Leadership Quotes

Quotes about Accountability


"When things go wrong in your command, start searching for the reason in increasingly large circles around your own desk."
                -- Gen. Bruce Clarke

"To complaints of a job poorly done, one often hears the excuse, 'I am not responsible.' I believe that is literally correct. The man who takes such a stand in fact is not responsible; he is irresponsible. "
               -- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

Quotes about Candor


"Followers who tell the truth, and leaders who listen to it, are an
unbeatable combination."
               -- Warren Bennis

"In the face of leadership flaws, too many people assume cynical perspectives, rather than do the hard work of building relationships in which they can have more positive influence."
                -- Ira Chaleff

Quotes about Caring

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
              -- Maya Angelou



"A reflective reading of history will show that no man ever rose to military greatness who could not convince his troops that he put them first, above all else."
                -- Gen. Maxwell Taylor


"People don't care how much you know--until they know how much you care."
              -- John C. Maxwell


Quotes about Change


"Great things happen nationally when topmost leadership is goaded and
supported from below."
               -- John W. Gardner


"Change from the top down happens at the will and whim of those below. "
              -- Peter Block 


"Nothing so undermines organizational change as the failure to think through the losses people face."
              -- William Bridges


Quotes about Character


"Never has man reached his destination by persistence in deviation from the straight path."
               -- Mahatma Gandhi


"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
                -- Abraham Lincoln

"The way you behave when you think you can get away with it is who you really are."
                -- Carly Fiorina


"Always do right. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
                -- Mark Twain


"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
                -- Dwight D. Eisenhower


"Glass, china, and reputation, are easily crack'd, and never well mended."
               -- Benjamin Franklin


"You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence."
               -- Reverend William John Henry Boetcker (1873-1962)

"Do not do that which you would not have known."
              -- Benjamin Franklin


Quotes about Communication


"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.."
               -- George Bernard Shaw



Quotes with Definitions of Leadership


"As a leader...your principal job is to create an operating environment where others can do great things."
                -- Richard Teerlink 


"Leadership is the creation of an environment in which others are able to self-actualize in the process of completing the job."
              -- John Mellecker


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


"The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led.  This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness."
                -- Gen. Omar Bradley


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


Quotes about Delegation


"Lions cannot afford to hunt mice because they literally will starve to death, even if they catch them. Lions and all large carnivores have to hunt game large enough to justify the investment, so they have to hunt antelope and zebra. Why is this important? Because most senior executives are really big on chipmunks."
               -- Newt Gingrich

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
                -- Gen. George S. Patton


"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it." 
              -- Andrew Carnegie


"If you want your people to think don't give instructions, give intent." 
              -- David Marquet


Quotes about Developing People


"It takes leaders to grow other leaders."
              -- Ray Blunt


"Our work is our most important resource to develop our people."
               -- Jim Trinka and Les Wallace


"You cannot be effective if those who work for you are not. So building their effectiveness ought to be a priority."
              -- Richard N. Haass


"You may be the boss, but you're only as good as the people who work for you."
              -- Rear Admiral William Leahy


"All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education."
              -- Sir Walter Scott



"The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership."
                -- Harvey S. Firestone


"No executive has ever suffered because his subordinates were strong and effective."
                -- Peter Drucker


"All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for
development accorded the individual."
               -- Albert Einstein


Quotes about Empowerment


"The...thing you can do to make your agency a more interesting place to work and consequently less bureaucratic is to enable those under you to feel they control their own areas of work. In this way they acquire a sense of ownership in what gets done and how they do it."
                -- Kenneth Ashworth


"I don't want an organization of order-takers because order-takers don't take responsibility for results."
                -- Mike Abrashoff 

"Many people believe that decentralization means loss of control. That's simply not true. You can improve control if you look at control as the control of events and not people. Then, the more people you have controlling events -- the more people you have that care about controlling the events, the more people you have proactively working to create favorable events -- the more control you have within the organization, by definition."
-- General Bill Creech


"Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power."
              -- Henry George


Quotes about Feedback


"Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let
people see you value both feedback and ideas."
               -- Jim Trinka and Les Wallace


"We talk about deadwood, but we don't talk to deadwood."
                -- Zane Schauer, NOAA


Quotes about Initiative/Self-Empowerment


"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
               -- John Wooden


"Not one single leadership principle requires permission from anyone other
than you."
               -- Jim Trinka and Les Wallace


"Women need to shift from thinking 'I'm not ready to do that' to thinking 'I want to do that and I'll learn by doing it.'"
               -- Sheryl Sandberg


"If you work in government, you'll see things that need doing. You can choose to stay out of trouble, or you can ask yourself, 'If not me, who?'"
               -- Bob Stone


"Make sure you're not just waiting for someone else to fix things, or hoping that things will improve...Figure out what's going on and make a plan to improve things."
              -- Kenneth W. Thomas


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. "
                -- Margaret Mead


"There are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask, 'What happened?'"
              -- Casey Stengel 


"Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way."
                -- Gen. George S. Patton


Quotes about Leading by Example


"Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing."
                -- Albert Schweitzer

"All leaders lead by example...whether they intend to or not."
                -- Unknown


Quotes about Learning to Lead


"The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have."
                -- Sheryl Sandberg 


"I learned to always take on things I'd never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist."
                -- Ginni Rometty 


Quotes about Motivation


"It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him."
                -- John Steinbeck


"Pride is the fuel of human accomplishment."
                -- General Bill Creech 

"The most important thing about a commander is his effect on morale."
                -- Field Marshall Viscount Slim


"A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops."
               -- Gen. John J. Pershing


"The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated."
                -- William James


"Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish."
                -- Sam Walton


Quotes about Persistence


"There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul."
              -- Ella Wheeler Wilcox



"Nothing will work unless you do."
              -- John Wooden



"Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
              -- Calvin Coolidge


"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience. Once implemented they can be easily overturned or subverted through apathy or lack of follow-up, so a continuous effort is required."
               -- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover


"If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good."
              -- Thomas J. Watson, Jr.


"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no help at all."
              -- Dale Carnegie


"You may have to fight a battle more than once in order to win it."
              -- Margaret Thatcher


"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
                -- Will Rogers


Quotes about Positive Thinking


"The future is not shaped by those who do not really believe in the future."
                -- John W. Gardner



"Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity."
                -- Reed Markham


"Whether you think you can or think you can't--you are right."
              -- Henry Ford


Quotes about Public Service


“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
             -- Nelson Mandela



"Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men."
                -- Mahatma Gandhi


"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand."
              -- Woodrow Wilson


"Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be set right."
                -- Carl Schurz


Quotes about Taking Risks


"You must underwrite the honest mistakes of your subordinates if you wish to develop their initiative and experience."
                -- Gen. Bruce Clarke


"The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
              -- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit."
              -- Conrad Hilton

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
              -- T.S. Eliot


"Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small steps."
                -- David Lloyd George

"You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is."
              -- Will Rogers

"The men who have done big things are those who were not afraid to attempt big things, who were not afraid to risk failure in order to gain success."
              -- B.C. Forbes


Quotes About Trust


"Trust is the essence of Leadership."
                -- Colin Powell


"Trust is fundamental, reciprocal, and pervasive. If it is present, anything is possible. If it is absent, nothing is possible."
                -- George P. Schultz


"You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you.  As I've learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead.  Trust is a great force multiplier."
                -- Tom Ridge


"When people feel trusted, they'll do almost anything under the sun not to disappoint the person who gave them the gift of trust."
                -- Rob LeBow


"Fear is a cancer in any organization."
                -- Mike Abrashoff 

Next: Quotes by Famous Leaders