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

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

Leadership quotes help to inspire you and they can even transform the way you think and feel about yourself and others. When you change the way you think, you can ultimately change the quality of your life. 

There is only one thing you have control over in this life and that is your thoughts! Read these 30 leadership quotes and become inspired to change your thoughts and your life. 

The 30 Best Leadership Quotes of All Time

All leaders are not cut out of the same cloth. Some of them have said or written these words to create an undeniable impact. 

Here are 30 of the 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

Those who think big and push for innovative ideas stand tall as visionaries.

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

Intelligence is the best guiding light for people who are leading teams. 

The 7 Top Leadership Traits

Leaders believe in themselves, their vision, and their ability. They do what is necessary to seek out greatness in themselves and others. Here are some more key traits of top leaders:

They Are Self-Motivated.

Leaders not only know how to drive others to succeed; they also know how to drive themselves to get things done so that they may become successful as well. 


Setting definite goals helps leaders stay motivated at all times. The motivation a leader has can directly impact and inspire their team. 

They Have a Positive Attitude.

Great leaders overflow with an abundance of positivity. The positive disposition they have is contagious and helps to inspire a positive mindset in others. 

They Are Emotionally Stable. 

Stress and frustration are common things that come with leadership positions. Good leaders cannot allow themselves to let their emotions knock them off track.

Instead, they must have strong and stable emotions so they can continue on, even in difficult circumstances. 

They Exude Self-Confidence.

People are more likely to believe in you if you believe in yourself. This is why it is essential for leaders to have self-confidence that shines through.


Only someone who exudes self-confidence can influence others and earn their respect. 

They Are Decisive.

Leaders often have to make decisions. Some of the decisions may be difficult and require a great deal of critical thinking.

They know how to make decisions, and they stick to their decisions because they are confident enough to believe they made the right choice. 

They Are Accountable and Responsible.

Playing the blame game isn't something that true leaders do. Rather they take responsibility for their actions, tasks, and the results they get. 

If a mistake is made, they remain accountable and admit their faults readily with little prodding from outside sources. 

They Are Passionate.

Passion is made up of expression, energy, and activity. Passion plays a part in the drive and zeal a leader has.


Good leaders are excited about what they are doing, and they express that passion in front of others. 

4 Types of Leadership

In order to become a better leader, you must know what your leadership style is. Here are four common leadership styles for you to review so you know where you stand.

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is a form of leadership where decisions are made by the leader alone. These leaders don't consider their teams' thoughts and opinions before making a decision or heading a new direction with training, processes, or otherwise. 

An example of an autocratic leader is someone who changes the schedules of several employees without consulting anyone, let alone the affected employees.

This leadership type is not effective and is not recommended for organizations if they want to retain and empower their employees. 

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership is based on a leader that asks for the thoughts and opinions of staff members when making a decision or executing a project plan. The leader makes the final decision, of course, but they take other team members' viewpoints into consideration before doing so.

This is an effective leadership style because it encourages collaboration and prepares employees for future leadership positions they may take on. 


Let's say there's a leader that has to make a decision about some new software for their team to use. A democratic leader will give the team a few options, and they'll have a discussion about it before a decision is made for new software to be implemented. 

Laissez-Faire Leadership

This is one of the least intrusive forms of leadership that can be effective in some instances. The translation of laissez-faire is "let them do," which means leaders who apply this style give a good amount of authority to their employees.

A good example of a laissez-faire leader would be a founder of a startup who doesn't make any rules, guidelines, or deadlines and puts full trust in his employees to get things done. 

This type of leadership encourages trust, but it may fall short because it limits an employee's development and overlooks growth opportunities. 

Strategic Leadership

Leaders that adopt the strategic leadership style are often at a crossroads between growth opportunities for their company and daily operations.

This leader essentially accepts executive level interests while supporting lower-level employees to make sure the work environment is stable for them. 


Many companies like this form of leadership because it supports a variety of employees at one time. However, this type of leadership can cause problems in regards to how many people a leader can actually support at one while maintaining a clear direction or stability. 

These 30 leadership quotes can help to inspire you when you're feeling uninspired and can 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 while you stay focused on your goals.

And the more you know about your own leadership traits and your personal leadership style, the more prepared you are to elevate your team and drive success for your company. 


General FAQ

What Are the Top Traits of a Great Leader?

A great leader is honest, can inspire others, has commitment and passion about what they do, has strong decision-making skills, is a good communicator, and is adaptable.

What Are the Four Types of Leadership?

The four different types of leadership styles are autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, laissez-faire leadership, and paternalistic leadership.

What Is a Great Leadership Quote?

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

Erika Giles

Erika Giles

Erika is a Marketing Copywriter at Bluleadz. She is a huge fan of houseplants and podcasts about conspiracy theories. She spends most of her free time reading, writing, and enjoying the outdoors.