Leading others has been a role in human groups since before history began. Is leadership learned or inborn? Is it best done by exercising power and force, or by cooperation and service? What really is meant by leadership? These leadership quotations describe the experiences and expertise of many in history and today. May you find something useful and inspiring among them!

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Professional Loving Care is a practice of care in which competent and compassionate professionals interact with people and animals in their care; to them tuning in with the needs of each individual patient is a leading principle and if necessary they modify the procedures and protocols of the institution; the main purpose of this type of caring is not repair of the patients’ body or mind, but the care-receivers’ experience of being supported and not being left on their own; important, too, is that all people concerned in healthcare (professionals, care-receivers and their families) are able to feel that they matter as unique and precious individuals.

— A. van Heijst

It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.

— Adlai Stevenson

The term ‘power’ comes from the Latin posse: to do, to be able, to change, to influence or effect. To have power is to possess the capacity to control or direct change. All forms of leadership must make use of power. The central issue of power in leadership is not Will it be used? But rather Will it be used wisely and well?

— Al Gini

We’re not willing to give black leaders second chances because, in most cases, we’re not willing to give them first chances.

— Al Sharpton

Great masters neither want nor need your worship. Your greatest gift to them and yourself is to emulate their divinity by claiming it as your own.

— Alan Cohen

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

— Albert Einstein

I’m really glad that our young people missed the Depression, and missed the great big war. But I do regret that they missed the leaders that I knew. Leaders who told us when things were tough, and that we would have to sacrifice, and these difficulties might last awhile. They didn’t tell us things were hard for us because we were different, or isolated, or special interests. They brought us together and they gave us a sense of national purpose.

— Ann Richards, 1988 keynote address, Democratic National Convention

….Every human being may be better … We know it, because we — the human beings we know best — could be better than we are. Every human being should take advantage of his opportunity, however poor. We know this because we feel that we have failed to make the best of our opportunities. Every human being can… become a larger, finer, and fairer specimen of the human race. This is the gospel of religion and this is the gospel of personal ethics. more

— Anna Garlin Spencer, Philadelphia, 1908

To the highest leadership among women it is given to hold steadily in one hand the sacred vessels that hold the ancient sanctities of life, and in the other a flaming torch to light the way for oncoming generations.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

It’s important to remember that feminism is no longer a group of organizations or leaders. It’s the expectations that parents have for their daughters, and their sons, too. It’s the way we talk about and treat one another. It’s who makes the money and who makes the compromises and who makes the dinner. It’s a state of mind. It’s the way we live now.

— Anna Quindlen

I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.

— Barack Obama

I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vacuum.

— Bishop Desmond Tutu

I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a person who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.

— C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

— Carl Sagan

Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term. One of the criteria for national leadership should therefore be a talent for understanding, encouraging, and making constructive use of vigorous criticism.

— Carl Sagan

Leaders don’t force people to follow — they invite them on a journey.

— Charles S. Lauer

You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.

— Cornel West

It is well to respect the leader. Learn from him. Observe him. Study him. But don’t worship him. Believe you can surpass. Believe you can go beyond. Those who harbor the second-best attitude are invariably second-best doers.

— David J. Schwartz

If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you. If you really make them think, they’ll hate you.

— Don Marquis

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

— Douglas MacArthur

You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.

— Edwin H. Friedman

Leadership through self-differentiation is not easy; learning techniques and imbibing data are far easier. Nor is striving or achieving success as a leader without pain: there is the pain of isolation, the pain of loneliness, the pain of personal attacks, the pain of losing friends. That’s what leadership is all about.

— Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

The function of a leader within any institution: to provide that regulation through his or her non-anxious, self-defined presence.

— Edwin H. Friedman

What is to give light must endure the burning.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

What you always do before you make a decision is consult. The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted. Then, once policy is determined, you call on them to help you sell it.

— Elizabeth Dole

These projects are not lacking in natural leaders. They contain people with real ability, wonderful people many of them, but the typical sequence is that in the course of organization leaders have found each other, gotten all involved in each others’ social lives, and have ended up talking to nobody but each other. They have not found their followers. Everything tends to degenerate into ineffective cliques, as a natural course. There is no normal public life. Just the mechanics of people learning what’s going on is so difficult. It all makes the simplest social gain extra hard for these people.

— Ellen Lurie, about tenant organizing in public housing projects, quoted by Jane Jacobs

The masses are in reality their own leaders, dialectically creating their own development process.

— Emma Goldman

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

— Eric Hoffer

It is not so much that man is a herd animal, said Freud, but that he is a horde animal led by a chief.

— Ernest Becker

I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week. If you go to the city of Washington, and you examine the pages of the Congressional Directory, you will find that almost all of those corporation lawyers and cowardly politicians, members of Congress, and mis-representatives of the masses — you will find that almost all of them claim, in glowing terms, that they have risen from the ranks to places of eminence and distinction. I am very glad I cannot make that claim for myself. I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.

— Eugene V. Debs

I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week. If you go to the city of Washington, and you examine the pages of the Congressional Directory, you will find that almost all of those corporation lawyers and cowardly politicians, members of Congress, and mis-representatives of the masses — you will find that almost all of them claim, in glowing terms, that they have risen from the ranks to places of eminence and distinction. I am very glad I cannot make that claim for myself. I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.

— Eugene V. Debs

I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands.

— Eugene V. Debs

I would not be a Moses to lead you into the Promised Land, because if I could lead you into it, someone else could lead you out of it.

— Eugene V. Debs

I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.

— Everett Dirksen

The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.

— Faye Wattleton

Whoever is providing leadership needs to be as fresh and thoughtful and reflective as possible to make the very best fight.

— Faye Wattleton

For people who are not very clever, the cleverest thing they can do is submit to good leadership.

— François de La Rochefoucauld

Large organization is loose organization. Nay, it would be almost as true to say that organization is always disorganization.

— G. K. Chesterton

You don’t have to be a boss to be a leader.

— Gerald M. Weinberg

In the seed model, leadership is the process of creating an environment in which people become empowered.

— Gerald M. Weinberg, Becoming a Technical Leader

If you are a leader, the people are your work.

— Gerald M. Weinberg

People don’t become leaders because they never fail. They become leaders because of the way they respond to failure.

— Gerald M. Weinberg

If you’re not reaching back to help anyone then you’re not building a legacy.

— Germany Kent

When I’m talking to people, I find myself quoting the three organizing rules of Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter was initiated by three young women, and too few people know that. But, anyway, the first one is lead with love. The second is low ego, high impact. The third is move with the speed of trust. I must say those make me feel very hopeful for the future.

— Gloria Steinem

Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.

— H. Ross Perot

A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.

— Henrik Ibsen

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody.

— Herbert B. Swope
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