My 50 Top Favorite Leadership Quotes
by Gail Saseen

The topic of leadership has always been fascinating to me.  As a result of spending almost 20 years in the armed forces and now another 20 years in the private sector (non-profit, state government, and small business), I’ve seen the good… the bad… and the ugly of leadership!  What I observed and learned the most was how NOT to be as a leader.  As a military officer my troops would mention that, I “was not like other officers”.  When I asked why, the answer was always the same.  I cared, valued and respected my troops… order barking was not my style although it seemed to be for most other military leaders.  To them I seemed to be a natural leader and team builder.

Over the last few years, I’ve really paid attention to small businesses run primarily by entrepreneurs.  These businesses are varied in topic and niche, however, one thing that they do all have in common is the need for a staff or Team (as I prefer) and the ability to retain them.

A common challenge appears to be that these businesses go through Team like crazy.  Why? Sometimes lack of leadership and Team Building Skills, systems and operations are not defined, and sometimes the business owner simply doesn’t know what she/he doesn’t know or need. That doesn’t mean that these are bad people… it simply means that they might not know how to fix it and could use a little help by developing some better leadership skills.

Below I compiled 50 of my favorite leadership quotes… you can definitely use them if you like. Just by reading them and picking your favorites, you can assess your own leadership style and determine if you are an Authentic Leader…


  1. To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!  ~Lao-Tsu
  2. Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
  3. The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.  ~John Buchan
  4. “Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers.” ~Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Visa”
  5. The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” ~ Henry Kissinger
  6. “Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and of tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them. What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”  ~Admiral James B. Stockdale
  7. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”  ~General Colin Powell
  8. “All Leadership is influence.”  ~ John C. Maxwell
  9. You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.”  ~ Sam Rayburn
  10. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
  11. “Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.”  ~Harold Geneen
  12. “Four rules of leadership in a free legislative body:
    First, no matter how hard-fought the issue, never get personal. Don’t say or do anything that may come back to haunt you on another issue, another day….
    Second, do your homework. You can’t lead without knowing what you’re talking about….
    Third, Use your power as a leader to persuade, not intimidate….
    Fourth, be considerate of the needs of your colleagues, even if they’re at the bottom of the totem pole….”  ~George Bush
  13. “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”  ~Stephen R. Covey
  14. “How do you know you have won? When the energy is coming the other way and when your people are visibly growing individually and as a group.” ~ Sir John Harvey-Jones
  15. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” ~Peter F. Drucker
  16. “Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values.”  ~ Mike Vance
  17. “Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration—of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.”  ~ Lance Secretan, Industry Week, October 12, 1998
  18. “I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.”  ~ Scott Berkun
  19. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”   ~Jack Welch
  20. “When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a “drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.”  ~ Abraham Lincoln
  21. “Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead.”  ~Ross Perot
  22. “A leader is a dealer in hope.”   ~Napoleon Bonaparte
  23. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”   ~John Quincy Adams
  24.  “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”   ~General George Patton
  25.  The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in doing so will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.”   ~Eugene B. Habecker
  26. “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”  ~Albert Schweitzer
  27. “If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.”  ~ Dee Hock
  28. “A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done.”  ~Ralph Lauren
  29.  “A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.”   ~David Gergen
  30.  “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. Your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.”   ~James Allen
  31. “Big thinking precedes great achievement.”   ~Wilferd Peterson
  32. “The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”  ~ Theodore Hesburgh
  33. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”   ~Henry David Thoreau
  34.  “Create your future from your future, not your past.”  ~Werner Erhard
  35. “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”   ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
  36.  “Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow.”  ~ Jon Madonna
  37.  “To grasp and hold a vision, that is the very essence of successful leadership—not only on the movie set where I learned it, but everywhere.”  ~ Ronald Reagan
  38. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”  ~Warren Bennis
  39. “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”   ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  40.  “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”  ~ Steve Jobs
  41. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”  ~Dwight Eisenhower
  42. “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”  ~Benjamin Disraeli
  43. “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
  44. “A leader is a dealer in hope”  ~Napoleon Bonaparte
  45. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~Lao-tsu
  46. “The strength of the group is the strength of the leaders.” ~Vince Lombardi
  47. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams
  48. “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  49. “People are persuaded by reason, but moved by emotion; [the leader] must both persuade them and move them.” ~ Richard M. Nixon
  50. “If you are bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things—you don’t have enough goals.”   ~Lou Holtz