Leadership Quotes

I have always found great insight into any subject by pondering the quotes that I come across from individuals who, by virtue of their words, seem to understand it much better than I do. I stated earlier this year that I wanted to focus on Leadership in my blog posts, so here are some quotes that I hope will give you some insight into what leadership is and should be, as well as maybe some inspiration.

What is leadership?
A definition of leader that I have used for many years is;

A person, who by force of example, talents, and/or qualities of character plays a directing role, wields commanding influence or has a following in any sphere of activity or thought.

By contrast, to put leader in better perspective, a definition of a manager is;

A person who conducts, directs or supervises activities, especially the executive functions of planning, organizing, coordinating, directing, controlling and supervising of any business type project or activity with responsibility for results.

Leadership, or management?

“Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right things.”
Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, Leaders


“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
Peter Drucker


Chester Barnard, a noted management theorist in the early 20th century, stated; “the leader’s role is to harness the social forces in the organization, to shape and guide values.”

How does one develop their leadership?

“Each person must develop his own leadership. Leadership cannot be bought. It cannot be conferred. It cannot be inherited. It knows no divine right. It cannot be passed on by any process of succession. It is acquired only by the personal mastery of each individual aspirant.”
Sterling W. Sill

How does one demonstrate leadership?

“The line between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and chicken, is a fine line. It is difficult to define, but those of us who are professionals, who have also accepted a career as a leader of men must find that line. It is because judgment and concern for people and human relations are involved in leadership that only [people] can lead, and not computers. I enjoin you to be ever alert to the pitfalls of too much authority. Beware that you do not fall into the category of the little man, with a little job, with a big head.”
Lieutenant General Melvin Zais


“A good leader is one who makes people think they have more ability than they have, so they consistently do better work than they thought they could.”
Charles E. Wilson


“Leadership is action, not position.”
Donald H. McGannon


“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
Arnold H. Glasow


According to Peters & Waterman (In Search of Excellence), every example or factor of excellence in leadership “lives only as the leader’s integrity lives within it.”

What is inspiring leadership?

“To give a man this [loyalty] is the acme of inspired leadership. He has become loyal because loyalty has been given to him.”
GEN George C. Marshall, WWII Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


“It is reported that on one occasion in the face of great enemy forces, Joan of Arc said to her generals; “I will lead the men over the wall.” A general said, “Not a man will follow you.” Joan replied, “I will not look back to see whether anyone is following or not!”


Lao-Tzu, a 6th century B.C. Chinese philosopher, wrote; “Of a great leader when his work is done they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”

How is your leadership? Is it equal to the challenges of the 21st Century Library?


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5 responses to “Leadership Quotes

  1. inlandlibrarian

    Thank you Steve, great quotes. I would like to add this one: Joseph Kraft commenting on the attributes of McGeorge Bundy, as quoted in Gordon Goldstein’s book “Lessons in Disaster,McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam”, page 15. “His capacity to read the riddle of multiple confusions, to consider a wide range of possibilities, to develop lines of action, to articulate and execute public purposes, to impart quickened energies to men of the highest ability seem to me unmatched.” An ironic assessment of Bundy’s capacities perhaps, but certainly qualities we value in a leader.

  2. Kay Dee

    Excellent post. Important ideas to contemplate. Without strong leaders we will remain stagnant as a profession!
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jeannine

    Nice touch with the Joan of Arc quote; I’ve always loved Joan of Arc (she is my patron saint, of course). I also liked this post because I think what’s really strange about the small town library here is that I rarely see the so-called “leaders” and I think I’m in there enough that I should see those who are in a leadership position (of some kind). I rarely see the person in charge of the Friends of the Public Library, the circulation supervisor is pretty much worthless (for a multitude of reasons), and I have never seen the library director. Just from the one day a week I spend there volunteering, I know how NOT to run a library.

    • There is an interesting advantage to being a volunteer – a person can speak out on matters that they think need changing, and not have to worry about losing their job.
      Thanks for sharing, and hopefully your library leaders will figure out what the rest of us already understand – leaders lead from in front, not from behind.

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