114 Inspiring Leadership Quotes to Fuel Your Success

Updated: Nov. 17, 2023

From inspiring leaders from around the world, these leadership quotes will push you to take charge.

As human beings who are constantly evolving and growing, we are always striving to be better and to create a better world for those who come after us. But being a leader is no easy job. Whether you’re aiming to be the CEO of a million-dollar company or just trying to set a good example for your family, it can be challenging to know where to start. There are many qualities of a good leader, but according to the Center for Creative Leadership, good leaders encompass ten skills: integrity, the ability to delegate, communication, self-awareness, gratitude, learning agility, influence, empathy, courage, and respect.

While this all may seem like a lot, it all just comes down to being a good person who never gives up at wanting to make the world a better place, not just for themselves, but for everyone else. We rounded up these leadership quotes from notable leaders around the world that will provide you with a bit of inspiration on how to be a leader—and what being a good leader really means. If you’re looking for even more insight, make sure you also read up on these confidence quotes, strength quotes, and teamwork quotes.

1. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu, philosopher and writer

2. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead, anthropologist

3. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch, American business executive, chemical engineer, and writer

4. “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” —Padmasree Warrior, CEO & founder of Fable

5. “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, CEO of General Motors

6. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” —Napoleon Bonaparte, French military and political leader

7. “You don’t need a title to be a leader.” Unknown

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John Maxwell Quoterd.com

8. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” —John Maxwell, author, speaker, and pastor

9. “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” —Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

10. “Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.” —Mary D. Poole, author

11. “My own definition of leadership is this: the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” —General Montgomery, British Army Officer

12. “Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. ‘Here, open it, it’s perfect. You’ll love it.’ Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.” —Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube

13. “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” —Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

14. “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” —Warren Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author

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Brian Tracy Quoterd.com

15. “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” —Brian Tracy, Canadian-American motivational public speaker

16. “Leadership is about the team – the culture they keep and embrace; it’s about empathy for your customers, clients, employees and the communities where you do business; it’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons, being confident enough to take risks and responsible enough to think of those who your decisions and risks may affect.” —Kat Cole, COO & President of FOCUS Brands

17. “I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” —Ralph Nader, American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney

18. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” —Muriel Strode, poet 

19. “A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.” —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, German poet, playwright, and novelist

20. “Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.” —Lisa Cash Hanson, author and entrepreneur 

21. “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” —Tony Blair, British politician

22. “Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.” —Joanne Ciulla, author and educator

23. “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” —Maya Angelou, civil rights activist and poet

24. “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, former First Lady, American writer, and activist

25. “You have to look at your career and personal life at the big-picture level: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Doing that helps me feel OK during the weeks when one part of my life overwhelms the other.” —Joanna Horsnail, partner at Mayer Brown LLP

26. “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker

27. “Education is the mother of leadership.” —Wendell Willkie, lawyer

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Greta Thunberg Quoterd.com

28. “You are never too small to make a difference.” —Greta Thunberg, environmental activist

29. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?” —Ayn Rand, author

30. “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” —Herbert Swope, American editor and journalist

31. “People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” —Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue

32. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” —John Quincy Adams, former U.S. President 

33. “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” —Sara Blakely, founder & CEO of Spanx

34. “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” —Bill Bradley, American politician and former professional basketball player

35. “Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.” —Margaret Wheatley, writer, teacher, and speaker

36. “As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow.” —Himanshu Bhatia, CEO of Chesterfield

37. “A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.” —Stephen King, author

38. “Power isn’t control at all—power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.” —Beth Revis, author

39. “We need to accept that we don’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes. Understand that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” —Arianna Huffington, founder & CEO, Thrive Global

Make sure you repeat these positive affirmations every day if you need that extra boost.

40. “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” —Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM

Eleanor Roosevelt Quoterd.com

41. “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” —Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady

42. “Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.” —Joanne Ciulla, American philosopher

43. “The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.” —Faye Wattleton, American reproductive rights activist

44. “Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.” —Dianne Feinstein, Senior United States Senator

45. “‘Restore connection’ is not just for devices, it is for people too. If we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead.” —Arianna Huffington, founder & CEO, Thrive Global

46. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” —Steve Jobs, chairman of Apple

47. “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, musician

48. “Leadership is not about men in suits. It is a way of life for those who know who they are and are willing to be their best to create the life they want to live.” —Kathleen Schafer, CEO of Human Being Store

49. “Leaders walk a fine line between self-confidence and humility.” —Stanley McChrystal, retired United States Army General

50. “I believe in a quiet, strong and grounded leadership. I think some of the best leaders are those whose work is widely known and respected but who, themselves, are relatively unknown.” —Rachael Chong, founder and CEO of Catchafire

51. “The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.” —Iyanla Vanzant, American inspirational speaker, author, and lawyer

52. “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” —Thomas Aquinas, Italian philosopher

53. “In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” —Harry Truman, former U.S. President

54. “Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.” —Orrin Woodward, entrepreneur and author

Mother Teresa Quoterd.com

55. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” —Mother Teresa, Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary

56. “One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution.” —Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM

57. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” —Warren Buffett, investor

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58. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President

59. “Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” —Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club

60. “Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” —Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers

61. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” —Peter F. Drucker, author and educator

62.“I think one of the keys to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents. A good leader will learn how to harness those gifts toward the same goal.” —Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

63.“If ‘leadership’ has come to be known as something much bigger than us, aligned to changing the world, then we are spending way too much time celebrating things that hardly anyone can do and not celebrating things we can do every day.” —Drew Dudley, founder of Day One Leadership

64. “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. President

65. “True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” —Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

66. “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” —Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister

67. “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” —Chuck Swindoll, Christian pastor and radio preacher

68. “Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.” —Tom Landry, former Dallas Cowboys coach

69. “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: It was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” —John Kenneth Galbraith, economist and diplomat

Mahatma Gandhi Quoterd.com

70. “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” —Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Independence Movement leader

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71. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” —Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights activist

72. “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” —Margaret Fuller, American journalist and editor

73. “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” —Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

74. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” —Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader and emperor

75. “A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.” —Joe DiMaggio, former New York Yankees outfielder & Hall of Fame baseball player

76. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” —Gen. Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

77. “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-American management consultant, educator, and author

78. “The test of leadership is, is anything or anyone better because of you?” —Mark Sanborn, author, professional speaker, and entrepreneur

79. “A year from now you will wish you had started today.” —Karen Lamb, author

80. “You can be a leader in your workplace, your neighborhood, or your family, all without having a title.” —Travis Bradberry, author

81. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer, poet, and aristocrat

Malala Yousafzai Quoterd.com

82. “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” —Malala Yousafzai, activist

83. “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.” —Toni Morrison, author

84. “Leaders don’t force people to follow – they invite them on a journey.” —Charles S. Lauer, author and businessman

85. “Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.” —E. Joseph Cossman, inventor and businessman

These good morning quotes will help you kick off the day on a positive note.

86. “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” —George Patton, general in the United States Army

87. “No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.” —Warren Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author

Angela Jiang Quoterd.com

88. “A good leader must hate the wrong thing more than they hate the pain of doing the right thing.” —Angela Jiang, product manager

89. “Leading people is the most challenging and, therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavors.” —Jocko Willink, American author, podcaster, and retired United States Navy Officer

90. “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” —Sheryl Sandberg, American business executive, billionaire, and philanthropist

91. “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” —Max Lucado, author and pastor

92. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” —William Arthur Ward, writer

93. “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” —Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-American management consultant, educator, and author

94. “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” —Steve Jobs, chairman of Apple

95. “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” —Brandon Sanderson, author

96. “Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” —Tina Fey, actress, comedian, and writer

97. “Leadership is an action, not a position.” —Donald McGannon, broadcasting executive 

98. “Hire character. Train skill.” —Peter Schutz, former president and CEO of Porsche

Helen Keller Quoterd.com

99. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” —Helen Keller, author, activist, and lecturer

100. “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” —Stephen R. Covey, American educator

101. “Leadership distilled down to 3 words: Make a difference.” —Robin Sharma, Canadian writer

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102. “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants.” —Isaac Newton, English mathematician, physicist, and astronomer

103. “We need to think of the future and the planet we are going to leave to our children and their children.” —Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat

104. “All leaders are readers.” —Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur

105. “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” —Nelson Mandela, revolutionary, statesman, and philanthropist

106. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” —Barack Obama, former U.S. President

107. “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” —Warren Buffett, investor

108. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas A. Edison, American inventor

109. “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” —Lao Tzu, philosopher and writer

Warren Bennis Quoterd.com

110. “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” —Warren Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author

111. “Good leaders build products. Great leaders build cultures. Good leaders deliver results. Great leaders develop people. Good leaders have vision. Great leaders have values. Good leaders are role models at work. Great leaders are role models in life.” —Adam Grant, American psychologist and author 

112. “Leadership is not just about giving energy… it’s unleashing other people’s energy.” —Paul Polman, Dutch businessman

113. “There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” —Warren Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author

114. “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell, author, speaker, and pastor

Now that you’ve been inspired by all of these leadership quotes, check out these powerful James Baldwin quotes on love, freedom, and equality.