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The 20 Most Compelling Leadership Quotes to Inspire Your Team

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To help, we’ve put together 20 compelling leadership quotes from a wide range of successful leaders to help inspire you and your team.

1. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.

This was said by Max De Pree, CEO and President of award-winning office furniture companyHerman Miller, which was founded by his father. He also authored several leadership books.including Leadership Is an Art.

2. “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”

This quotation was from Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, who understood that everyone can achieve great things given the right leadership and encouragement.

3. “As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.”

From Indra Nooyi, who was CEO of PepsiCo for 12 years, demonstrating the reasons why she was so successful.

4. “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.”

Expressing similar sentiments, Jim Rohn excelled at self-discipline. He was a millionaire before he was 31, and he then changed his vocation to become a motivational speaker.

5. “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

From General Norman Schwarzkopf, leader of the U.S. military forces that liberated Kuwait in 1991, on the importance of character above all else.

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

The founder of the McDonalds fast-food franchise, Ray Kroc believed good leaders should set high standards for themselves and their subordinates; this was one of the reasons he insisted that franchise owners must manage their own restaurants.

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7. “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.

From John Maxwell, former pastor and head of the John Maxwell Company specializing in business leadership. This and other leadership quotes emphasize the important reality that all leaders make mistakes, but what counts is owning them and learning from them.

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

Although he lived in the 18th century, John Peter Zenger’s statement is as true today as it was when he was involved in the fight for freedom of the press against the British colonial administration in New York.

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

This quotation from Charles F. Kettering underlines the fact that good leaders are able to see opportunities in every situation. Kettering worked for Delco, where he developed the first automotive electrical starter and went on to be vice president and director for research for General Motors Corporation from 1927 to 1947.

10. “Leadership and culture aren’t about being the boss or being in control; they are about creating shared visions and goals, and then inspiring, empowering and influencing others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.”

An important truth that leaders need to appreciate from Gary Brooks, CMO at Syncron, a company specializing in innovative after-sales service solutions.

11. “Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.

Another woman who refused to be bowed by prevailing attitudes towards woman, Mary Kay Ash successfully founded and built the cosmetic company bearing her name more than 50 years ago.

12. “Fail often so you can succeed sooner.”

These wise words from Tom Kelly, founder of the advanced design company IDEO, motivatesleaders to have the courage to try new ideas knowing that some will fail but that others will succeed.

13. “Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”

Few know that the British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson chose the name Virgin because of his perception that he lacked business experience. That this self-made billionaire really cares for his employees is self-evident and is why his employees will go the extra mile for him.

14. “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

This and similar leadership quotes from Zig Ziglar have a lot in common with the one above from Sir Richard Branson. Ziglar, who died in 2012, started as a salesman, went into sales training and founded his own company focusing on personal development and business training.

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

From someone who was ousted from the Direct Marketing Association because of his unconventional marketing strategies, Seth Godin brings a refreshing approach to marketing that focuses on only contacting people who want to be contacted. He was the founder of direct internet marketing company Yoyodyne and writes bestselling books, one of which, Tribe, has many other inspiring leadership quotes.

16. “High expectations are the key to absolutely everything.”

The founder of Walmart, Sam Walton believed it was possible to bring discount stores to small towns. Because of that belief, and due to how he implemented this concept, Walmart went on to become the largest retailer in the U.S.

17. “I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.”

As a young woman, Estee Lauder learnt about skin lotions from her uncle, a skin specialist. Later, when she and her husband launched the cosmetic company in her name, no agency would handle their advertising, so they devised an alternative strategy of handing out free samples. This resulted in a hundred-fold increase in sales.

18. “If we win the hearts and minds of employees, we’re going to have better business success.”

As the current CEO of GM, Mary Barra succeeded in guiding the company out of the disastrous ignition switch fiasco by accepting responsibility for the problem and initiating a mammoth 1.6 million vehicle recall. Mary is responsible for many inspiring leadership quotes.

19. “Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.”

Facing major difficulties at General Electric in 1981, Jack Welch, the youngest ever CEO of that company, initiated a major restructure that led to unparalleled growth in the company, leading to him being regarded as one of the best CEOs in the world.

20. “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

As COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg brought the giant company into profitability, while at the same time being an outspoken advocate for women in the business.

We hope you have found these leadership quotes inspiring. Adopt them as your own and watch how they motivate your team.

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