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The 10 Best Leadership Quotes of All Time

Words of wisdom are a beautiful thing. They can provide inspiration when you need a boost or clarity during times of distress. Whether on the surface or deep down, we all have an ability to be leaders and to take charge. So when we get lost in the melee of life or simply want to better ourselves, seeking advice from proven leaders is a great way to do this. 

In balancing our personal and professional lives, we are naturally busy beings with not much time to spare. Thus, inspirational quotes are a handy thing to keep around. You can read and re-read them throughout the day, make them your wallpaper on your computer or even tape them to your wall next to your desk. The following are 10 quotes from notable individuals who have all mastered the art of leadership. Let’s see if they can help us do the same. 

1. The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born–that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. - Warren Bennis

If you push yourself for great success, you will inevitably encounter rejection. When we feel rejected, it’s easy to fall victim to believing we aren’t born leaders. But as Bennis implies, people get transformed into leaders through experience. Look at these examples of failures-turned-success: Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper because “he lacked imagination.” Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections before becoming president. And Henry Ford’s failed businesses left him broke five times. 

2. 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 

Roosevelt is telling us that a comfort zone is a person’s worst enemy. Without stepping outside of it and confronting challenges, there is no possibility for growth. Think of something from your past that you greatly feared, and then remember the euphoria you felt after jumping over that hurdle. Facing these fears will set examples for others and yourself. 

3. The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground. - Sir Winston Churchill 

If a person simply observes and then reacts, he or she will be seen as a follower. Therefore, if someone is going to be an effective leader, that person needs to be proactive. In turn, being proactive can snowball and inspire an entire team, company or even a nation. If anybody would know this, it’s Sir Winston Churchill. 

4. 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 

Teddy Roosevelt is another person who knows exactly what it takes to be a leader. You place people on your team because you believe they are the right person for the job. So be cautious with micromanaging. A true leader will know how to empower those around him or her to be leaders themselves. If you meddle too much in people’s work, they will feel incapable and lose their drive. A good leader allows his or her team the space to take charge. 

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

In all of our decisions, we should ask ourselves “Are we being the candle or the mirror?”A leader is expected to lead the way through the darkness. Therefore, as Wharton suggests, a leader should be the candle that inspires those around him or her to spread the light. 

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

The toughest thing about leadership is being able to walk the fine line that it requires. To “be bold, but not bully” is full of subtle nuances that require thought and perspective. They can easily be mistaken as the same tone, especially from an employee’s perspective. So as Rohn points out, to be a good leader, it is essential to decipher the difference between the two and to find ways to stay on the positive side of the line. 

7. Leadership cannot just go along to get along. Leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day. - Jesse Jackson 

Leaders set a precedent for those surrounding them, so it is imperative that they set the moral standard and always have a deep sense of what is right and what is wrong. Doing what is right does not mean keeping everybody happy all the time, a maxim that Jesse Jackson definitely lived by. 

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

True leadership does not come wrapped up in a title or live in the corner office. Tracy affirms this by telling us that a leader’s focus should be on inspiring those around you, not achieving personal success. So whether you are at the top or the bottom of an organization, there is always an opportunity to show leadership. 

9. 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 

Some leaders—the bad ones—believe that attacking employees will make them perform better work. But living in fear and feeling inferior can be a soul-crushing experience, not to mention very bad for productivity. Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart, knows this is the case. A leader should take every chance to instill confidence within his or her personnel. If your employees feel empowered, then they’ll believe in themselves. 

10. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. - Alan Kay 

Without forward-thinking leaders, the world would never change. Think of our universe without the Wright brothers, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. While many executives try to analyze the future of their industry, other innovators like Alan Kay are trying to create it. The best way to better your company is to look beyond the present and build the magic yourself.

 
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