111+ Best Leadership Quotes: Great Sayings by the World’s Top Leaders

A good leader is hard to define, but let's try anyway! In this post, top minds give us their best leadership quotes to inspire and motivate the leader within us. *Follow* us as we *lead* you through them! :D

Leadership is one of those concepts that seem to become more complex the longer you think about it.

Scholars, specialists, and businesspeople alike have debated what constitutes leadership for millennia; in fact, even ancient Sanskrit texts identified ten types of leaders.

According to R.J. Chin in Team Performance Management, Vol. 21, leadership is “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” However, this is considered a US-view, and there are many more theories on leadership and its traits, function, styles, and other attributes.

But, we’re not here to talk about leadership academically today.

Rather, this post is just to motivate and inspire the leader in you by giving you easily digestible leadership quotes from some of the best minds from every walk of life.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

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Here are some of the best quotes about leadership to motivate and inspire you:

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

Peter F. Drucker

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

Bill Gates

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.

William Arthur Ward

A boss has the title; a leader has the people.

Simon Sinek

Just a quick FYI – I’ve included many great quotes on leadership by Simon Sinek in this post. He has quite a few gems, though I am biased, as well, as he’s one of the most motivational people I follow 🙂

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

Colin Powell

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

Henry Gilmer

Leadership is an action, not a position.

Donald McGannon

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

Margaret Fuller

Related Read: 55+ Teamwork Quotes That Celebrate & Inspire Collaboration

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

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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

Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.

Simon Sinek

There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment.

Orison Swett Marden

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

M. D. Arnold

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

Harvey S. Firestone

Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.

John C. Maxwell

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

Charles F. Kettering

Earn your leadership every day.

Michael Jordan

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

Eleanor Roosevelt

Related Read: 25+ Best Jobs for Introverts: Top Careers for the Reserved & Reflective

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

Herbert Bayard Swope

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

Leadership is an ever-evolving position.

Mike Krzyzewski

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

Stephen Covey

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.

Arnold Glasow

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

Mahatma Gandhi

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

Lyndon B Johnson

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

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

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

Related Read: How to Make Friends in College: 10+ Easy Ways to Meet People at Uni

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

Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you—not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.

Simon Sinek

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

Bill Gates

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

Ray Kroc

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

Harold Geneen

It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people; to focus your energies on answers — not excuses.

William Arthur Ward

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

Margaret Thatcher

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.

William Arthur Ward

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

Simon Sinek

To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Related Read: What is Entrepreneurship? The Meaning of Entrepreneur Simply Defined

Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.

Max De Pree

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

Peter F. Drucker

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

Warren G. Bennis

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


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

Ralph Nader

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 leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

John C. Maxwell

And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.

Simon Sinek

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

Stephen Covey

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

Margaret Wheatley

Related Read: 25 Best Apps for College Students: Productivity, Studying, Learning & More

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.

Jim Rohn

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.

Ken Blanchard

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

Brian Tracy

Related Read: Best Low-Stress Jobs to Consider for Those With Anxiety

The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.

Simon Sinek

The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.

Publilius Syrus

Let us all be the leaders we wish we had.

Simon Sinek

You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.

Simon Sinek

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

Steve Jobs

Related Read: 10+ Job Search Tips & Tricks to Up Your Chances of Landing an Interview

We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.

Simon Sinek

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

John F. Kennedy

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

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

Robert F. Mager

Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.

Bill Bradley

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

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

Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

I say “attributed to” Abe because this famous leadership quote was more likely written by his biographer and then, through time, attributed to Lincoln.

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.

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

Harold R. McAlindon

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Related Read: 55 Resume Tips, Hacks & Expert Advice to Help You Score a Job Interview

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

Ralph Nader

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

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

John Buchan

Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.

John Zenger

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

Sam Rayburn

After reading about Sam Rayburn, the 43rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, I’ve become quite a fan. This guy was a leader, sure, but also a leader of the highest integrity. Definitely a quote about leadership to remember!

Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.

Simon Sinek

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

John C. Maxwell

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

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

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

John C. Maxwell

Related Read: 15+ Free Online Learning Platforms & Tools to Use to Study From Home

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

Edward Rickenbacker

Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people,’ that is flattery. 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

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

Arnold Glasow

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

Jack Welch

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

Dianne Feinstein

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

Brian Tracy

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

Eleanor 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

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.

Oprah Winfrey

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

Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.

Simon Sinek

Related Read: 50+ Best Entrepreneurship Quotes to Inspire, Motivate, and Encourage

The highest of distinctions is service to others.

King George VI

And this one is, to me, one of the best leadership quotes I’ve heard:

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

Simon Sinek

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

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

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

William Arthur Ward

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

Seth Godin

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

John D. Rockefeller

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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

James Humes

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

Related Read: How to Create an Elevator Pitch in 5 Easy Steps (With Tips & Advice)

It is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.

Simon Sinek

Whatever you are, try to be a good one.

William Makepeace Thackeray

You manage things; you lead people.

Grace Murray Hopper

There are no office hours for leaders.

Cardinal J. Gibbons

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

Warren G. Bennis

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

Martin Luther King Jr.

A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him rise to the top.

Simon Sinek

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

Jeanette Rankin

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

Leroy Eimes

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

Edith Wharton

Related Read: 25+ Best History Books of All Time for a Solid Understanding of Our World

When people talk, listen completely.

Ernest Hemingway

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

Joel Barker

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

Robert Louis Stevenson

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

Tony Blair

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

Kurt Vonnegut

Related Read: An Entrepreneur’s Glossary: 20+ Entrepreneurship Vocabulary Terms Defined

Well, that’s all for the time being on our list of best leadership quotes, and we hope they’ve inspired your own journey as a leader! Got any questions, feedback, or other quotes about leadership to add to this post? Let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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Christian Eilers
Written By Christian Eilers
is a writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, career advice, travel, and culture. On the Goodwall Blog, he covers topics including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career development, climate action, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Kyiv, Ukraine after living in Warsaw, Poland for the past 4 years. At his desk, you're sure to find Pickwick, his Devon Rex cat, either attacking his fingers as he types or the monitor as the mouse pointer moves around.

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