At Clear Concept, we love quotes. We are amazed at how a handful of words, wisely compiled, can resonate so deeply. On that note, we wanted to share this compilation of our favourite leadership quotes and why they speak to us. We have grouped these according to a leader’s mindset, focus and action.
Mindset: Leaders have a powerful mindset that is purpose-driven and resilient.
“Leadership is not about a title or designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration.” – Robin S. Sharma
Robin S. Sharma, author of “The Leader Who Had No Title” (an excellent read) is one of the world’s foremost leadership experts. He wisely inspires us to seek to be the best we can be. And in doing so, we bring out the best in others.
“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” – Wayne Dyer
Great leaders exude joy and an infectious energy. Their passion is captivating and they are fascinating to observe. They work as if it isn’t work at all, because they are inherently doing what they love.
“I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
This short video of Michael Jordan gives us tingles every time we see it. Great leaders don’t shy away from fear and failure. They embrace challenges and accept that they will stumble many times on the road to success.
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington
Great leaders think about the team more than themselves. They are passionate about developing, inspiring and celebrating. As a result, they are often surrounded by raving fans, willing to go above and beyond. Often, when a great leader leaves an organization, their people follow them.
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha
Leadership is about inspiring other people to create a better future. They understand that all visions, dreams and goals begin with the power of thought. As a result, they consciously monitor their thoughts and beliefs.
Focus: Leaders focus on inspiring and developing others.
“Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says “Go!”; a leader says “Let’s go!”” – E.M. Kelly
At its core, leadership is about mobilizing other people and fostering a team environment. Great leaders use the word “we” more often than “me”. They are prepared to roll up their sleeves, work alongside with you and share the recognition.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
Many people are promoted into management positions because they do things effectively. But the skills required to lead others are quite different. Leaders, instead, need to focus on what other people need. And as Daniel Pink so wisely summarized in Drive, other people need purpose, mastery and control to be fully engaged.
“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.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
When we reflect back on the great leaders we’ve been fortunate to work with, we recall feeling inspired, appreciated, joyful and so much more. Great leaders emphasize bringing out the best in everyone. They are also highly versatile and strive to connect with unique individuals.
“The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Great leaders focus more on others than themselves. They emphasize understanding more than talking. They ask for input and prompt a discussion rather than simply saying, “do you understand?”
“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 them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Colin Powell
The best leaders are approachable and accessible. They are truly part of the team and not merely a figurehead. They view mistakes as a valuable part of the process and strive to remove obstacles wherever they can.
“Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high.” – Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix
This quote speaks to one of the most important elements of high-performance teams: respect. If the concept of “being nice” were embraced by everyone, we believe employee engagement levels would rise (sadly, they have hovered around 30% across industries for years). Effective leaders challenge people to apply the Golden Rule: treat everyone the way you’d like to be treated.
“If you want someone to develop a specific trait, treat them as though they already had it.” – Goethe
As the saying goes, we catch more bees with honey. Similarly, research suggests that the best way to shape behavior is to catch people doing it. Great leaders spend less time correcting mistakes and more time celebrating wins to reinforce desired behaviour.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry Truman
Leaders focus more on team versus individual accomplishments. They emphasize group goals, group results and group recognition.
Action: Leaders are action-oriented, with a relentless passion to deliver results.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker
Leaders effectively navigate uncertainty and overwhelm because they believe they have influence over their future. This optimism and determination protects them from feeling stuck and ultimately delivers their desired results.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Great leaders look forward, not backwards. They view setbacks as learning opportunities and don’t spend time dwelling on what might have been. Rather, they focus on making things happen.
“In preparing for war, I have found plans to be useless but planning to be indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Leaders effectively balance upfront planning and opportunistic flexibility. They recognize that failing to plan is the equivalent of planning to fail. As a result, they always make time for this valuable upfront step.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
Great leaders model excellence in all areas of their life. They combine high quality work with a balanced life. They don’t allow themselves to get burned out because they know this inhibits their performance.
“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson
Great accomplishments are backed by a great amount of work. A seemingly “overnight success” has often been working diligently for years. Great leaders are both determined and focused on their core goals.
Now we’d love to hear from you. Which of the above quotes is your favourite and why? What is another quote you’d add to the above list? Please share in the comments below.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the amazing #NimbleQuotes on twitter. They have so many more terrific quotes.