My 12 Favorite Quotes on Leadership

Search the net and you will find thousands of articles, books, and blogs about leadership.  And throughout the ages, men and women have written and spoken about leadership. So there is a treasure trove of quotes out there on leadership.  I still feel the best way to learn to be a better leader is to be a leader and that successes, failures, and time are the best teachers of leadership. That said, I’ve done my searching and found my top 12 quotes on leadership. I wanted to share them with you.

Top 12 Quotes on Leadership

Adam’s 12 Favorite Quotes on Leadership

12. “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

11. “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

10. “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
— St. Francis of Assisi

9. “The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” Eric Hoffer

8. “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

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

6. “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
— Stephen R. Covey

5. “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

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

3. “Trust men and they will be true to you: treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. “Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” — John Kotter

1. “We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and are 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

Listening to what others have said and applying their basic ideas to your specific circumstances is like having a “cheat sheet” in your back pocket. Look at this list and see if any of them resonate with you. Do they look familiar to you as a leader or a team member working with a leader? Would your team, as in the comic below, laugh when discussing your leadership skills? Or are you gaining authority by giving it away, leading with trust, vision, and integrity.

Be Well! Lead On.


Leadership Skills - Does your team laugh at your leadership?

Leadership Skills - Does your team laugh at your leadership?

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