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Home > Blog > Top 7 Leadership Quotes – how do you measure up against them?

Wednesday 6th Dec 2017

Top 7 Leadership Quotes – how do you measure up against them?

This week I was interviewed for an article on leadership and I was asked the question ‘what are my top leadership quotes and why?’.

It triggered a rich, powerful conversation and sparked a thought in my head about doing a similar exercise for this week’s blog.

So, before I share my top 7 what’s YOUR top ONE leadership quote and why does it mean something to you?

I’d love to know. Please share in the comments box at the end of the blog.

And if you’re thinking ‘Royston, I don’t have direct leadership or management responsibility, this doesn’t apply to me’.  My challenge for you is to think again.

We are ALL leaders whether we have formal leadership/management responsibility or not.

We lead our families, children, sports club, Parents PTA, influence and lead peer colleagues, manage supplier relationships.

You get my point.

Leadership is not about title it’s about a way of thinking, feeling and acting.

Here’s my top 7 leadership quotes with my explanation as to why I chose each one. As you read each one score yourself against it and do a mini audit to see where you are on your own journey to becoming an Inspirational Leader.

  1. “If your actions inspire others to learn more, dream more, do more and become more then you are a Leader!” – John Quincy Adams

Let’s kick off with probably my favourite quote which captures the essence of what great leadership is all about.

Since motivation is a personal choice, the ability of the Leader to inspire and ignite an individual’s desire and will to want to do it for themselves is central to what great Leadership is all about.

Learn more – the day you stop learning is the day you stop earning.

Great Leaders who I’ve had the privilege to coach and work with have this insatiable thirst for learning, for knowledge which will help them to be better tomorrow, more than they were today!

3 steps to improve performance

Dream more – what the mind can conceive and believe…it can achieve!

Great Leaders are great visionaries. They have the ability to see the desired future end state, help people around them to see this vision and then…turn the future into reality.

Do more – they are action orientated and make stuff happen!

Become more – Great Leaders have the ability to challenge self and others to constantly be growing, recognising one of the 6 fundamental human needs which we all fulfil at some level is the need for growth.

  1. “before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Jack Welch was the youngest CEO of GE at 41 years of age. During his 2 decades at GE he presided over a 4,000% increase in the share price.

What’s fascinating is that despite all the challenges the business faced when he joined, within his first 100 days of office one of the things he did was to set up a Leadership Academy.

Now with so many things which could have grabbed his attention why did he make this one of his top goals?

Because Jack Welch recognised that to get GE to where he wanted to take it he needed a bench strength of Leadership capability.

The increased share price was not his primary focus – that was the by-product. His focus was developing Leadership capability and how many Leaders who served under his tenure would go on to run Fortune 500 businesses or businesses on the main stock markets of the world.

Jack Welch was living embodiment of this second Leadership quote; “before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing other.”

  1. “Leaders need to be consistently different!” – Royston Guest

An original quote which flies in the face of conventional thinking as aren’t we always taught that Leaders need to be consistent.

Well yes, they need to be consistent in terms of their mood, to be calm whether the waters are still or the storms of pressure are circling. The team cannot be worried about which ‘Leader’ is going to show up.

However, and yes, there is a however…Leaders need to also be consistently different!


Because every individual is unique, wired differently and motivated by different things. Therefore, as Leaders we need to adjust our leadership style and approach, understanding what makes each individual tick and what drives them.

If the only tool in your tool bag is a hammer then every problem is a nail!

Unfortunately, every problem is not a nail. You need more in your tool bag.

Sometimes people need an arm around the shoulder, their confidence building and to know that you genuinely understand their fears and vulnerabilities.

Sometimes people need a gentle nudge in a particular direction.

For others, you may need to create a compelling picture of the future which acts as a draw and anchor to take action.

For the few, communicating the pain and consequences of inaction is the only action you can take.

With all the different generations and the millennial coming of age this whole focus on being ‘consistently different’ in unlocking people potential is more important than ever!

  1. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.” – General Colin Powell

The longer version is ‘Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand’.

Effective leaders understand the KISS principle, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

They articulate vivid, over-arching goals and values, which they use to drive daily behaviours and choices among competing alternatives.

Their visions and priorities are lean and compelling, not cluttered and buzzword-laden.

Their decisions are crisp and clear, not tentative and ambiguous.

They convey an unwavering firmness and consistency in their actions, aligned with the picture of the future they paint.

The result: clarity of purpose, credibility of leadership, and integrity in organisation.

  1. “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been” – Henry Kissinger

Many people have inbuilt fears, lack confidence or self-belief, whether they actually manifest these or keep them locked up inside they are there!

How many times do you see a sports team which is failing to realise its potential and a new coach or manager comes in and suddenly the team kick on to the next level.

Or a specific player who is out of favour and destined for the reserves but under the new manager or coach seems to gain a new lease of life.

What’s different?

It’s the Leaders ability to build confidence and belief in the individual that they DO have what it takes. That they can do it.

3 steps to improve performance

That the latent potential is lying within them.

They just need to stretch out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves to be the best that they can be.

It’s links to the saying ‘A mind once stretched never returns to its original dimension’.

  1. “Leadership isn’t a popularity contest” – Royston Guest

…It’s about doing the RIGHT thing rather than the popular thing! It’s not a popularity contest.

Being a Leader isn’t about being liked. It’s about doing what is right.

So many leaders are afraid of conflict, they have a deep-seated need to be popular and cherished. They hate ruffling feathers and making waves. They are insecure and not comfortable in their own skin.

But great leaders are different.

They fearlessly make tough calls. They speak the truth. They run their own race, making the right decisions and worrying little about public opinion. They care about being fair, doing what’s right and getting results based on those right decisions.

They are courage in action!

You and I both know the right thing to do is generally the hardest thing to do.

Leadership has to be based on an Adult to Adult relationship NOT parental, Adult to Child relationship.

Make the tough decisions. Speak with candor. Be intolerant of underperformance and let them know when they are underperforming. Tell your superstars and fellow colleagues how good they are when they earn the right to praise.

When you lead a team, yourself or fellow colleagues from a position of truth, justice, fairness and excellence, you’ll have your critics. Who cares?

  1. “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions” – Harold S Geneen

There is nothing worse than a Leader who leads in a way which in essence says; “do as I say not as I do!”

Great Leaders are living embodiment of the attitude and behaviours they most want to see in others. They lead by example.

This generates real authenticity from the Leader which in turn creates loyalty from individuals which you just cannot buy. It is priceless.

When people follow their Leader not because they have to, but because they want to then they truly have skin in the game and emotional connection.

Great Leaders walk the talk, NOT talk the talk. I am sure you have personal experiences of Leaders who fall into both camps.

Don’t forget to share YOUR top ONE leadership quote and why in the comments box below.


The Inspired Leader

If developing Leadership and Management capability is one of your top priorities for 2018 then let’s talk.

I have some of the best Leadership Consultants, Trainers and Coaches in the UK and our flagship programme The Inspirational Leader is revered in industry as the benchmark for Leadership & Management Excellence. Email me at royston.guest@pti-worldwide.com



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