What does leadership mean to you? Is leadership the ability to make decisions quickly and efficiently on behalf of a team or company? Or is leadership about inspiring others with your vision for the future, all while building up their confidence in themselves? Leadership means different things to different people. Leadership quotes are good because they allow us to see how others define leadership.
There are certain people throughout history that have defied what the average person can accomplish. Not all of these people lived loud lives in the public eye, and success to them wasn’t the same across the board. However, they managed to understand the human experience to a degree that some of us never will. And during their time here on earth they’ve left some incredible life lessons that we would all benefit from learning.
Today we’re going to be looking at 25 inspirational leadership quotes that will help light your way towards success!
1. Martin Luther King Jr.
Being a leader means trusting your intuition in order to guide the people you’re managing. While there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know everything (you’re still human after all), that should never be an excuse to not try. Not sure if the solution to the problem will work? Trust your experience will guide you – even if you can’t see every detail clearly. This is what leadership quotes are all about!
2. Marcus Aurelius
The greatest leaders in history were humble when it came to receiving feedback. You will notice that as a common theme throughout these leadership quotes. No one was above them, and their job was to serve those below them. Be open to feedback by not letting your ego get in the way. But, be generous and kind when you have to give your opinion in return.
3. Mother Teresa
Never underestimate the power of a leader that takes the time to praise their team. Pointing out where improvements can be done is a great help, but positive feedback from a superior can create motivation long after the conversation has ended. This leadership quote is about using positive feedback as a good coaching mechanism. You can learn more about how to give positive feedback through our article here.
4. Abraham Lincoln
A good leader will guide the way, but will also let their team complete the journey on their own. Show them the way once, twice, three times. In the end, however, a true manager’s responsibility is to ensure the people who follow them have learned how to walk the road on their own.
This is one of the main points that we echo in our course called “Coaching Based Performance Reviews“. Take the Free course preview!
5. Kobe Bryant
Show your team there’s no task too small, no job too insignificant. Each person has an invaluable and important part to play within the group. Lead by example and demonstrate you can do the managerial tasks, but also the entry-level ones. Read our article about how being competent can improve team performance here.
6. Thomas Jefferson
Allowing your team to see the bigger picture can help them understand where they fit in. When you understand your purpose the feeling of not wanting to do a task because you don’t find a deeper reason for it tends to dissipate. Explain to them why what you’re asking them to do matters, and show them what their part is in helping the organization’s overall goal. It will create an environment where they willingly do the job assigned, and because they chose to do it they’re less likely to find it troublesome.
7. Nelson Mandela
Nelson’s advice is applicable in business, and in life. Courage doesn’t mean not being afraid, it means being afraid and doing it anyway. How does this apply to leadership? It could be having tough conversations with your team, creating a process not knowing how the stakeholders will take it, or even spending a big chunk of money on a new computer system.
It’s not about taking every single step without fumbling. That will never be an option. Tripping and mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Focus on learning how to get up, dust off, and try again. When it comes to being in charge of a team this might look like not letting an angry customer get to you in front of them. But, even if they do and you lose your temper, be kind to yourself. Take a breath, and learn from that experience so that you can do better next time.
This leadership quote is about the importance of humility. Never be ashamed of not knowing the answer to something. Even when in positions of leadership, being honest and transparent with your team when there’s something you don’t know will do wonders in building trust. If they see you learning as you go they’ll feel more confident to do the same on their end. Read more about why humility is the most important personality trait to have at work here.
10. Walt Disney
Perfection is the enemy of good! There will never be a right time to start a new venture, no matter how big or small. It’s human nature to dislike change and to create excuses around it to prevent it from happening. “Before we can hire this new person we need to upgrade the training processes”. “We’ll pitch that big account once we have more experience under our belt”. Sound familiar? Stop talking about doing it, and actually start doing it.
11. Alan Watts
Adaptability in leadership and business is a key trait to have in your toolbox. There will always be something that goes wrong or that happens unexpectedly. But, being able to go with the flow and change course as the waves hit the boat will put you lightyears ahead of those who can’t. Spending time trying to change the circumstances is pointless, but spending that same time finding solutions to the issue? Priceless.
12. Michael Jordan
Having experience and being talented at your job is a great thing to bring to the table. But, the beauty of society is the ability to have access to different points of view and abilities. The same applies to leadership. Celebrate and utilize your team’s differences. There might be an idea hiding in someone that you might have not thought about.
13. Eleanor Roosevelt
Being certain that you know everything can leave you feeling complacent. You never know what tomorrow may bring and complacency can play against you in the end. So, it’s important to approach tasks trusting that you know what to do if something unexpected happens, while also being ok with that unexpected situation.
14. Teddy Roosevelt
You don’t need the newest organizational software, downtown office, or big equipment to succeed. Amazon started in Jeff Bezos’ garage with an old computer, a spray-painted logo on the wall, and not nearly as much knowledge as he has today. We all know how that ended up going. He worked with what he had, where he was at that point, and started with what he could.
15. Helen Keller
One of the biggest traits of the great leaders of history (both in and out of business) is their ability to be visionary. Oprah might have not known exactly how big her success would end up being, but she knew she was meant for greatness. And she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. Did you know that she was famously fired from her first job at a broadcasting company when she was young? If she would have let her deter her she would have never become who she is today. She had a vision and tirelessly worked towards it.
This leadership quote stresses the importance of planning in life and having a vision for where you want to go. Take the first step in your life plan by taking our Free course called “Building Your Personal Annual Plan”
16. Muhamad Ali
Do the things you have to do in order to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Perseverance, commitment, and consistency will always trump motivation. While Ali had to physically suffer to achieve his goal, when it comes to leadership it can be more subtle. Something as small as completing admin work side by side with your team can bond you to them and help everyone achieve the final goal.
17. Elon Musk
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your business or your team. Take your time learning the industry, the people you work with, the service or product you’re selling. Most of us are impatient by nature and want success immediately, but nothing worth having ever came to be quick. Once you can understand that then, and only then, will you be able to succeed in what you’ve set out to do.
18. David Goggins
Misery loves company. And gossip, and bad vibes. While it might be a good way to let some steam off after a hard situation or conversation, in the end, that kind of attitude can get old fast. No one wants to be around a negative person for long, so be sure that’s not you – or your team. Part of preventing people from having bad attitudes on your team is hiring the right people.
That’s why we created our course called “How to Hire ‘A’ Players“. Check out the free preview here.
19. John Wayne
Wayne is making an incredibly important point here – particularly in business. Many leaders expect things to go right the very first time and get frustrated with their teams if there are mistakes made more than once. While we’re not saying it’s ok if the same person makes the same errors over and over again, there’s something to be said about things going wrong. In order to understand how things should look, you first need to learn how things should not look. And the only way to achieve that is by making the wrong choices first.
20. Steve Jobs
This leadership quote focuses on the differentiation between a leader and a follower. Your ability to think outside the box will forever be your greatest ally. Anyone can follow the trends and copy what other people in their industry are doing, but a true leader will disrupt the status quo. Take the risk you’ve been thinking about, you never know what may happen.
21. Viktor Frankl
Viktor’s take on letting go of those things we can’t control is a huge lesson in leadership. You can fight against the current all you want, you can drag your feet and try to change the things and people around you. But it’s when you realize the only thing you can control are your own thoughts and actions that true change can rise. Viktor Frankl’s book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a goldmine for leadership quotes as well as self-empowerment quotes. We recommend you check it out when you get the chance!
22. Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins is a rich source when it comes to leadership quotes. The biggest difference between those who dreamed it and those who achieved it? Action. Steve Jobs might have been smarter than the average person, but that’s not what made him successful. It was his ability to take that invisible, huge dream that he had and create actional steps in order to reach them. Break down the big goal into smaller, easily digestible objectives and watch your dreams come true.
23. Barack Obama
If not you, then who? Don’t wait for your boss or even your team to take action and make a change. If you see something that needs addressing and you have the ability to do so, take that step. It will show initiative, passion, and resourcefulness.
24. Winston Churchill
A good attitude can change the feel of a room in an instant. It’s also a natural attractant people gravitate towards in times of stress. As a leader, it’s important to maintain a positive and calm attitude as much as possible. It’s not about never showing stress or fear. It’s about giving your team a calm and stable figure for them to turn to in times of need.
25. Albert Einstein
Imagination is that inner skill that will allow you to believe the impossible is possible. Bill Gates never would have thought he could reach the success he did if he didn’t have a little imagination to fuel his dreams. His knowledge and smarts took him far, but it was his ability to see something that wasn’t there yet that propelled him those extra miles to victory.