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10 Great Leadership Quotes

10 Great Leadership Quotes

Down the centuries there have been many great quotations on leadership. These have come from a variety of sources including political leaders, business CEO’s, philosophers, leadership writers and academics. Selecting a list of only 10 is therefore a somewhat arbitrary exercise, as we could have listed well over a thousand and maintained a very high level of quality in so doing. However, in the list of 10 below is not only a wide variety of reflections on leadership but a range of insights that are expressed in an incredibly pithy and memorable way. Of course, the one quote from each person listed is not all that the particular person said about the subject of leadership in many cases. You can therefore find out more than the short biography on each individual by clicking on their name and going to a hyperlink which will tell you more about them and their wider thinking.

1. Lao Tzu (Lived between 600 and 300 B.C.E)

“To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’”

The Philosopher Lao Tzu encouraged his followers to observe, and seek to understand the laws of nature; to develop intuition and build up personal power; and to use that power to lead life with love, and without force.

2. Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

British Conservative politician and visionary UK Prime Minister known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century.

3. Peter Drucker (1909–2005)

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

Prolific author on leadership and management issues – often called the father of management thinking.

4.  John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Visionary President of the US who was assassinated in 1963. Mainly remembered for galvanizing America’s space exploration and the mission to land on the moon.

5. Max Depree (1924–Present)

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

CEO and author, Depree led the Herman Miller furniture organization for many years and subsequently wrote about his leadership philosophy.

6. Warren Bennis (1925–Present)

“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.” 

Academic and author, Bennis is Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at USC.

7. Jack Welch (1935–Present)

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” 

John Francis “Jack” Welch, Jr. is an American chemical engineer, business executive, and author. He was Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001.

8. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1943–Present)

 “Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach!” 

Academic and author, Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a tenured professor in business at Harvard Business School. She specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change.

9. John C. Maxwell (1947–Present)

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Prolific leadership author, Maxwell is also an evangelical Christian writer, speaker, and pastor.

10. Ricardo Semler (1959–Present)

“Successful companies will be the ones that put quality of life first. Do this and the rest – quality of product, productivity of workers, profits for all – will follow.”

CEO of Semco in Brazil who wrote several books subsequently including his best-seller, “Maverick.”

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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