Leadership is a tricky thing. Is it innate or learned? Who needs it the most? What traits define a strong leader?
The fact of the matter is that everyone needs leadership. Entrepreneurs and business leaders of all industries must have sound leadership abilities. Even if you have a strong team driving your business forward, it won’t get you anywhere without the proper leadership, guidance, and principles. Even if you don’t currently hold a managerial title, an affinity for leadership is likely to take you far in your career.
Maybe some leaders are born, but the rest of the population must learn and grow throughout their careers. The transformation into an effective leader doesn’t happen overnight — it takes various experiences and often the guidance of others.
Not everyone has someone directly influencing their transformation into a better leader. This is why I find quotes from some of the most influential leaders to be beneficial to the process.
In need of a bit of inspiration? Use the following quotes to transform yourself as a leader:
1. “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
2. “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” — John Maxwell
3. “Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.”— Winston Churchill
4. “Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers.” — Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Visa
5. “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
6. “If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.” — G.K. Chesterton to Alexander Woollcott
7. “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” — Henry Kissinger
8. “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” — John Buchan
9. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
10. “The best is he who calls men to the best. And those who heed the call are also blessed. But worthless who call not, heed not, but rest.” — Hesiod, 8th Century BC Greek poet
11. “Never give an order that can’t be obeyed.” — General Douglas MacArthur
12. “Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and of 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
13. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” — General Colin Powell
14. “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” — Harry Truman
15. “Leadership is intentional influence.” — Michael McKinney
16. “The leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal shared by leaders and followers. … Leaders, followers and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership.” — Gary Wills, Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders
17. “All Leadership is influence.” — John C. Maxwell, Injoy, Inc.
18. “You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.” — Sam Rayburn
19. “Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others may receive your orders without being humiliated.” — Dag Hammarskjöld
20. “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on.” — Walter Lippmann
21. “The function of a leader within any institution: to provide that regulation through his or her non-anxious, self-defined presence.” — Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve
22. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” — Theodore Roosevelt
23. “Humans will probably always need the help of especially gifted moral leaders in order to extend the bonds of caring and trust beyond the easy range of the family and the face-to-face community. Such bonds have become essential to the future of humanity.” — Paul R. Lawrence, Driven To Lead
24. “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” — Ken Kesey
25. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max DePree
26. “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” — Stephen R. Covey
27. “As a leader, you’re probably not doing a good job unless your employees can do a good impression of you when you’re not around.” — Patrick Lencioni
28. “Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people,’ that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” — Peter F. Drucke
29. “Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values.” — Mike Vance
30. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” — General George Patton
31. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
32. “Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead.” — Ross Perot
33. “When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a “drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” — Abraham Lincoln
34.”My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” — General Montgomery
35. “High sentiments always win in the end, The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.” — George Orwell
What’s your favorite leadership quote? Share below!
About Ilya Pozin:
Founder of Ciplex. Columnist for Inc, Forbes & LinkedIn. Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, father, and ’30 Under 30′ entrepreneur. Follow Ilya below to stay up-to-date with his articles and updates!