30 of the best leadership coaching quotes of all time (& their hidden messages)
By Julian Lewis • November 24, 2022
Leading involves much more than just being an administrator. Good leaders raise the bar and will inspire the people they lead via the way they speak and act. In order to be an effective leader, you must have excellent executive skills and constantly work to learn and improve.
Learning to be the greatest leader possible is a continuous journey that takes time, effort, humility, and lots of practice. And who better to learn from than the greatest leaders throughout history?
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The 30 best leadership quotes of all time
Leadership is an essential component of success in any field. Here are 30 of the most inspirational coaching quotes with hidden meanings that you can apply to your own leadership journey and how you lead people.
1. "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity." – Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart knew this all too well, and her words of wisdom are just as relevant today as they were when she first uttered them. The most difficult thing is the decision to act. This means that once you've made the decision to do something, the rest is just a matter of sticking with it.
It may be difficult, but it's nothing in comparison to making the decision in the first place. Even if our efforts are met with resistance or roadblocks along the way, it is nothing compared to having the courage and determination to take that first step in the first place.
2. "Many people think they want things, but they don't really have the strength, the discipline. They are weak." – Frank Lloyd Wright
To Frank Lloyd Wright, good leaders possess the discipline and strength to follow through on their goals. You can't just think or talk about what you want – you need to be willing to put in the work and make it happen. And this takes real strength, both physically and mentally. So if you want to be a good leader, start by building up your discipline and strength.
You can do this by setting clear goals for yourself, staying focused on those goals, and pushing through any setbacks or challenges that may come your way. With dedication and perseverance, you can succeed as a leader and make a real impact in the world. And that's something worth striving for.
3. "Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions." – Harold S. Geneen
When it comes to leadership, actions speak louder than words. Inspirational quotes like this remind us that a true leader isn't just someone who talks the talk – they walk the walk, too. This means that you need to be a role model for those you lead and act in ways that reflect your values and beliefs.
While this is something that all inspiring leaders do naturally, no one is above improvement and skillful leaders seize opportunities to better themselves and their abilities. If your leadership skills could use some improvement, it may be wise to consider signing up for executive coaching. For more information on this topic, check out Executive coaching: 360-degree feedback.
Need some help developing your leadership abilities and unlocking people's potential? Check out First-time manager training: how to train successful leaders.
4. "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership." – Nelson Mandela
As Nelson Mandela shows, being a genuine leader means leading by example and supporting those around you even in difficult times. Whether it's putting yourself in harm's way or celebrating with others when things go right, a true leader will always be there to support their team.
This quote also reminds us that the best leaders are those who are willing to take on risks themselves. Indian independence movement leader, Mohandas Gandhi, and Apple founder, Steve Jobs, are prime examples of this fact. Whether it's facing adversity or taking on new challenges, a good leader isn't afraid to step up and be counted. So if you want to be a true leader, remember that sometimes you need to be bold and take the initiative in order to succeed.
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5. "A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position." – John Maxwell
While having the right position or title may signal that you're in a leadership role, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have the courage to fulfill your vision. A great leader leads with a passion for what they do and truly believes in their cause. So if you want to be a good leader, remember that it takes passion and courage – not just position or status – to get things done.
Additionally, great leaders develop people regardless of their position or title. In 360-degree Leadership, Maxwell describes a variety of leadership models and warns against focusing solely on political positions or titles. Rather, he states that true leaders need to focus on developing others in order to succeed. So if you want to be a good leader, remember that it's not only about being in leadership positions – it's also about how you help others grow and how you create leaders above, across, and below you.
6. "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." – Theodore Roosevelt
According to Theodore Roosevelt, being a strong leader and a superior teacher meant having an ambitious vision while still staying grounded and focused on the task at hand. It's all too easy to get caught up in daydreaming about what could be, but it's important to remember to keep your feet on the ground and focus on what needs to be done today.
7. "The time is always right to do what is right." – Martin Luther King, Jr.
For Martin Luther King, Jr., leadership means staying true to your beliefs and standing up for what you believe in, no matter what. This can be difficult at times, particularly when others may disagree with you or try to push you to compromise your values. But if you want to be a good leader, it's important that you stay true to yourself and your principles.
8. "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey
A great leader cannot simply tell people what to do and expect them to follow. Rather, they need to go to the places where they want their team to be and make a case for why it is important. This requires charisma, passion, and a clear vision. By showing that they are willing to put in the effort themselves, leaders can earn the trust and respect of their team.
9. "Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers." - Robin S. Sharma
Leaders are not born, they are made. And it all starts with impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and actions inspire teammates and customers.
To be a great leader, you must be action-oriented and driven by a desire to achieve your goals. Whether managing a team or working independently, it is crucial to always stay focused on the end result and maintain an unwavering commitment to success. Additionally, great leaders are able to inspire others by sharing their passion for their work and communicating a clear vision for the future. With these skills and qualities, you can achieve great success as a leader and make a lasting impact on those around you.
10. "There are three rules for being a good leader: 1. Don't say you are one; 2. Show that you are one; and 3. Lead by example." - Georg W. F. Hegel
Based on an excerpt from Georg W. F. Hegel's book, Philosophy of Right, a genuine leader doesn't need to proclaim themselves as such; instead, they should show that they are a leader through their actions and by setting a good example for others to follow.
Whether it's by being decisive, taking initiative, or being willing to put in the hard work required for success, a true leader always leads by example. And if you want to be a fantastic leader yourself, remember that it takes dedication and determination to succeed.
11. "A good leader is someone who can help people see the invisible and believe in the incredible." – Simon Sinek
True leadership is not just about a title or designation. Great leaders inspire others to believe in the impossible and see beyond what is visible. They must have a clear vision and be driven by a desire to achieve their goals. Whether you are leading a team or simply trying to motivate and inspire those around you, you need to be able to see beyond the normal limitations and obvious obstacles and communicate your vision in a way that inspires others to act.
12. "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants to be done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." - Theodore Roosevelt
As an executive, it is essential to have the ability to pick good people for the tasks that you need to be done. This requires having a clear vision for what you want to achieve, as well as being able to effectively communicate your goals and expectations to those around you. With the right people in place, you can build a strong and effective team that will help you achieve your goals and make a real impact in your organization.
Additionally, effective executives must be able to maintain self-restraint and allow their team members to do the work they have been tasked with without interfering or micromanaging. Setting clear goals, delegating tasks effectively, and allowing your team members the space they need to succeed sets up those you've entrusted with the work to achieve their goals and create success in any organization.
13. "The price of greatness is responsibility." – Winston Churchill
Leaders at all levels must be willing to take on the responsibility that comes with their position in order to achieve greatness. This may require making tough decisions, taking initiative, and putting in the hard work needed for success. By accepting responsibility and staying focused on their goals, leaders can make a real impact in their organizations and achieve great things.
Whether you are a new leader just starting out or an experienced executive, the journey to greatness is one that requires dedication and perseverance. So, embrace your responsibilities and rise to the challenge – the world needs more leaders now more than ever.
14. "Don't worry about failure; you only have to be right once." – Drew Houston
The greatest leaders mobilize by taking risks and learning from their mistakes; whether it's trying out a new strategy or making an unpopular decision, successful leaders know that there is always something to be gained from taking a chance. By not letting the fear of failure hold them back, they are able to achieve great things.
As long as you are willing to learn from your mistakes, you only have to be right once in order to be successful. So, don't be afraid to try new things and take chances – it's the only way to reach your full potential.
15. "A real decision is measured by the fact that you've taken a new action. If there's no action, you haven't truly decided." – Tony Robbins
True leadership requires action, not just words. When faced with a difficult decision or challenge, great leaders take steps to address the issue and progress occurs toward their goals. Whether it's implementing a new strategy or rallying support for a project, successful leaders are always looking for ways to move forward and achieve results.
Leadership quotes like this remind us that a superior teacher demonstrates decisiveness and knows how to translate vision into action and results.
16. "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
Good leaders know that success requires taking responsibility for both their own actions and their team's actions. Rather than playing the blame game or trying to take all the credit for everything, credible leaders are willing to acknowledge their mistakes and give all the credit where it's due. By modeling this behavior for their teams, wise leaders generally help build a more collaborative and supportive work environment.
The very essence of Jocko Willink's book, Extreme Ownership, is centered around this concept. Willink argues that the greatest leader must take full responsibility for their actions and the actions of their team – no matter what happens. By embracing this mindset, more leaders can set a positive example for those around them and help build a more cohesive, driven team that is capable of achieving great things.
17. "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." – John Quincy Adams
Whether you are a middle manager or executive, the true measure of leadership is how you inspire and motivate others to succeed. By setting a positive example, sharing your vision, and empowering others to take action, more leaders can help drive innovation, engagement, and success throughout their organizations. To be an excellent leader in your field, focus on inspiring others to reach their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
18. "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." – Jim Rohn
A dangerous leadership myth is that good leaders must be harsh, bold individuals who exude confidence and authority at all times. But these are not attributes that win trust and build self-esteem alone. In reality, great leaders are able to balance strength and humility, kindness and assertiveness, and thoughtfulness with decisiveness.
As a leader, it is important to demonstrate these traits without tipping the scales too far in one direction or another. By being firm yet approachable, and decisive yet understanding, a superior teacher demonstrates the qualities that are essential for success. Whether you are leading a team or a company, these qualities will help you build trust, inspire others, avoid lost confidence, and achieve great things.
19. "The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already." – John Buchan
Leaders are made, and at their core, all great leaders have the capacity for greatness. Rather than trying to impose their vision or will upon others, successful leaders are able to draw out the best in those around them and help them achieve their full potential.
Leadership quotes like this show us that by encouraging collaboration, supporting growth, and setting a positive example, leaders can bring out the greatness in themselves and those they lead. Whether you are a team leader or CEO, cultivating this trait is essential for success in any role. And with the right mindset and approach, anyone can become a great leader and inspire others to do the same.
20. "All of us perform better and more willingly when we know why we're doing what we have been told or asked to do." – Kenneth Blanchard
Whether you are leading a small team or an entire organization, effective leadership requires clear communication and shared understanding. By being transparent about your goals, expectations, and priorities, you can help ensure that everyone on your team is working towards the same objectives and performing at their best.
Ways to improve communication with your team and improve one's own performance could include:
- Setting clear goals and expectations,
- Being honest and open with your team members about any challenges you may be facing,
- Encouraging two-way feedback and collaboration.
By taking these steps, you can create a more cohesive, engaged team that is better able to achieve its goals and excel in all aspects of its work. A good teacher explains, so take the time to communicate openly and effectively, and you will be well on your way to becoming an effective leader.
21. "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." – Bill Gates
In today's rapidly changing world, leadership is no longer about exerting control or wielding authority. To be successful, leaders must learn to empower and engage those around them, listen to diverse perspectives, and cultivate an inclusive work environment where everyone can thrive. By cultivating these skills and building trust with your team, you can become a truly great leader capable of driving progress and innovation in any field.
Need some help developing your leadership abilities and unlocking people's potential? Check out First-time manager training: how to train successful leaders.
22. "To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart." – Eleanor Roosevelt
Whether you are leading a small team or overseeing a large department, effective leadership requires both analytical thinking and emotional intelligence. By using your head to make data-driven decisions and your heart to empathize with others and build relationships, you can become a more well-rounded and effective leader who is able to inspire others, navigate complex challenges, and achieve great things.
23. "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." – Arnold H. Glasow
As traditional definitions of leadership continue to evolve, today's most successful leaders are those who can accept responsibility for their actions and take ownership of their mistakes. Many average leaders raise accusations and point fingers, but genuine leadership consists of self-reflection and leaders recognizing where they should improve. By being humble and willing to acknowledge when things haven't gone as planned, great leaders can help build trust with their teams and keep moving forward together toward shared goals.
24. "The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist." – Eric Hoffer
Whether you are leading a small team or an entire organization, it is essential to have both strong leadership skills and a big-picture vision for your work. By balancing pragmatism with ambition, you can effectively balance the day-to-day needs of your team with the larger goals that you are working towards. With this blend of leadership and vision, you can become a more effective and successful leader in any field.
25. “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” – Jocko Willink
As a leader, it is important to set clear expectations for your team and uphold the standards that you want them to meet. This helps to create a culture of accountability and helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page. When this does not occur, the leader can quickly lose the respect of their team members.
Additionally, leadership quotes like this reinforce that it is just as important to hold yourself to the same high standards and be mindful of the behaviors and attitudes that you are implicitly or explicitly encouraging within your team. By leading by example and modeling positive behavior, you can help your team to feel motivated and inspired, and push towards greater success as a team.
26. “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
At the heart of leadership is a strong belief in yourself and your abilities – even when others may be doubting you. As a leader, it is essential to have confidence, to stand adversity with resilience, and to maintain your drive and motivation even when things get tough. With this attitude, you can continue to achieve great things, no matter what challenges you may face along the way.
27. "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are." – Ara Parasheghian
Whether you are leading a team of experienced professionals or a group of new recruits just starting out in their careers, effective coaching is crucial to helping your team reach its full potential. By providing guidance, support, and honest feedback, you can help your team members to develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed. With effective leadership and coaching skills, you can help your team achieve great things and reach new heights.
For more information on this topic, check out Types of coaching in the workplace: the ultimate guide .
To learn more about dealing with a male midlife crisis, read our blog post on male midlife crisis stages and discover effective strategies to navigate each stage.
28. “The best leadership advice I have ever received? Listen more than you talk.” – Howard Schultz
Ever wonder why we have two ears and only one mouth? Leadership quotes like this might be the answer. A mediocre teacher is more interested in what they have to say and contribute, but the best leaders are those who know how to listen, not just talk. They understand that their role is to guide and support others as they navigate the challenges of life, work, and everything in between.
As a leader, it is important to listen closely to the ideas and opinions of your team, as well as to actively seek out feedback about your own leadership style. By remaining open-minded, curious, and receptive to new ideas, you can better understand the needs and perspectives of your team members – and become a more effective leader in the process.
29. "Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation." – William Arthur Ward
At its core, leadership is about building connections and working collaboratively with others. Whether you are leading a small team or an entire organization, your ability to communicate effectively and engage your team will play a key role in determining your success as a leader. With strong communication skills and the ability to cultivate positive relationships with your team, you can become an inspiring and effective leader in any field.
30. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." – African proverb
At its core, teamwork is all about people coming together to achieve a common goal. This quote reminds us that no one can do it alone - we all need the help of our team in order to reach our goals. Coaching and leadership are essential aspects of creating and nurturing a successful team environment. With the right guidance and support, teamwork can achieve amazing things.
In the absence of teamwork, goals can be difficult to achieve. When people are working independently, it can be difficult to coordinate efforts and achieve synergy. With a team, however, everyone is working together towards a common goal, and this can lead to great things. And outstanding leaders know just how to cultivate this team environment, bringing out the best in their employees and inspiring them to work together toward greatness.
Great leaders raise their own bar
Leadership quotes like these remind us that being a leader is not about power or domination, but rather about inspiring others to reach their full potential. As a leader, it is important to be humble and open-minded and to always be looking for ways to improve your skills and techniques. A mediocre teacher tells themselves that they know it all, while great leaders build cultures centered on learning and continuous improvement. By leading by example and staying focused on the goal of teamwork and collaboration, you can help your team achieve great things.
Average leaders do an average job. At the end of the day, successful leadership today is all about results. While some people may be able to coast by with mediocre skills and a lack of motivation, truly great leaders are always looking for ways to push themselves – and their teams – to new heights. So always raise the bar, strive for excellence, and never settle for anything less.
PS: One of the best ways to show your appreciation for your team is to simply say thank you. But saying thank you doesn't have to be limited to just words. There are many other ways to express your gratitude, both big and small. For more ideas on how to show your team how much you appreciate them, check out our blog post "Thank you for all you do: 100 ways to express gratitude".
About Julian Lewis
Julian Lewis is a driven and accomplished professional with a passion for driving positive change in the business world. As the co-founder and COO at Zella Life, a coaching on-demand platform, he is working to bridge the diversity gap between diverse talent and internal team leaders. His own experience as a professional of color in a Fortune 500 company led him to discover the limitations for advancement that many professionals like himself face. Determined to reach his full potential, Julian became an established business coach and entrepreneur, committed to supporting others who have been culturally conditioned to remain silent in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.
Today, Julian is a recognized corporate trainer, coach, and leader, known for his ability to leverage real-life experiences and evidence-based methodologies to affect positive change within individuals and organizations. As the leader of Zella Life's coaching division, he is dedicated to empowering individuals and businesses to achieve their full potential. Julian's unique perspective and passion for coaching make him a valuable asset to any organization.
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