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No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation's life. … It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists learned, little by little, the greatness of their leader… John Richard Green

Leadership is activity by which people become aware of ways to accomplish their desired goals, affirm values which they cherish, and to develop new values and goals which are in greater accord with their current capacities and ultimate potentials.

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I will not go where the path may lead, but I will go instead where there is no path, and I will leave a trail. ~ Muriel Strode
Alphabetized by author
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
The price of greatness is responsibility. ~ Winston Churchill
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. ~ Peter Drucker
Lead, and They Will Follow ~ Trudy Jean Evans
We must be the change we wish to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Lead, follow or get out of the way! ~ George S. Patton


  • As we look over the list of the early leaders of the republic, Washington, John Adams, Hamilton, and others, we discern that they were all men who insisted upon being themselves and who refused to truckle to the people. With each succeeding generation, the growing demand of the people that its elective officials shall not lead but merely register the popular will has steadily undermined the independence of those who derive their power from popular election. The persistent refusal of the Adamses to sacrifice the integrity of their own intellectual and moral standards and values for the sake of winning public office or popular favor is another of the measuring rods by which we may measure the divergence of American life from its starting point.
  • He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.
    • Aristotle, in Politics as translated by Benjamin Jowett
  • If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.


  • A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless and visionless … someone's got to make a wake up call.
    • Warren Bennis, in Reinventing Leadership : Strategies to Empower the Organization (2005), by Warren G. Bennis and Robert Townsend, p. 91
  • Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.
    • Lester R. Bittel, in The Nine Master Keys of Management (1972)
  • Leadership is understanding people and involving them to help you do a job. That takes all of the good characteristics, like integrity, dedication of purpose, selflessness, knowledge, skill, implacability, as well as determination not to accept failure.
    • Admiral Arleigh Burke, quoted in Naval Leadership : Voices of Experience (1998) by Karel Montor, p. 18
  • The object of leadership may be stated as having a system whereby a leader recognizes what is good for the good of the government, for the good of the nation, for the good of humanity, and recognizes the qualities he has and what he can do within his own limitations. He cannot do, and should not attempt to do, the impossible, but he should not fail to attempt something that might be extremely difficult and may be possible.
    • Admiral Arleigh Burke, quoted in Naval Leadership : Voices of Experience (1998) by Karel Montor, p. 18
  • "A leader looks up to those who look to him."
    • Bob Iaconi, Jr. (1999)
  • When we think we lead, we are most led


  • 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, as quoted in Managing Software Development Projects : Formula for Success (1995) by Neal Whitten, p. 63
  • "Safety first" has been the motto of the human race for half a million years; but it has never been the motto of leaders. A leader must face danger. He must take the risk and the blame, and the brunt of the storm.
  • A leader must have the courage to act against an expert's advice.
  • A leader has to appear consistent. That doesn't mean he has to be consistent.
  • Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
    • "Armistice - or Peace?", published in The Evening Standard (11 November 1937)
  • The price of greatness is responsibility.
  • There are many leaders, not just one. Leadership is distributed. It resides not solely in the individual at the top, but in every person at every level who, in one way or another, acts as a leader to a group of followers - wherever in the organization that person is, whether shop steward, team head, or CEO.
  • Persistence in a single view has never been regarded as a merit in political leaders.


  • The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.
  • It is not a question of how well each process works, the question is how well they all work together.
    • Lloyd Dobens and Clare Crawford-Mason, in Thinking About Quality : Progress, Wisdom, and the Deming Philosophy (1994)
  • Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
  • Successful leaders don’t start out asking, "What do I want to do?" They ask, "What needs to be done?" Then they ask, "Of those things that would make a difference, which are right for me?" They don’t tackle things they aren’t good at. They make sure other necessities get done, but not by them. Successful leaders make sure that they succeed! They are not afraid of strength in others. Andrew Carnegie wanted to put on his gravestone, "Here lies a man who knew how to put into his service more able men than he was himself."
    • Peter Drucker, as quoted in "‘What Needs to Be Done’, Peter Drucker On Leadership", an interview with Rich Karlgaard in Forbes magazine (19 November 2004)
  • Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.
    • Peter Drucker, as quoted in 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself (2004) by Steve Chandler, p. 25


  • Now I think, speaking roughly, by leadership we mean the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.
  • Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. When you delegate something to a subordinate, for example, it is absolutely your responsibility, and he must understand this. You as a leader must take complete responsibility for what the subordinate does. I once said, as a sort of wisecrack, that leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in Nineteen Stars : a Study in Military Character and Leadership (1971) by Edgar F. Puryear Jr.
  • Vivacity, leadership, must be had, and we are not allowed to be nice in choosing. We must fetch the pump with dirty water, if clean cannot be had.
  • The Pied Piper Principle : Lead, and They Will Follow


  • The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organization.
  • From the moment when he took command of the army, Washington was, indeed, "first in the hearts of his countrymen." And the student of our history cannot help remarking how providential it was that, at the outset of this struggle, Washington should come to the front. … Had not Washington been at hand, accepted by the Congress and admired by the army, the virtual leader of both, the chances of success would have been slight. But he was Lincoln and Grant in one. Time and time again, through the long years, it was Washington alone who brought victory from defeat. Without him, the colonies might have won their independence as the result of an almost interminable guerilla warfare; but with him the fight was definite, glorious, and-for the infant republic, mercifully short.
  • If you command wisely, you'll be obeyed cheerfully.


  • 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.
  • We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, as quoted in "Arun Gandhi Shares the Mahatma's Message" by Michel W. Potts inIndia - West, Vol. XXVII, No. 13 (1 February 2002) p. A34
    • Variant: We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
  • Successful people become great leaders when they learn to shift the focus from themselves to others.
  • Leadership is a quality of those who earn the respect of others through the wisdom of the combination of their words and their actions.
    • Walter Grant IV, past President — University of Redlands Whitehead Leadership Society. As quoted in Leadership Greatness: Best Practices To Become A Great Leader By Tri Junarso
  • No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation's life. … It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists learned, little by little, the greatness of their leader — his clear judgment, his calmness in the hour of danger or defeat; the patience with which he waited, the quickness and hardness with which he struck, the lofty and serene sense of duty that never swerved from its task through resentment or jealousy, that never, through war or peace, felt the touch of a meaner ambition; that knew no aim save that of guarding the freedom of his fellow-countrymen; and no personal longing save that of returning to his own fireside when their freedom was secured.
    It was almost unconsciously that men learned to cling to Washington with a trust and faith such as few other men have won, and to regard him with reverence which still hushes us in presence of his memory.


  • What was leadership, after all, but the blind choice of one route over another and the confident pretence that the decision was based on reason.
  • Jingshen is the Mandarin word for spirit and vivacity. It is an important word for those who would lead, because above all things, spirit and vivacity set effective organizations apart from those that will decline and die.
    • James L. Hayes "Memos for Management: Leadership" (1983); also quoted in Spirituality in the Workplace : What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Make It Work for You (2007) by Joan Marques, Satinder Dhiman, and Richard King, p. 131
  • The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.
    The leader personifies the certitude of the creed and the defiance and grandeur of power. He articulates and justifies the resentment damned up in the souls of the frustrated. He kindles the vision of a breath-taking future so as to justify the sacrifice of a transitory present. He stages a world of make-believe so indispensable for the realization of self-sacrifice and united action.
  • If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.
    • Admiral Grace Hopper, as quoted in Built to Learn : The inside story of how Rockwell Collins became a true learning organization (2003) by Cliff Purington, Chris Butler, and Sarah Fister Gale, p. 171
  • Those who command themselves, command others
    • WILLIAM HAZLITT, Characteristics


  • In matters of style, swim with the current: in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
    • Thomas Jefferson, as quoted in Careertracking: 26 success Shortcuts to the Top (1988) by James Calano and Jeff Salzman; though used in an address by Bill Clinton (31 March 1997), and sometimes cited to Notes on the State of Virginia (1787) no earlier occurence of this has yet been located.
  • The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.
    • Jesus as reported by Matthew 20:25-27
  • Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.


  • Ye call me chief, and ye do well to call him chief who, for twelve long years, has met upon the arena every shape of man or beast that the broad Empire of Rome could furnish, and has never yet lowered his arm. And if there be one among you who can say that, ever, in public fight or private brawl, my actions did belie my tongue, let him step forth and say it. If there be three in all your throng dare face me on the bloody sand, let them come on! Yet I was not always thus, a hired butcher, a savage chief of still more savage men.
    • Elijah Kellogg, "Spartacus to the Gladiators"; in Wilmot B. Mitchell, Elijah Kellogg: The Man and His Work (1903), p. 206. Written by Kellogg as a student at Andover Theological Seminary in 1840–1843, and published in various books on public speaking and oratory.


  • A leader is best when people barely know he exists; Not so good when people obey and acclaim him; worst when they despise him; but a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say "We did it our selves!"
    • Laozi, in the Tao Te Ching
    • Variant translations:
    • When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.
      • As quoted in How to think like Einstein: simple ways to break the rules and discover your hidden genius (2000) by Scott Thorpe, p. 172
    • 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!"
      • As quoted in Introducing Leadership (2006) by David Pardey, p. 57
  • Superior leaders get things done with very little motion. They impart instruction not through many words, but through a few deeds. They keep informed about everything but interfere hardly at all. They are catalysts, and though things would not get done as well if they were not there, when they succeed they take no credit. And, because they take no credit, credit never leaves them.
    • Laozi, as quoted in Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success (1999) by Jim Clemmer, p. 137
  • There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.
    • An unknown comedian is quoted as saying "il faut bien que je les suive, puisque je suis leur chef", Galerie des Contemporains Illustres, vol. 3 (1841), M. Mauguin p. 6; see also Revue Britannique, ser. 6, vol. 30 (1850), p. 342. Attributed to Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, one of the leaders of the February Revolution of 1848 in France, Eugène de Mirecourt, Histoire Contemporaine, No. 79 (1857). James Michael Curley uses this quotation as an epigraph at the beginning of chapter 4 of his autobiography, I'd Do It Again (1957), p. 44, and attributes it to a French Revolutionist. Attribution to Gandhi of "I must follow the people for I am their leader" is made by Leon Howell, "The Delta Ministry", Christianity and Crisis (August 8, 1966), p. 192. Alvin R. Calman, Ledru-Rollin and the Second French Republic (Studies in History, Economics and Public Law), vol. 103, no. 2, (1922), p. 374, says Ledru-Rollin's use of "I am their chief; I must follow them" is probably apocryphal.
  • The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on. . . . The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.


No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance. ~ Henry Miller
  • The art of leading, in operations large or small, is the art of dealing with humanity, of working diligently on behalf of men, of being sympathetic with them, but equally, of insisting that they make a square facing toward their own problems.
    • S. L. A. Marshall in Men Against Fire : The Problem of Battle Command in Future War (1954), p. 160
  • If you're a leader, you don't push wet spaghetti, you pull it. The U.S. Army still has to learn that. The British understand it. Patton understood it. I always admired Patton. Oh, sure, the stupid bastard was crazy. He was insane. He thought he was living in the Dark Ages. Soldiers were peasants to him. I didn't like that attitude, but I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes.
  • My goal is not to be a "well-rounded" leader, but rather to focus on the unique gifts that I can bring, and then make certain that the strengths of others bring all that is necessary — including the things that I lack — to our work ...
  • The real leader has no need to lead — he is content to point the way.
    • Henry Miller, "The Wisdom of the Heart" in The Wisdom of the Heart (1941)
  • No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.
  • Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.
    • John C. Maxwell, in "Leaders Touch a Heart before They Ask for a Hand", in Josh McDowell's Youth Ministry Handbook: Making the Connection (2000), Ch. 14


  • One can lead a nation only by helping it see a bright outlook. A leader is a dealer in hope.
    • Napoleon I of France, in Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916) edited by Jules Bertaut, as translated by Herbert Edward Law and Charles Lincoln Rhodes


  • When the word leader, or leadership, returns to current use, it connotes a relapse into barbarism. For a civilized people, it is the most ominous word in any language.
  • Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.
  • Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
    • George S. Patton, in War As I Knew It (1947) "Reflections and Suggestions"
  • We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.
    • George S. Patton, as quoted in Pocket Patriot : Quotes from American Heroes (2005) edited by Kelly Nickell, p. 157
  • He made the city [Athens], great as it was when he took it, the greatest and richest of all cities, and grew to be superior in power to kings and tyrants. Some of these actually appointed him guardian of their sons, but he did not make his estate a single drachma greater than it was when his father left it to him.
    • Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (1915), life of Pericles, vol. 3, p. 51
  • Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.


  • You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.
    • [[Sam Rayburn], The Leadership of Speaker Sam Rayburn, Collected Tributes of His Congressional Colleagues (1961), p. 34. House Doc. 87–247. "A compilation of tributes paid him in the Hall of the House of Representatives, June 12, 1961, and other pertinent material, to celebrate the occasion of his having served as Speaker twice as long as any of his predecessors in the history of the United States: Sixteen years and 273 days" (title page)
  • The future is taking shape now in our own beliefs and in the courage of our leaders. Ideas and leadership — not natural or social "forces" — are the prime movers in human affairs.


  • With the changes in technological complexity, especially in information technology, the leadership task has changed. Leadership in a networked organization is a fundamentally different thing from leadership in a traditional hierarchy.
  • The art of leadership is in the ability to make people want to work for you, while they are really under no obligation to do so. Leaders are people, who raise the standards by which they judge themselves and by which they are willing to be judged. The goal chosen, the objective selected, the requirements imposed, are not mainly for their followers alone.
    They develop with consumate energy and devotion, their own skill and knowledge in order to reach the standard they themselves have set.
    This whole-hearted acceptance of the demands imposed by even higher standards is the basis of all human progress. A love of higher quality, we must remember, is essential in a leader.
  • I will not follow where the path may lead; instead I will go where there is no path and leave a trail.
    • Muriel Strode, from My Little Book of Prayer, Open Court Publishing (1905). p. 11 (commonly and incorrectly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • As we, the leaders, deal with tomorrow, our task is not to try to make perfect plans. Our task is to create organizations that are sufficiently flexible and versatile that they can take our imperfect plans and make them work in execution. That is the essential character of the learning organization.


  • I suppose men are born with traits that can be cultivated in the direction of leadership. But there is also no doubt that leadership can be cultivated The idea of any man being born an army commander or being born to be a theater commander, such as General Eisenhower, just isn’t so. The characteristics of leadership, necessarily has to have certain decisiveness and confidence come from knowledge based on studies and training. The fundamental thing is your basic knowledge, the development of your mind, and your ability to apply this knowledge as you go along your military career.
    • Lucian Truscott, as quoted in Nineteen Stars: A Study in Military Character & Leadership (CA: Presidio, 1971), by Edgar F. Puryear, Jr.— in answer to the question of whether leaders are born or made posed by author.
  • Character is what you are. Reputation is what others think you are. The reason that some fail to climb the ladder of success, or of leadership if you want to call it that, is that there is a difference between reputation and character. The two do not always coincide. A man may be considered to have sterling chracter. Opportunity might come to that man; but if he has the reputation for something he is not, he may fail that opportunity. I think character is the foundation of successful leadership.
    • Lucian Truscott, as quoted in Air Force Journal of Logistics, March 22, 2005, Notable quotes


  • Remember, I have not appointed you as commanders and tyrants over the people. I have sent you as leaders instead, so that the people may follow your example. Give the Muslims their rights and do not beat them lest they become abused. Do not praise them unduly, lest they fall into the error of conceit. Do not keep your doors shut in their faces, lest the more powerful of them eat up the weaker ones. And do not behave as if you were superior to them, for that is tyranny over them.
    • Umar as quoted in Omar the Great : The Second Caliph Of Islam (1962) by Muhammad Shibli Numani, Vol. 2, p. 33


  • Narcissism is often the driving force behind the desire to obtain a leadership position. Perhaps individuals with strong narcissistic personality features are more willing to undertake the arduous process of attaining a position of power.
    • Manfred Kets de Vries and Danny Miller. "Narcissism and leadership: An object relations perspective." Human Relations 38.6 (1985): 583-601


  • 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, attributed, The 101 Greatest Business Principles of All Time
  • In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.
    • Margaret Wheatley, as quoted in 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself (2004) by Steve Chandler, p. 123
  • A great nation is not led by a man who simply repeats the talk of the street-corners or the opinions of the newspapers. A nation is led by a man who hears more than those things; or who, rather, hearing those things, understands them better, unites them, puts them into a common meaning; speaks, not the rumors of the street, but a new principle for a new age; a man in whose ears the voices of the nation do not sound like the accidental and discordant notes that come from the voice of a mob, but concurrent and concordant like the united voices of a chorus, whose many meanings, spoken by melodious tongues, unite in his understanding in a single meaning and reveal to him a single vision, so that he can speak what no man else knows, the common meaning of the common voice. Such is the man who leads a great, free, democratic nation.
    • Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton, address, "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of the People", Chicago, Illinois (February 12, 1909); in Arthur S. Link, ed., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (1975), vol. 19, p. 42

Author unknown[edit]

  • Some citizens are so good that nothing a leader can do will make them better. Others are so incorrigible that nothing can be done to improve them. But the great bulk of the people go with the moral tide of the moment. The leader must help create that tide.
    • Author unknown. Reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) as attributed to a nineteenth century Japanese philosopher by John W. Gardner, as quoted by Edward P. Morgan in his syndicated column. The Washington Post (September 29, 1970), p. A18

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