Words are powerful. They inspire us, launch us into action, and they drive us to create the changes we want to see in the world.
The power words carry are one of the reasons we love quotes so much. When worded just right, a sentence can become a mantra, an ethos, an endless source of power.
As business owners and entrepreneurs, most of us were driven to create something we believe needs to exist. That drive requires ingenuity, creativity, and above all leadership.
Leadership is a complex topic. What does it mean to be a good leader? How to good leaders know when to lead and when to step back? What is the difference between seeking power and being an effective leader?
The following quotes explore the many facets and obstacles related to being a strong leader.
Most Inspiring Quotes About Leadership
- “A leader is best when people barely know he exists…when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say: We did it ourselves.”
– Lao-Tzu, an ancient philosopher and founder of Taoism, in Tao Te Ching.
- “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
– Sheryl Sanberg, COO of Facebook, in Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.
- “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
– Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla, in an interview with Mashable.
- “People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.”
– Michelle Obama, Graduate of Harvard Law, American lawyer, and First Lady of the United States from 2009-2017, in a 2016 speech in New Hampshire.
- “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer and pioneering aviator.
- “Leaders need to provide strategy and direction and to give employees the tools that enable them to gather information and insight from around the world. Leaders shouldn’t try to make every decision.”
– Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft in Business at the Speed of Thought
- “As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.” – Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, USA.
- “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” – Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
- “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dolly Parton, American actress and musician. (Sometimes incorrectly attributed to John Quincy Adams.)
- “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – – Vince Lombardi, American football coach, and NFL executive.
- “Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.”
– Lisa Cash Hanson, CEO of Snuggwugg.
- “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, American writer and 26th President of the United States.
- “If we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead. Creating the culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity…This mentality needs to be introduced as a leadership and performance-enhancing tool.”
– Arianna Huffington, co-founder and EIC of Huffington Post in her keynote speech at Inbound 2013.
- “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.”
– Andrew Carnegie, 19th-century Scottish-Amerian business magnate and philanthropist.
- “I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” – Estee Lauder, businesswoman and founder of an eponymous cosmetic company.
- “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration.”
– Robin S. Sharma, Canadian writer and motivational speaker, in The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life.
- “Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.”
– Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D, an American writer and management consultant, in Noetic Sciences Review Spring 1996.
- “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”
– Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut and former Commander of the International Space Station, in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.
- “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
– Eleanor Rosalynn Carter, activist, philanthropist, and First Lady of the United States from 1977-1981.
- “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
– Napoléon Bonaparte, French military leader.
- “Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.”
– Mwai Kibaki, Kenyan politician, and 3rd President of Kenya from 2002 – 2013.
- “Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.”
– Dianne Feinstein, American politician and Senator for California.
- “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, South African political leader, anti-apartheid revolutionist, and President of South Africa from 1994-1999.
- “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, American statesman and a retired four-star general, in My American Journey.
- “A leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding the potential in people and processes.”
– Brene Brown, a research professor at the Universty of Houston and best-selling author.
Final Thoughts on Leadership
Words can be powerful, but only if you follow up their inspiration with action. Remember, a great leader requires more than a title–you need drive, creativity, and a willingness to learn.
Let these quotes about leadership inspire you to become a better leader–your business and your life will be better for it.
Have a favorite quote we missed from this list? Let us know in the comments!