25 Short Leadership Quotes to Motivate and Inspire

Here are 25 short leadership quotes to help leaders of all kinds understand and appreciate the responsibility they have to coach, guide, and inspire others.

25 Short Leadership Quotes to Motivate and Inspire


How would you summarize the essential facets of leadership?

Here are 25 short leadership quotes that highlight the important role leaders play in their spheres of influence and how leaders can successfully fulfill their responsibilities.


25 Short Leadership Quotes That Stand Out

1. "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

This is a quote from the bible (Proverbs 29:18) that highlights the important role that leaders play in providing people with a vision for the future. Until a leader arises, there may be chaos and uncertainty, but a leader provides a path forward.


2. "A leader is a dealer in hope."

This quote by Napoleon Bonaparte has a nice flow because of the rhyme: "leader/dealer". Leaders generously offer a message of hope to all who follow them, that's why people follow them!


3. "To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less."

This quote by Andre Malraux is interesting because it highlights an important point that people often forget: leadership involves serving others. A successful leader looks for ways to improve other people's lives and gains respect by doing so.


4. "Leadership is unlocking people's potential to become better."

This quote by Bill Bradley teaches us a key reason why leaders are so valued - because they help other people to unlock their potential. Leaders are often able to discern positive qualities in individuals that they may not even see themselves, thereby guiding these individuals to achieve their full potential. 


5. " In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."

This quote by Thomas Jefferson illustrates the delicate balance between flexibility and firmness that is essential for successful leadership. Leaders should be willing to adapt to the current circumstances and the needs of the people, but they also should be well aware of the principles and values that they will never compromise.


6. "The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves."

In order for leaders to lead others, they first need to learn how to lead themselves. This powerful quote by Ray Kroc shows how vital it is that leaders demonstrate integrity by "walking the walk", not just "talking the talk."


7. "Today a reader, tomorrow a leader."

Wise people learn about and reflect on the experiences and mistakes of others so they don't make the same mistakes themselves. It's no surprise then, that most leaders are readers. By building up an abundant store of knowledge, you gain the tools to help others later on down the line.


8. "Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions."

What's the difference between a leader and every other person? A leader takes initiative. People who rise up to leadership positions often do so because they don't wait to be told what to do. They think ahead and set the pace for others to follow, which naturally establishes them as a leader in their field.


9. "Never give an order that can't be obeyed."

This short leadership quote by General Douglas MacArthur shows that leaders should be fair, only giving orders that they could reasonably accomplish if they were in the place of the other person. 


10. "The supreme quality of leadership is integrity."

This quote by Dwight Eisenhower is another reminder of the importance of integrity in leadership. People look up to leaders who are trustworthy and keep their word. In order to maintain the confidence of their supporters, leaders have to do the right thing even if it comes at personal cost to themselves.


11. You don’t lead by hitting people over the head - that’s assault, not leadership. 

This is another excellent quote by Dwight Einsenhower that is slightly humorous. At the end of the day, the most effective leaders are compassionate and approachable. You can't force people to respect and listen to you. You have to earn it.


12. "The employer generally gets the employees he deserves."

This interesting quote by J. Paul Getty reveals an fascinating point about leadership: you attract what you are. If you want to attract better talent, you need to make sure that you create an environment that recognizes and rewards such talent.


13. "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Leaders are willing to take the path less traveled. This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson demonstrates the importance of being willing to deviate from the norm if you want to discover something great.


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14. "I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."

True leaders are not stingy when it comes to power. They seek to empower others, so that others can become leaders too.


15. "Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm."

It's easy to be a leader when everything is going your way, but how will you react when something or someone rocks the boat? A leader's true colors are shown when challenges arise. Great leaders don't shy away from difficult times. Rather, they view challenges as opportunities for growth and advancement.


16. "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."

This short leadership quote by John John C. Maxwell has a nice rhythm to it. A leader starts with knowledge, but then they have to apply that knowledge first before helping others do the same. 


17. "No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it."

This quote by Andrew Carnegie reminds us that if you want to be a leader, you have to be willing to delegate as well as share the success. You should give praise and commendation to those you work with, and always recognize the people who helped you get where you are. No man is an island. We all depend on the support of others, and this is especially true if you are a leader. 


18. "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

Until writing this article, I didn't realize how many quotes there are that link leadership to learning! This quote by John F. Kennedy explains why it's vital that you love learning and personal development if you want to become a leader!


19. “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.”

Sometimes as a leader you will need to make tough decisions. You will need to say no to some opportunities in order to make way for others. Even though it's easier to say yes to please people, if you are able to exercise restraint and stick to your carefully calculated decisions, it will pay off in the long run. 


20. "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."

This quote by Peter Drucker highlights the key difference between leadership and management. Management personnel oversee the operations, but leaders set the strategic direction for the organization. Leadership is showing up everyday, assessing and analyzing the situation, and deciding what the best thing to do is. 


21. “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

This quote by Nelson Mandela further builds up the point that leaders exist to empower others. Leaders can guide others behind the scenes, enabling them to shine and reach their full potential. 


22. "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

This quote by Steve Jobs underscores how important it is that leaders continuously look for new ways to improve. If you're a leader your people will expect you to provide new opportunities for advancement, so it's up to you to be creative and innovative. 


23. "Different times need different types of leadership."

Leaders should be mentally prepared and ready to adapt. This quote by Park Geun-hye shows how leadership can be administered in different ways depending on the needs of the people and situation.


24. "A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd."

This is a beautiful quote because uses it a metaphor that we can easily picture. Max Lucado here describes how leaders often have to turn their backs against popular opinion and stand out as different.


25. “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”

If a leader is going to give instructions, they need to know how to follow instructions! This quote by Aristotle demonstrates that leaders must learn to put themselves in the shoes of their followers in order to truly be effective.


Final Thoughts

And that's a wrap! Which of these short leadership quotes was your favourite?


These quotes are good reminders for anyone in a leadership position, and well as anyone who's aspiring to become a leader.


It's easy to focus on all the glitz and glamour of leadership and forget all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes! As a whole, the quotes above help to paint a more balanced picture of what it takes to become a leader.


Thanks for reading.


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