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Leadership and Inspiration: Quotes

Updated on August 17, 2014

I'm in a leadership position . . .

at work for the first time. I'd like to explore the idea of leadership . . . half-way seriously. Only half seriously because I can already tell sane-leadership requires excessive humor.

So far, my mentor for leadership is "the laughing Buddha." Mindfulness, humor and words of wisdom have always served me well. When mindfulness and humor escape me, I can always go to these words . .

July 2010 Update: If I'm not a Laughing Buddha I become a Frazzled Buddha - but I never forget my pic-a-nic basket (see yogi below).

July 2011 Update: Not only am I no longer in a leadership position, I was down-sized out of my job altogether. C'est la vie.

July 2013 Update: We all lead by example.

Tips from Churchill


"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like to be taught."

"For myself I am an optimist--it does not seem to be much use being anything else."

(for an optimist, Churchill sure scowled a lot)

"Eating words has never given me indigestion."

"You can measure a man's character by the choices he makes under pressure."

(I know he meant a "person's" character)

"Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out."

"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

(then courage is rare, indeed)

Competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is a problem avoided: more often it is a crisis invited

~ Henry Kissinger ~

Necessary Leadership Competencies

According to the Leadership Competency Model




(is there any other kind?)




(I'm also excellent at self misdirection)


(I do yoga regularly)



(I'll wear it when necessary. I hear it might be contagious)


(I know what money is. Does that count?)


Tips from Patton

"A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end."

"All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated."

(I'll let those still above me know)

"Always do everything you ask of those you command."

(don't tell anyone to eat shit and die)

"Do your damnedest in an ostentatious manner all the time."

(Liberace said the same thing)

"Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results."

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

"There is only one sort of discipline, perfect discipline. "

(uh oh)

"If a man does his best, what else is there?"

"Make your plans to fit the circumstances."

(or, make circumstantial plans?)

"It is only by doing things others have not that one can advance."

"Audacity, audacity, always audacity."

"A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future."

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

A leader should not get too far in front of his troops or he well be shot in the ass.

~ Joseph Clark ~

Tips from Marie Curie

With her husband, Pierre, Marie Curie was the pioneer in researching radioactivity. When he died suddenly, she refused a government pension and instead took his place as a professor at the University of Paris. She was awarded a Nobel Prize for her work, then became the first person to win a second Nobel Prize, and she is the only Nobel Prize winner who is also the mother of another Nobel Prize winner -- daughter of Marie Curie and Pierre Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie.

"I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy."

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

"Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas."

(then how would I get the gossip at work?)

"I am one of those who think like Nobel, that humanity will draw more good than evil from new discoveries."

[about a wedding dress]

"I have no dress except the one I wear every day. If you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterward to go to the laboratory."

(gives new meaning to being focused) (I'll bet she was a glowing bride)

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."

"We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals."

Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.

~ Victoria ~

Tip-ettes from Yogi Bear

"Heavens to Murgatroyd!"

"Hey, Boo Boo! Let's get us some pick-a-nick baskets!"

(it means: never work through lunch)

"I'm smarter than the average bear."

(what I say after making a boo-boo)

"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11, spoken by the character Atticus

To Kill a Mockingbird (Collector's Edition)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Collector's Edition)

Atticus Finch has always been my favorite movie hero. To Kill a Mockingbird is an illustration of exhibiting leadership in everyday circumstances. Sometimes "ordinary" lives are lived by extraordinary people.


Tips from Golda Meir

"I must govern the clock, not be governed by it."

"I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome."

"Don't be humble... you're not that great."

(what a relief!)

"Authority poisons everybody who takes authority on himself."

"A leader who doesn't hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader."

"One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present."

"The dog that trots about finds a bone."

"To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don't be."

(No wonder Hamlet was confused)

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."

"You'll never find a better sparring partner than adversity."

"Whether women are better than men I cannot say - but I can say they are certainly no worse."

"As President Nixon says, presidents can do almost anything, and President Nixon has done many things that nobody would have thought of doing."

A Woman Called Golda
A Woman Called Golda

As one legend playing another, Ingrid Bergman gives a shattering portrayal of Golda Meir, the first female prime minister of Israel. In fact, the film is shot through with drama, both onscreen and off, as the viewer is reminded that this fearless performance, for which Bergman won an Emmy, was her last; she died just three months after the film was aired in 1982.


The subconscious is ceaselessly murmuring, and it is by listening to these murmurs that one

hears the truth.

~ Gaston Bachelard ~

With great photography, inspirational quotes and stories to reinforce each point, Mac Anderson shares what he has learned about leadership in his 30 years as a successful enterpreneur.

Tips from Will Rogers

"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock."

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

"Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip."

(why I don't have a parrot)

"Nothing you can't spell will ever work."

(I better learn to spell sighcollohgee)

"Rumor travels faster, but it don't stay put as long as truth."

"We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."

"An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."

"Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction."

(works for me)

"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today."

"Do the best you can, and don't take life too serious.

"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?"

(at least we keep trying)

"If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing."

(he heard it on Oprah)

"It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.

"People's minds are changed through observation and not through argument."

(one could argue that's not true)

I like to operate like a submarine on sonar. When I am picking up noise from both the left and right, I know my course is correct

~ Gustavo Diaz Ordaz ~

Tips from Amelia Earhart

"The most effective way to do it, is to do it."

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward."

"Never do things others can do and will do if there are things others cannot do or will not do."

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself."

("life's an adventure, or nothing at all." Helen Keller)

"Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace."

(there seems to be a deficit of courage in the world)

"In soloing - as in other activities - it is far easier to start something than it is to finish it."

"Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible."

"Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture."

(that explains a lot)

"Better do a good deed near at home than go far away to burn incense."

Couldn't find a dramatization, so here's a bio.

You cannot choose your battlefield,

The gods do that for you,

But you can plant a standard

Where a standard never flew

~ Nathalia Crane ~

Tips from Margaret Thatcher

"I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left."

"Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction."

(there's that discipline word again)

"I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job."

"If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."

"It pays to know the enemy - not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend."

"People think that at the top there isn't much room. They tend to think of it as an Everest. My message is that there is tons of room at the top."

"To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects."

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."

(so pick your battles carefully)

"You don't tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive."

"Power is like being a lady... if you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

"If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn't swim."

I spoke. I had to. It is action that puts fervor to work. But it is words that create it.

~ Charles De Gaulle ~

Tips from Gandhi

"A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave. "

"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. "

(a business's culture . . . )

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. "

"Action expresses priorities. "

"All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take. "

"Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well. "

(this could be a career!)

"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. "

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves. "

"Culture of the mind must be subservient to the heart. "

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err . . ."

"Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress. "

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people."

"In a gentle way, you can shake the world. "

(butterfly effect)

"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. "

"Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it. "

(I suppose that includes paper work)

Gandhi (Collector's Edition)
Gandhi (Collector's Edition)

A reverential look at the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who introduced the doctrine of nonviolent resistance to the colonized people of India and who ultimately gained the nation its independence. Ghandi played by Ben Kingsley.


Tips from A Bunch of People


"It's the orders you disobey that make you famous."

(or infamous) (I'm showing this one to my boss)

"I have known war as few men now living know it. It's very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes."

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

"Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul."

"The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself."

"We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction."


"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."

"You can turn painful situations around through laughter."

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."

"Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing."

"Immortality is a long shot, I admit. But somebody has to be first."


"You know what makes leadership? It is the ability to get men to do what they don't want to do, and like it."

"Any man who has had the job I've had and didn't have a sense of humor wouldn't still be here."

"We shall never be able to remove suspicion and fear as potential causes of war until communication is permitted to flow, free and open, across international boundaries."

"Intense feeling too often obscures the truth."

"You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don't believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can't possibly foresee now."


The real leader has no need to lead - he is content to point the way.

"Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything Godlike about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything."

"When one is trying to do something beyond his known powers it is useless to seek the approval of friends. Friends are at their best in moments of defeat."

"All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience."

"Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood."

"Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such."

"If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things."


"Jumpin' without a parachute? Kinda dangerous, ain't it?"

"If it's the Captain's Mess, let him clean it up."

"The way I run this thing you'd think I knew something about it."

(I think that every day at work)

"Eeeeeeh, watch me paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful, pachydermous, percussion pitch."


"There are some people, you know, they think the way to be a big man is to shout and stomp and raise hell - and then nothing ever really happens. I'm not like that . . . I never shoot blanks."

( . . . and I was looking forward to stomping and shouting)

"My strong point, if I have a strong point, is performance. I always do more than I say. I always produce more than I promise."

"We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another - until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices."

"If an individual wants to be a leader and isn't controversial, that means he never stood for anything. "


"If you do not inspire confidence, you are too good."

"It is not by whining that one carries out the job of king."

(now what will I do?)

"In the council, there were men possessed of much more eloquence than I was: I always defeated them by this simple argument - two and two make four."

"A leader is a dealer in hope."

"Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide."

"One should never forbid what one lacks the power to prevent."


"I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot."

"Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today."

(uh oh . . . I've had that backwards all my life!)

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

"I walk slowly, but I never walk backward."

Always Engaging

Jean-Luc Picard, 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'

Things are only impossible until they're not.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot

be fooled.

~ Richard P. Feynman ~

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

~ Oscar Wilde ~

What are your thoughts on leadership?

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    • Naakordai profile image


      6 years ago

      A great leader is one who can exercise courage in times of adversity by showing humility, integrity and fortitude!

    • gmrwebteam lm profile image

      gmrwebteam lm 

      7 years ago

      Leadership skill is the ability to motivate a group of people toward a common goal. Really very well written article this is

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for all these great quotes. * Favorite *

    • JakTraks profile imageAUTHOR

      Jacqueline Marshall 

      8 years ago from Chicago area

      @LabKittyDesign: Love that quote!

    • LabKittyDesign profile image


      8 years ago

      Everybody has their moment of great opportunity in life. If you happen to miss the one you care about, everything else in life becomes eerily easy. - Douglas Adams

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great list of leadership quotes ~ I like this one..."Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." from Churchill

    • The Coaching Re profile image

      The Coaching Re 

      8 years ago

      It's great to see so many good leadership and inspiration quotes in one place.

      One of my favourites is by Adlai Stevenson"

      âItâs hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.â

      I posted a whole lot more on my Transformational Leadershipblog for those who like quotes.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      "Amelia Earhart

      "The most effective way to do it, is to do it."

      This is my favorite quote in this lens.


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

      That is my favorite quote on this lens. Great job on the lens, looking forward to reading more. 5 stars and a fav.

      Trevor Bowers


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