A Primer on Leadership: the 26 Most Important Quotes

As management guru Peter Drucker once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

The starting point

 “The absolute of leadership is followers.” -- Peter Drucker, management guru and author of dozens of influential books

Defining reality

“The first role of the leader is to define reality.” -- Max DePree, former CEO of Herman Miller and author of Leadership Is an Art

Verifying reality

“All the well-meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if you’re not addressing the real problem. And we’ll never get to the problem if we’re so caught up in our own autobiography, our own paradigm, that we don’t take off our glasses long enough to see the world from another point of view.”  -- Stephen Covey, author, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

A shared characteristic

“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.” --  John Kenneth Galbraith, economist and author of dozens of books

The objective

“The task of a leader is to get people from where they are to where they have not been.” -- Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford

The functions

“Change is the transition from today through tomorrows.” -- Mike Manes, founder, Square One Consulting

“Change management is solving problems and capitalizing on opportunities during the transition.” – Manes

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Drucker

The challenge

“There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful to success, than to step up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.”  --Niccolo Machiavelli, author, The Prince

The risk in failing to lead

“Take change by the hand before change takes you by the throat.” – Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England

The importance of vision

“Where there is no vision the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:16

“People change what they do less because they are given an analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”– John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen in The Heart of Change

The best example of vision

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”  -- President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961

The importance of leadership

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -- Edmund Burke, Irish statesman, author and philosopher

What leadership is not

“Consensus is the absence of leadership.” -- Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England

A bias for action

“If you start to take Vienna – Take Vienna.” -- Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France from 1804 to 1814

“I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” -- Michael Jordan, former NBA star

“Don’t find fault – Find a remedy.” -- Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” -- John Wooden, UCLA coach who won 10 NCAA basketball championships in a 12-year stretch

“A man could do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he had done.” – Anonymous

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” -- Kennedy

“Nothing in this world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – President Calvin Coolidge

“Just do it!” -- Nike

The test of leadership

“If the end brings me out right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” – President Abraham Lincoln

“It is not the critic who counts, or how the strong man stumbled and fell, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; and if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that he’ll never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” -- Japanese proverb

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