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What it Means to Be a Leader in 20 Quotes

What does it really mean to be a leader? Can anyone become an effective leader, or are some people just born to lead?

According to Psychology Today, researchers estimate that leadership is about one-third born and two-thirds made. Some people are born with traits like extraversion, assertiveness, empathy, and social intelligence, which are important elements of leadership. But training, education, and personal and professional development are just as — if not more — important.

To better understand what makes someone an effective leader, who better to look to for insight than well-known leaders and leadership experts of the past and today. 

Here are 20 famous quotes to sum up what it means to be a great leader:

  1. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”– Rosalynn Carter
  2. “The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.” – Sir Winston Churchill
  3. “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” – Aristotle
  4. “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” – Walt Disney
  5. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  6. “If you cannot allow people to do their jobs … nobody with substance and creativity will work for you.” – Condoleezza Rice
  7. “People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.” – Michelle Obama
  8. “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  9. “Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” – Ben Roethlisberger
  10. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – General George Patton
  11. “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
  12. “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  13. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker
  14. “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
  15. “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
  16. “Leadership never ascends from the pew to the pulpit, but invariably descends from the pulpit to the pew.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  17. “True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” – Sheryl Sandberg
  18. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy
  19. “To lead people, walk beside them. As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence … When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’” – Lao Tzu
  20. “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dolly Parton

What’s your leadership style?

The Birkman Method is a motivational assessment system and non-judgmental profile for better understanding how different people are likely to act, react and feel, based on interests, underlying needs, and behaviors.

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