160 Leadership Quotes from Inspiring Leaders

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What makes a good leader? These leadership quotes will tell you!

Lloyd J. Edwards Jr. famously said “you can’t teach leadership, but it can be learned.”

A retired police lieutenant from California, Edwards says confidence, integrity, determination, and a commitment to excellence, are traits common among leaders in any field.

All of these attributes, in the perfect combination, create leaders who inspire those around them to think, do, and be better.

Whether you are currently a leader, or aspire to be one someday, it is important to remember that good leadership requires skills that must be constantly honed and refined.

Being a leader is about more than just having a certain job title. It’s all about having the direction, perseverance, and ability to motivate other people to achieve a common goal.

We hope these amazing leadership quotes inspire you to keep learning and reaching for new heights.

Leadership Quotes

“You can’t teach leadership, but it can be learned.” – Lloyd J. Edwards Jr.

Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.

James Humes

To add value to others, one must first value others.

John Maxwell

Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.

Margaret Thatcher

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.

Seth Godin

When people talk, listen completely.

Ernest Hemingway

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut

The important thing is this: to be able to give up in any given moment all that we are for what we can become.

DeSeaux

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Winston Churchill

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.

Publilius Syrus

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

Margaret Fuller
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You manage things; you lead people.

Grace Murray Hopper

A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.

M.D. Arnold

One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.

Arnold Glasow

The highest of distinctions is service to others.

King George VI

Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.

Brian Tracy

The things we fear most in organizations–fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances–are the primary sources of creativity.

Margaret Wheatley

Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.

Eleanor Roosevelt

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

Theodore Hesburgh
“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” – Dale Carnegie

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

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

Thomas Jefferson

The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.

Tony Blair

A leader is a dealer in hope.

Napoleon Bonaparte

There is a troublesome humor some men have, that if they may not lead, they will not follow; but had rather a thing were never done, than not done their own way, tho’ other ways very desirable.

William Penn
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

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

Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas?

Margaret Thatcher

If you’re not sure where you are going, you’re liable to end up someplace else.

Robert F. Majer

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

Margaret Mead
“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John Maxwell

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.

Brian Tracy

Doing what is right isn’t the problem. It is knowing what is right.

Lyndon B. Johnson

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

Indira Gandhi

Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Winston Churchill

You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go.

Jeanette Rankin
“Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.” – Orrin Woodward

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

The role of leadership is to transform the complex situation into small pieces and prioritize them.

Carlos Ghosn

I think one of the keys to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents. A good leader will learn how to harness those gifts toward the same goal.

Ben Carson

Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.

Max Depree

It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.

Bill Gates

Wise leaders generally have wise counselors because it takes a wise person themselves to distinguish them.

Diogenes of Sinope

Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.

Warren Bennis

The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.

Harvey S. Firestone
“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” – Arnold Glasow

There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.

Charles F. Kettering

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

Warren G. Bennis

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.

Peter F. Drucker

A leader is a person you will follow to a place you would not go by yourself.

Joel Barker

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
“To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

What you do has far greater impact than what you say.

Stephen Covey

The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.

John Maxwell

Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.

Walt Disney

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Jack Welch
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.

Henry Ford

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.

Vince Lombardi

Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.

Peter F. Drucker

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Jack Welch
“Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people that they lead.” – Pete Hoekstra

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward

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

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

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Peter F. Drucker

A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.

Jim Rohn
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution.

Ginni Rometty

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

Martin Luther King Jr.

To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.

Pat Riley

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

Winston Churchill
“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Gen. Colin Powell

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

Theodore Roosevelt

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

Warren Buffett

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

Abraham Lincoln

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.

Malala Yousafzai

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.

Alexander the Great
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.” – Edward Murrow

I learned that things are never as complicated as we imagine them to be. It is only our arrogance which seeks to find complicated answers to simple problems.

Muhammad Yunus

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

Amelia Earhart

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.

John Maxwell

To lead people, walk beside them. As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence … When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’

Lao Tzu
“The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.” – Ken Blanchard

You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.

Sam Rayburn

Leadership is an ever-evolving position.

Mike Krzyzewski

Earn your leadership every day.

Michael Jordan

Those who let things happen usually lose to those who make things happen.

Dave Weinbaum

Leadership is an action, not a position.

Donald McGannon
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” – Nancy D. Solomon

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

Eleanor Roosevelt

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.

Leroy Eimes

Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

George S. Patton Jr.

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

J.K. Rowling
“He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Leonardo da Vinci

If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you.

Indra Nooyi
“To be a leader, you have to make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he is going.” – Joe Namath

If ‘leadership’ has come to be known as something much bigger than us, aligned to changing the world, then we are spending way too much time celebrating things that hardly anyone can do and not celebrating things we can do every day.

Drew Dudley

Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.

Unknown

Each group and each youngster is different. As a leader or coach, you get to know what they need.

Mike Krzyzewski

True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.

Sheryl Sandberg
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.

John Maxwell

The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.

Bill Taylor

Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50 percent of your time in leading yourself–your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20 percent leading those with authority over you and 15 percent leading your peers.

Dee Hock

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.

Tom Landry

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

Douglas MacArthur

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.

Ray Kroc

Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.

David Star Jordan

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Ralph Nader

Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.

Ben Roethlisberger

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.

Rosalynn Carter
“A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.” – Joe DiMaggio

Knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Rosa Parks

If you don’t believe in yourself, why is anyone else going to believe in you.

Tom Brady

True leadership lies in guiding others to success – in ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.

Bill Owens

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.

Henry Kissinger

There are no office hours for leaders.

Cardinal J. Gibbons

I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through–then follow through.

Edward Rickenbacker

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
“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 S. Truman

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

Woodrow Wilson

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.

Stephen Covey

Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.

Harold Geneen

Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.

Dianne Feinstein

Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.

Bill Bradley

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.

Mahatma Gandhi
“Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.” – John Zenger

A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.

Robert Townsend

Look over your shoulder now and then to be sure someone’s following you.

Henry Gilmer

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.

Herbert Swope

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.

John Buchan

The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller

We hope these leadership quotes inspire you to inspire others. If your favorite is missing, share it with us in the comments.

Updated January 4th, 2021.

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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer, researcher, and editor for keepinspiring.me. She holds an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, and has started two businesses since 2011. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring others to live healthy, happy, and active lives.