Quotations about   leader

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CRASSUS: One of the disadvantages of being a patrician is that occasionally you’re obliged to act like one.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Spartacus (1960) [novel by Howard Fast]
Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 2-Oct-18
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Just as every conviction begins as a whim so does every emancipator serve his apprenticeship as a crank. A fanatic is a great leader who is just entering the room.

Heywood Broun (1888-1939) American journalist, author
New York World (6 Feb 1928)
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Added on 24-May-17 | Last updated 24-May-17
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God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please — you can never have both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Intellect,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 11-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Nov-16
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A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Under the Dome (2009)
Added on 12-Oct-16 | Last updated 12-Oct-16
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You can judge a leader by the size of the problem he tackles — people nearly always pick a problem their own size, and ignore or leave to others the bigger or smaller ones. The chief executive should be thinking about the long-term changes which will bring growth or decay to different parts of the enterprise, not fussing over day-to-day problems. Other people can cope with the waves, it’s his job to watch the tide.

Jay - watch the tide - wist_info quote

Antony Jay (b. 1930) English writer, broadcaster, director
Management and Machiavelli: An Inquiry into the Politics of Corporate Life, ch. 17 (1967)
Added on 15-Feb-16 | Last updated 15-Feb-16
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A staff can be no better than the man it serves.

David Halberstam (1934-2997) American journalist and historian
The Best and the Brightest, ch. 10 (1972)
Added on 1-Feb-16 | Last updated 1-Feb-16
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Unwilling executants do not make for good execution.

Liddell Hart - unwilling executants - wist_info quote

B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) English soldier, military historian (Basil Henry Liddell Hart)
The German Generals Talk, ch. 4 (1948)
Added on 25-Jan-16 | Last updated 25-Jan-16
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History is filled with undistinguished leaders who succeeded because they had a flair for selecting sound counselors.

George W. Ball (1909-1994) American diplomat and banker
“Kennedy Up Close,” New York Review of Books (3 Feb 1994)
Added on 18-Jan-16 | Last updated 18-Jan-16
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As long as I am back in my military life for a second, I should like to observe one thing about leadership that one of the great has said — Napoleon. He said, the great leader, the genius in leadership, is the man who can do the average thing when everybody else is going crazy.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican National Committee Meeting (17 Apr 1956)
Added on 12-Jan-16 | Last updated 12-Jan-16
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I do not believe that any man can lead who does not act, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, under the impulse of a profound sympathy with those whom he leads — a sympathy which is insight — an insight which is of the heart rather than of the intellect.

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) US President (1913-20), educator, political scientist
“Leaders of Men,” Commencement Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (17 Jun 1890)
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Added on 14-Dec-15 | Last updated 14-Dec-15
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The leader holds his position purely because he is able to appeal to the conscience and to the reason of those who support him, and the boss holds his position because he appeals to fear of punishment and hope of reward. The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Speech, Binghamton, New York (24 Oct 1910)
Added on 23-Nov-15 | Last updated 23-Nov-15
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Anyone who idolizes you is going to hate you when he discovers that you are fallible. He never forgives. He has deceived himself, and he blames you for it.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
An American Bible [ed. Alice Hubbard] (1918)
Added on 13-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Nader - leaders not followers - wist_info

Ralph Nader (b. 1934) American attorney, author, lecturer, political activist
Time Leadership Conference, Washington, DC (Sep 1976)
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In "Leadership: The Biggest Issue," Time (8 Nov 1976).
Added on 9-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated.

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) Swedish diplomat, author, UN Secretary-General (1953-61)
Markings (1955) [tr. Sjoberg & Auden (1964)]
Added on 2-Nov-15 | Last updated 2-Nov-15
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Those that cannot think or take responsibility for themselves need, and clamor for, a leader.

Herman Hesse (1877-1962) German-born Swiss poet, novelist, painter
Reflections, #106 [ed. Michels (1974)]
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Oct-15
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Let no one say that he is a follower of Gandhi. It is enough that I should be my own follower. I know what an inadequate follower I am of myself, for I cannot live up to the convictions I stand for. You are no followers, but fellow students, fellow pilgrims, fellow seekers, fellow workers.
Gandhi - followers - wist_info

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Harijan (2 Mar 1940)
Added on 19-Oct-15 | Last updated 19-Oct-15
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Every man of action has a strong dose of egotism, pride, hardness, and cunning. But all those things will be forgiven him, indeed, they will be regarded as high qualities, if he can make of them the means to achieve great ends.

Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) French statesman and soldier
The Edge of the Sword, “Of Prestige” (2) (1934) [tr. Hopkins (1960)]
Added on 7-Oct-15 | Last updated 7-Oct-15
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Leaders I feel should guide as far as they can — and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
Experiment in Autobiography, ch. 9, sec. 2 “The Samurai — In Utopia and in the Fabian Society (1905-1909)” (1934)
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Variant: "Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit."
Added on 5-Oct-15 | Last updated 5-Oct-15
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You learn to know a pilot in a storm.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Providence” (4.5) [tr. Basore (1928)]
Added on 28-Sep-15 | Last updated 28-Sep-15
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The hero saves us. Praise the hero! Now, who will save us from the hero?

Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) Roman politician and orator [Marcus Portius Cato]
Speech in the Roman Senate
Added on 25-Sep-15 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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The job of getting people really wanting to do something is the essence of leadership. And one of the things a leader needs occasionally is the inspiration he gets from the people he leads. The old tactical textbooks say that the commander always visits his troops to inspire them to fight. I for one soon discovered that one of the reasons for my visiting the front lines was to get inspiration from the young American soldier. I went back to my job ashamed of my own occasional resentments or discouragements, which I probably — at least I hope I concealed them.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican State Chairmen, Denver (10 Sep 1955)
Added on 17-Sep-15 | Last updated 17-Sep-15
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There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.

Simon Sinek (b. 1973) American author and motivational speaker
“How great leaders inspire action,” TED Talk (Sep 2009)
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Added on 15-Sep-15 | Last updated 15-Sep-15
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The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.

Stendhal (1783-1842) French writer [pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle]
Letter (c. 1818)

Variants:
  • "The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his are the same."
  • "The shepherd ... can never convince his flock of sheep that his interests and theirs are identical."
Added on 6-Aug-15 | Last updated 6-Aug-15
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Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right. Both roles are critical, but they differ profoundly. I often observe people in top positions doing the wrong things well.

Warren Bennis (1925-2014) American scholar, business consultant, author
Why Leaders Can’t Lead, ch. 2 (1989)
Added on 27-Jul-15 | Last updated 27-Jul-15
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Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
“Lead Kindly Light,” The Pillar of Cloud (1832)
Added on 5-May-15 | Last updated 5-May-15
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It seems to me that America’s objective today should be to try to make herself the best possible mirror of democracy that she can. The people of the world can see what happens here. They watch us to see what we are going to do and how well we can do it. We are giving them the only possible picture of democracy that we can: the picture as it works in actual practice. This is the only way other peoples can see for themselves how it works; and can determine for themselves whether this thing is good in itself, whether it is better than they have, better than what other political and economic systems offer them.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, ch. 43 “Milestones” (1961)
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Added on 12-Feb-15 | Last updated 12-Feb-15
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An excellent master is always better than an excellent law. Let your laws be ever so good, if the lawmakers are bad, all will come to nothing.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) English Puritan divine, writer
Heaven on Earth (1654)
Added on 3-Dec-14 | Last updated 3-Dec-14
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Don’t worry too much about the sailors’ seeing you get a little worried sometimes, one of his chief petty officers had told Geary when he was a lieutenant. That just tells them you’re smart enough to know when to worry. Don’t look too worried, or they’ll think you don’t know what to do. And, for the love of your ancestors, never look like you’re never worried. That’ll make the crew think you’re either an idiot or a fool. They know officers are human, and no human with half a brain is never worried. But as long as you seem to know what you’re doing, they’ll follow you.

John G. Hemry (contemp.) American naval officer, author [pseud. Jack Campbell]
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible (2012)
Added on 9-Jul-14 | Last updated 9-Jul-14
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Washington acted as the representative of the needs, the ideas, the enlightened men, the opinions of his age; he supported, not thwarted, the stirrings of intellect; he desired only what he had to desire, the very thing to which he had been called: from which derives the coherence and longevity of his work. That man who struck few blows because he kept things in proportion has merged his existence with that of his country: his glory is the heritage of civilisation; his fame has risen like one of those public sanctuaries where a fecund and inexhaustible spring flows.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 6, ch. 8 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]

On George Washington.
Added on 27-May-14 | Last updated 27-May-14
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The actions of those who hold great power, and pass their lives in a lofty station, are known to all the world. So it comes to pass that in the highest position there is the least freedom of action.

Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) Roman general and statesman [Gaius Julius Caesar]
Speech, Roman Senate

In Sallust, The War with Catiline, 51.12 [tr. Rolfe (1921)]
Added on 31-Mar-14 | Last updated 31-Mar-14
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Any man who attains a high place among you, from the President downwards, may date his downfall from that moment; for any printed lie that any notorious villain pens, although it militate directly against the character and conduct of a life, appeals at once to your distrust, and is believed. You will strain at a gnat in the way of trustfulness and confidence, however fairly won and well deserved; but you will swallow a whole caravan of camels, if they be laden with unworthy doubts and mean suspicions. Is this well, think you, or likely to elevate the character of the governors or the governed among you?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
American Notes, ch. 18 (1842)
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Added on 19-Mar-14 | Last updated 19-Mar-14
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Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC) Greek philosopher [also Heracleitus]
(Attributed)
Added on 28-Feb-14 | Last updated 28-Feb-14
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The measure of leadership is not the quality of the head, but the tone of the body. The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers.

Max De Pree (b. 1924) American businessman and writer
Leadership Is An Art (1987)
Added on 12-Feb-14 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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What higher obligation does a President have than to explain his intentions to the people and persuade them that the direction he wishes to go is right? Politics in a democracy is, at the end, an educational process.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“A Clinton Card, So Far,” New York Times (11 Apr 1993)
Added on 26-Jul-12 | Last updated 31-Mar-14
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A leader leads by example not by force.

Sun-Tzu (fl. 6th C. AD) Chinese general and philosopher [a.k.a. Sun Wu]
The Art of War, ch. 9
Added on 18-Mar-10 | Last updated 17-Jul-14
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To do a job effectively, one must set priorities. Too many people let their “in” basket set the priorities. On any given day, unimportant but interesting trivia pass through an office; one must not permit these to monopolize his time. The human tendency is to while away time with unimportant matters that do not require mental effort or energy. Since they can be easily resolved, they give a false sense of accomplishment. The manager must exert self-discipline to ensure that his energy is focused where it is truly needed.

Hyman Rickover (1900-1986) US Navy Admiral
(Attributed)

Quoted in T. Rockwell, The Rickover Effect (1992)

Added on 26-Aug-08 | Last updated 9-May-14
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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.

Max De Pree (b. 1924) American businessman and writer
Leadership Is An Art (1989)
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 1-Sep-15
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Divide and command, a wise maxim;
Unite and guide, a better.

[Entzwei’ und gebiete! Tuchtig Wort,
Verein’ und leite! Bess’rer Hort.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Spruche in Reimen, l. 516
Added on 6-Jul-04 | Last updated 21-May-14
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He is aloof, as if his talk
Were priced beyond the purchasing;
But once his project is contrived,
Th folk will want to say of it:
“Of course! We did it by ourselves!”

Lao-tzu (604?-531? BC) Chinese philosopher, poet [also Lao-tse, Laozi]
The Way of Life, ch. 17 [tr. Blakney (1955)]

Alt. trans.:
  • "A good manager is best when people barely know that he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done -- his aim fulfilled, they will say: 'We did it ourselves.'"
  • "When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Nov-15
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I admire men of character, and I judge character not by how men deal with their superiors, but mostly how they deal with their subordinates, and that, to me, is where you find out what the character of a man is.

Norman Schwarzkopf (b. 1934) American military leader
Journal-World (27 March 1991)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Oct-17
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I shall be an autocrat: that’s my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that’s his.

[Moi, je serai autocrate: c’est mon metier. Et le bon Dieu me pardonnnera: c’est son metier.]

Catherine II (1762-1796) Russian empress [Catherine the Great]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Feb-14
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When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

Dave Barry (b. 1947) American humorist
“25 Things I Have Learned In 50 Years,” #23 (1997)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Oct-14
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The man who can make up his mind quick, makes up other people’s minds for them. Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clear and straight and lays bare the fat and the lean; indecision is a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it.

George Horace Lorimer (1867-1937) American journalist, author, magazine editor
Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son (1901)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Oct-15
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