20 Favorite Quotes for Great Leaders

President Lincoln with troops






Leaders of small businesses often wear so many hats (strategy, accounting, procurement, sales, IT … ) it can be hard to remember to focus on your leadership skills so you can work with your employees in a way that inspires them.

So it can be helpful to give yourself cues and shortcuts to remind you (1) to act like a leader every day and (2) what good leadership looks like. (Of course it’s also necessary to really learn how to manage and lead, by taking courses and reading books and well-respected management columnists.)

I like to keep a few kinds of prompts visible during my daily and weekly routine — pictures on my wall of historical leaders whose philosophies I try to follow, an RSS feed, a LinkedIn feed from a few current leaders I respect, a day-to-day calendar with a different leadership quote.

In the spirit of helping fellow entrepreneurs find a little wisdom from the real experts, I thought I’d share some quotes that have at times kept me moving in the right direction.

Below are 20 of my favorite leadership quotes:

You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership. — Dwight Eisenhower

A leader is a dealer in hope. — Napoleon Bonaparte

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. — Tom Peters

Don’t find fault, find a remedy. — Henry Ford

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. — Theodore Roosevelt

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

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together. — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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

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 or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. — Colin Powell

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 Tzu

I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. — Steve Jobs

A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops. — John J. Pershing

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. — George Patton

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

Men make history and not the other way around. 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

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. — Abraham Lincoln

The supreme quality of leadership is integrity. — Dwight Eisenhower

Have a favorite quote I didn’t include here? Share it with other readers below in the comments!

Who is John Paulsen? A former small-business leader myself, I feel your pain (and joy) and hope you’ll enjoy the blog. I launched and ran a well-regarded production company in San Francisco with a team of 9 brilliant, hard working people. I learned to manage a wide array of tasks a small business must handle — business strategy, facilities design, HR, payroll, taxes, marketing, all the way down to choosing telecom equipment and spec’ing a server system to help my team collaborate in real-time on dense media projects from multiple production rooms. I’ve partnered with and learned from dozens of small business owners.


About the Author:

Leave A Comment