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30 leadership quotes that will motivate and inspire you

Rise to the challenge with these wise words.
Canada geese in v-formation.
Bouillante / Getty Images

It's no secret that setting a good example is easier said than done. Leadership is a difficult skill to hone and master, and as the Spiderman proverb goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

All too often, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed while in a leadership role. Those brilliant plans that play out perfectly in your head can be difficult to implement in real life, and the logistics of leading with grace and humility can be far more frustrating than expected.

Rather than simply adopting the "fake it 'til you make it" mentality, set yourself up for success and draw inspiration from the wisdom of other determined leaders.

As Shakespeare once wrote, "Be not afraid of greatness." Taking up the mantle of leadership is challenging, but it also creates a universe of exciting possibilities.

Thanks to these wise leadership quotes from CEOs, state leaders, and activists, you'll feel motivated to become the best leader you can be.

The best quotes about leadership

  • “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “In real life, the most practical advice for leaders is not to treat pawns like pawns, nor princes like princes, but all persons like persons.” — James MacGregor Burns
  • “People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” — Anna Wintour
  • “A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world.” — John Updike
  • “Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” — Indra Nooyi
Leadership quotes
  • “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” — Theodore Hesburgh
  • “I have always thought that what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others.” — Ella Baker
  • “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” — Sheryl Sandberg
  • “You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
Leadership quotes
  • “Leadership is creating a state of mind in others.” — Barbara Mikulski
  • “And as I’ve said elsewhere, a free press helps make a nation stronger and more successful, and it makes us leaders more effective because it demands greater accountability.” — Barack Obama
  • “You shouldn’t blindly accept a leader’s advice. You’ve got to question leaders on occasion.” — Richard Branson
  • “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” — Padmasree Warrior
  • “It is a grave error for any leader to be oversensitive in the face of criticism.” — Nelson Mandela
Leadership quotes
  • “Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” — Simon Sinek
  • “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” — Vince Lombardi
  • “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.” — Dolly Parton
  • “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
Leadership quotes
  • “Every choice gives you a chance to pave your own road. Keep moving. Full speed ahead.” — Oprah Winfrey
  • “Leadership means that a group, large or small, is willing to entrust authority to a person who has shown judgement, wisdom, personal appeal, and proven competence.” — Walt Disney
  • “Trust is the emotional glue that binds followers and leaders together.” — Warren Bennis
  • “It’s okay to admit what you don’t know. It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s more than okay to listen to the people you lead — in fact, it’s essential.” — Mary Barra
  • “The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.” — Ken Blanchard
Leadership quotes
  • “Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.” — Steve Jobs
  • “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” — Rosalynn Carter
  • “The exercise of true leadership is inversely proportional to the exercise of power.” — Stephen Covey
  • “In all forms of leadership, whether you are a coach, a CEO, or a parent, there are four words that, when said, can bring out the best in your team, your employees, and your family: ‘I believe in you.’ Those four words can mean the difference between a fear of failure and the courage to try”. — Mike Krzyzewski
  • “Great leadership is not the visit of an unexpected fate but rather a flame which is kept burning in spite of the winds of risk and opposition.” — Mary Anne Radmacher
Leadership quotes