

    Thanks Jesse for sharing.
    One of my favorite quote is that ” A leader will first affect a heart before asking for a hand”
    And also this from Margret thatcher
    “Being in power is like being a woman.if you have to tell people you are then you aren’t.”
    Jesse,your blog is simply a blessing to my team here in Nigeria.
    God bless you real good.
    Comrade Dike Stanley

  • Jesse! These are wonderful! One could always refer to them. The good thing I found in all of them is they’re not long enough to be fogotten but sizeable to be memorized. Thanks again!

  • My Favourite and it has really stuck with me

    Leadership is the Art of inspiring a community to achieve a Vision.

    I am not sure who originally came up with this but I heard it from Major Chris Keeble.(an inspirational gentleman)

  • Tony

    I like your picture of the ship for leadership. It reminds me of this quote:
    “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” — Publilius Syrus

  • Woody Till

    Jesse,

    Last week I talked about being able to pocket your ego. Here is a qoute I have hanging in my office.

    The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

    Theodore Roosevelt

  • Joe Caulcrick

    Great stuff for my library of memorable quotes . I also cherish the two below.

    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

    “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

  • Thanks for this!
    Gotta bookmark this page. Great ploy. Even better quotes. I’m having trouble picking my favorite:
    He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.
    Aristotle, Greek Philosopher
    or
    Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
    Helen Keller, Activist

  • Frank McCune

    Great quotes! Thanks for putting this list together, Jesse. I would like to add this one, even though it’s not specifically for leaders, it should guide us all in our leadership efforts.
    “People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.

  • Victor Street

    No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. — Abraham Lincoln

  • Jerilyn Lopez

    I like this one: “We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone” – Sandra Day O’Connor

  • I have never considered myself to be a leader, but I am an expert follower. I think I appreciate this one most of all now that I see it. “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader. – Aristotle, Greek Philosopher

    The quote I’ve had posted to my wall and on my PC for years is one that’s been passed around a lot lately. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

  • Great post, especially like the last one.

    Some more for your collection:

    - “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
    Jack Welch

    - “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better”  Harry S Truman (1884 – 1972)

    - “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005)

    - “Leadership is about results. A leader’s vision must in the end produce the desired results: successful, profitable change where employees are committed and engaged” Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005)

    - Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.
    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    - The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.
    Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister

    However, one of my all time favorites comes from Henry Ford:
    “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!

    Apologies for the long list, but there are some good ones above!

  • Great list. I would add a very important one being a crisis management specialist for over 25 years:
    “In a crisis, a leader must set a direction and then communicate that direction” Rudolph Giuliani, mayor of New York City during the 9/11 attacks

  • Wonderful thoughts Jesse. One of my favorites is from Robert Greenleaf:
    “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

  • Jesse
    Great collection and thanks. My favorite is from John Kotter, Harvard
    “Leaders deal with vision; Managers deal with complexity”
    Bernie

  • Thanks for compiling this diverse set of leadership quotes. Here are a few more:

    As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.
    Marianne Williamson

    “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” – Bob Proctor

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