Top ten inspirational leadership quotes

I have selected ten leadership quotes that reflect my views on leadership in a few condensed words. From Bill Gates to Einstein, the famous words of famous people carry with them a poignancy that I have found to be inspiring and of guidance during my career.

1. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

The late, great Steve Jobs had all the characteristics of a great entrepreneur and leader. He was inspirational and a true innovator. His design-driven vision brought Apple to the forefront of the personal computer revolution, enabling it to become one of the biggest companies in the world. He had the real ability to imagine and create products that are simultaneously iconic, useful and ahead of the curve.

2. “Keep fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island, was – and is – one of the world’s most celebrated literary geniuses. He was not himself a leader, but his words encapsulate one of the great truths of leadership: leaders have a responsibility to the people they lead. They must appear confident and impress upon their followers courage and determination. No one wants a leader who doesn’t seem certain of their actions!

3. “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.” – Bill Gates

This quote from Bill Gates captures his collaborative approach to achieving goals. No one person can have all the answers – the best leaders are those that aren’t afraid to ask for and listen to expert advice. An experienced mentor is a valuable asset for any leader: Gates was himself mentored by businessman and investor, Warren Buffet. Clearly it paid off.

4. “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.” – J. P. Morgan

American banker and philanthropist, John Pierpoint Morgan is known for founding J.P. Morgan & Co. and is one of the most famous financiers in business history. He consolidated the railway industry, and the steel industry. This quote reflects Morgan’s determination to create something big. Though I am not suggesting all leaders should monopolise an industry quite as Morgan did, I do admire his foresight and most of all, his drive.

5. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

The American scholar and author, Warren Bennis, made a very important point: leadership is the ability to make things happen. It is no use having visionary ideas without the ability to act and to urge others to act.

6. “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

This second quote from Bill Gates carries particular significance when bearing in mind his work as a philanthropist. For me, philanthropy is intrinsic to modern leadership. Leaders have a duty to give back, be that financially or with physical action (ideally both) – the point is to lead by example. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the world. Gates shows true leadership and is, for me, an inspiration.

7. “The led must not be compelled. They must be able to choose their own leader.” – Albert Einstein

Einstein needs no introduction. The famous physicist was certainly a genius. This quote highlights the difference between leader and dictator. It is a distinction that is, sadly, often blurred though it may seem obvious. I believe, as Einstein did, that true leadership lies in the ability to inspire people to follow to you rather than in your ability to force them.

8. “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 was many things: leader of the Republican Party, soldier, author and the 26th President of the United States. I have chosen this quote because I think it refers to one of the fundamentals of leadership: to be a successful leader you must be able to recognise that you cannot do everything. Fail to do this and you will fail as a leader – surround yourself with people who possess the skills you lack.

9. “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” – Herbert Swope

Swope was an American editor and journalist, and three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting. His words will resonate with all leaders. There is nothing more impossible than trying to make everyone happy. Sometimes decisions must be made and, as a leader, you must decide what you believe to be the right action. Call on advisers; evaluate the pros and cons of each choice; but know that there will always be someone who disapproves. There is a difference between what people want and what people need: a leader must be able to recognise this distinction.

10. “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

This is my final quote, again from Einstein. The sentiment expressed here condenses my core beliefs about leadership. The best leaders are those who are driven by a passion to do something valuable, something good, rather than purely a passion to lead.

About Business Matters

Business Matters staff