Below are five leadership quotes that have inspired me over the years. My hope is that these powerful words will serve you as they have me, to guide and challenge us to be our best selves, while growing to become the most authentic, purposeful leader possible.
- Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch
As one of the most respected and celebrated leaders this century, Mr. Welch sums up the focus of good management and leadership in these two short sentences. Every time we interact with direct reports we should be mentally asking ourselves “how can I best support this person and their growth?” and “what do they need from me (right now) to be at their very best – and in alignment with company goals/values/initiatives?” Leaders who understand this quote are clear about their responsibility to inspire excellence and influence others. This type of leader upholds a vision that gets results and builds both the company’s bottom line and those around her.
- Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy
Have you ever been in a group of equals at a civic rally, retreat or church function, where you ended up being “elected” leader? Even without a title, people notice quality and substance. In today’s world leaders must leverage their influence by coaching, encouraging and mentoring to get better results than they would with fear-based, command-and-control approaches. The reality is most employees want to do a good job and if they feel their job provides a sense of purpose they will require simple feedback (positive and improvement based) to monitor their own progress.
- 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
I don’t know when Rosalynn first made this statement, but I imagine it could have often comforted Jimmy during some of the more turbulent days of his presidency. To me, she’s saying great leaders serve as a catalyst and help people find their way because as leaders, we often have the luxury of seeing both the big picture and detail of the pathway. But, remember a good leader doesn’t simply tell people “where to go,” they help them find their own way and connect the dots to help them understand “why” they’re going there.
- Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton
The father of “5&Dime” stores became the head of the world’s largest supply chain through service-based leadership principles such as this. The formula is simple – help people believe in and feel good about themselves and they will accomplish more, be loyal to you and pass along your message! Leaders can create raving fans that will follow them to the edge of the earth by serving as a mirror to help people see the good in themselves. In short, guide people in under-penning or delegating weaknesses, while helping them grow and leverage their strengths.
- Leadership is solving problems. 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
This quote stirs my emotions because of the obvious mental images that it conjures up and because I’ve known so many leaders, who are not only ‘lonely at the top,’ but are completely ISOLATED (and avoided) there! They’ve bullied, threatened or punished people who have disagreed with them. Or they’ve lost their perspective and connection to the very people and principles that should fuel their purpose! General Powell rightfully diagnoses this situation as a complete failure of leadership. Keeping an open door policy is only the beginning. Being a veracious problem solver is the key to sustainable success.
Do you have a favorite leadership quote? Please share it with us and tell us why it is important to you!