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Best Leadership Quotes of All Time

JFK leaders quote

A primary focus of an employee experience program is career and leadership development for employees, Qualtrics does this using our 360-degree feedback software. In the spirit of leadership development, we gathered a few quotes about leadership from noteworthy leaders, helping us define what separates good leaders from great ones. Share these leadership quotes with your team members and managers when they need a bit of motivation.

These quotes have resonated with us at Qualtrics and we hope they do the same for you.

Leadership Quotes

Woodrow Wilson quote

“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

Lloyd J. Edwards Jr quote "You can't teach leadership, but it can be learned"

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

“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

“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

Brian Tracy leadership quote "Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems"

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” – Brian Tracy

“The highest of distinctions is service to others.” – King George VI

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

“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

Eisenhower leadership quote "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it"

“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

“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

Dale Carnegie leadership quote "Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success"

“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

Mark Twain leadership quote "You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus"

“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

John Maxwell quote "Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another"

“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 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

Orrin Woodward leadership quote "Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar"

“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

“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

Max Depree leadership quote "Leaders don't inflict pain, they share pain"

“Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.” – Max Depree

“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

“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

Arnold Glasgow leadership quote "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit"

“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

Friedrich Nietzsche leadership quote "To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult"

“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

JFK leaders quote "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other"

“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

Pete Hoekstra quote "Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people that they lead"

“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

Steve Jobs leadership quote "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower"

“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

Colin Powell quote "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand"

“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

Edward Murrow quote "To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful"

“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

Ken Blanchard leadership quote "The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision"

“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

Nancy D Solomon quote "You get in life what you have the courage to ask for"

“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
Niccolo Machiavelli leadership quote "He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command"

“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

Joe Namath quote "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"

“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

Max Lucado quote "A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd"

“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

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

Michale Jordan quote "Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen"

“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

“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

Bill Owens quote "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"

“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 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

Joe DiMaggio quote "A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example"

“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

“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

Harry Truman quote "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"

“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
Joh Zenger quote "Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths"

“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

John D Rockefeller quote "Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great"

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

8 Qualities that make Great Leaders

The leadership quotes we’ve collected show that great leaders all share special qualities that set them apart. While they may appear in different proportions, they create a synergy that people see as true leadership.

  1. Confidence. If you want others to believe you and follow your lead, you’ve got to be sure about your decisions and act with assertiveness.
  2. Integrity and Honesty. Being honest about your goals and vision from the outset will inspire others to follow you. It’s also vital that you can stick to your values and core beliefs, however successful you become.
  3. Innovation. Creative impulses and the ability to have ideas that are out of the box – and to follow through with them – is what distinguishes the good from the great.
  4. Communication. Having a vision is one thing, but communicating it to others is something else! Keeping the lines of communication open and honest is vital in earning the respect of your team and motivating them to meet your goals.
  5. Decisiveness. Decision-making is what sets the leader apart, and can shape the future of a company. Making good decisions without rushing, and acting in a decisive way inspires the confidence of your team.
  6. Delegation. No one person can do everything, and a good leader can recognize that. As well as freeing you up to focus on key responsibilities and decisions, delegation also empowers other team members and makes them feel valued.
  7. Accountability. Everyone wants to take the credit when something goes right, but a good leader also takes on his fair share of blame when things go wrong. Working together as a team makes everyone responsible for the future success of the company, and makes for a better working environment.
  8. Passion and Commitment. If you’re going, go all the way. Great leaders are never afraid of getting their hands dirty and showing how much they care about success, the future, and team morale.

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

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