15 Leadership Quotes

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There are millions — only a slight exaggeration — of leadership quotes out there, including thousands of good ones. There are at least hundreds of great leaders from every sector — government, nonprofits, business, education, etc.

We picked some of our favorites leadership quotes from some of our favorite leaders. As we reviewed these quotes, patterns and themes emerged. These themes are some of our favorite leadership skills.

Be courageous

Leading isn’t always a picnic, unless you count the pain from the biting ants and sunburns.

True leadership takes courage. Leaders do what’s right, even when people disagree with them. Leaders push back on important issues — taking more time on quality, ensuring real customer satisfaction, embracing raw candor during times of massive transition, and more.

When you’re fearless, you’re not worried about what happens if you fail or lose your job; instead, you’re concentrated on what it takes to succeed.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader

“Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.” – Jack Welch, General Electric CEO

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady

Inspire and serve

Knowing yourself is a big part of being able to inspire. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Discover your purpose. As you do, keep learning and growing.

As you continue to learn and grow, you’ll be able to help others to find and understand their purpose. And that’s inspiration at its core — to help people achieve their passion and purpose.

Inspiring and serving are closely related. When you have a true spirit of serving, you’re turning on that light in others easier and faster.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. President

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams, U.S. President

“Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.” – Oprah Winfrey, Executive and Celebrity

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy, U.S. President

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President

“The most effective way to lead is to lead from within.” – Lolly Daskal, Leadership Coach

“Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders exist to serve. Period.” – Tom Peters, Leadership Coach and Author

“We make a living by what we do. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill, UK Prime Minister

Relish difficulty and work hard

There’s no substitute for hard work. No doubt you’re a leader because you’re smart and dedicated. There’s a resiliency 


that comes with leadership too — recovering from failure. It’s also important to see opportunity where others see pain and hardship. Many of the best leaders joyously attacked some of the biggest challenges — from ensuring open spaces everyone can visit to providing universal healthcare. 

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” – Henry Ford, Ford Founder

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchhill, UK Prime Minister

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi, Coach

Leading in summary

Leading isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it! But to be a true leader, you’ll need courage, to know yourself and inspire others. You’ll need to serve the people you lead — sometimes by supplying a vision and sometimes by actively listening. You’ll also need to plow through hard work, including the work others may eschew.

Did we miss your favorite quote or leadership trait? Let us know!

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