by Shawn Welch Posted Feb 10, 2012
It’s no secret that I love quotes, especially ones on leadership! I strategically pick, place, and rotate them all over my office walls. The reason is that quotes have an ability to motivate, refocus, comfort, and serve as a battle cry. At times they can lift me out of the mundane, give perspective on a tough issue, or inspire an idea. Here are a few of my favorite leadership quotes and why I like them. (Not all of these quotes are specifically on leadership but all can be used in a leadership context.)
“Don’t desire to be a leader, desire to be a servant.” Chuck Swindoll
Chuck clearly got this from the Bible but it is a great reminder that as a leader I’m called to serve. Too many times we desire a position or role because it fuels our identity. Leadership exists to serve those around you.
“People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I know this one is well known, but it gives the cornerstone for leadership. People want to follow a leader who cares about them, their family, and their dreams. All the knowledge in the world can’t make up for that. If you care, they will follow.
“Everyone else wants to do what I do, but no one is willing to do what I did.” – Unknown
At first read, this quote might sound prideful, but you have to know the context. A golfer was approached by a fan who said to him, “I want to do what you do.” The golfer told the fan, “No you don’t.” Then he proceeded to explain how many hours a day he has practiced since the age of 14 and how much sacrifice he has made to be a professional golfer. I like this quote because it reminds me that people want the attention, recognition, and “fame” that comes with a leadership title but they don’t want the responsibility or the sacrifices that come with it. Every time I see this quote on my wall it motivates me to work hard and to be a good steward of what’s been entrusted to me.
“Are you trying to love people or please them?” – Unknown
I can’t begin to tell you how many times in a day I ask myself this question. Too many times I try to appease my staff instead of truly loving them. I don’t want to have a tough conversation because I’m fearful of what they might think of me. This quote reminds me that if I truly care about my staff then sometimes what is best for them is not always the popular decision.
“Great leaders gain authority by giving there’s a way.” – Admiral James B. Stockdale
This is another quote that I feel like I constantly remind myself and my staff. As a leader, I have been given authority first and foremost by God and then secondly by my organization/supervisor. I have seen that we, as leaders, like to hoard our authority. That authority gives us power and we like that. We are scared to give away our authority because we buy into the myth that our staff and supervisor will lose respect for us if we don’t do everything. What if my staffer does that project better than me, and my supervisor notices? Will I be replaced? What we don’t realize is that we actually gain respect by delegation. A leader that delegates is secure. He recognizes that his staff will do things better than him and that’s ok. That actually benefits your team and organization. A leader that delegates shows his concern for the investment of his staff. Staff development occurs through giving them more responsibility. Finally, leaders who have a reputation for developing other leaders will become invaluable to their organization.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy
This is by far my favorite quote. It is a great reminder that those who play it safe very rarely accomplish great things. No leader should ever be content with failure but we also shouldn’t be scared of it. Sometimes failure can be the catalyst that produces success.
I hope some of those quotes inspire and motivate you like they have done for me and my leadership journey.
What are some of your favorite leadership quotes?