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30 of the Best Leadership Quotes of All Time (& Their Hidden Messages)

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Posted in Inspiration, Leadership, and Company Culture. 6 min read

Leadership is about more than a title. A good leader can inspire their team and the world at large by their actions and their words.

Leadership quotes can inspire you and change the way you think and feel about yourself and others. When you change the way you think, you can change the quality of your life in an instant.

In the entire universe, you only have control over one thing – your thoughts. These 30 leadership quotes can help you take control over your thoughts, and your destiny!

The 30 Best Leadership Quotes of All Time

1. “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Kenneth H. Blanchard

Just because someone is classified as a leader doesn't mean that they can lead.

2. “Leadership is an action, not a position.” Donald McGannon

A true leader leads by example, not merely with words.

3. One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Making smart choices and taking responsibility for the results, good or bad, are the mark of a true leader.

4. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Leadership is put to the test during times of crisis. How you carry yourself can inspire those around you.

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

As a leader your job becomes helping others by sharing your experience and wisdom to help them grow.

6. Anyone, anywhere can make a positive difference.” Mark Sanborn

If your intent is egoless, you can make a difference.

7. The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.” Seth Godin

A leader has focus, inspires, and works toward a goal.

8. A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” Nelson Mandela

This is one of my favorite leadership quotes. A good leader knows when to lead and when to step back. Letting your team explore and implement their ideas can build trust, skills, and confidence.

9. Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” Peter F. Drucker

A good leader is both efficient and effective.

10. Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” George Patton

Again, a good leader gives a direction and a goal then gives their team the freedom to get there.

11. The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

Your team looks to you for guidance, motivation, and knowledge. Be a great teacher.

12. 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

Your team needs to know that you have their back and that you care, or they will stop producing.

13. Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” Tom Peters

Leadership is about working with your team to help them become their best.

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

The goal of a leader is to teach and inspire their team to excel through their actions. This is one of the most succinct leadership quotes on this list!

15. 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

Leadership is best done in the background. Your job is to guide and inspire, then let your team do their thing.

16. My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” Steve Jobs

A good leader is firm, but fair. The goal is to inspire and push your team to be the best that they can be.

17. Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.” Margaret Wheatley

Leadership is about what you do, not who gets the credit.

18. Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Even the best leaders feel fear. The key is to not let your team know it.

19. You don't need a title to be a leader.” Mark Sanborn

Anyone can be a leader by doing their best and setting a good example.

20. Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.” Stephen Covey

A good leader doesn't micromanage. They teach, inspire, and lead.

21. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Steve Jobs

22. A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.” Martin Luther King

These two quotes are related. A leader is an innovator, not a follower. They shape opinion and build consensus. They don't follow the herd, but lead the way.

23. The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Ronald Reagan

Leadership is about inspiring people to be their best, not necessarily being the hero.

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

Leaders have the vision to succeed and the ability to inspire their team to achieve their goals.

25. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” John F. Kennedy

A good leader is not only an excellent teacher. They are a diligent student!

26. A leader is a dealer in hope.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Inspiration and hope are the two qualities every leader must possess.

27. If you can't swallow your pride, you can't lead. Even the highest mountain had animals that step on it.” Jack Weatherford

To lead, you have to check your pride at the door.

28. Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people that they lead.” Pete Hoekstra

A leader understands that they are there to help their team be their best.

29. I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” Ralph Nader

Teaching the next generation of leaders is a big part of leadership.

30. Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter does not understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.” Albert Einstein

Leaders believe in themselves, their vision, and their ability.

These 30 leadership quotes can help to inspire you when you're feeling uninspired and can help you excite your team when their motivation is waning. Looking to the words of other leaders in the form of leadership quotes can help you be a better, more compassionate leader and stay focused on your goals.

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