Insert the word ‘leadership’ into Amazon.co.uk in the Books category and 95,950 results appear: an endless list of tips and opinions on what makes a successful leader. To capture some of the key elements that make a great leader, here is a selection of some of my favourite quotes on leadership together and why I believe they are relevant for today:
1. ‘The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell.’ Andrew Carnegie
Most great leaders are pioneers in their fields; many others will follow in their footsteps but it is the act of leadership that conquerors new ground and reaps the best rewards. One of the greatest businessmen and philanthropists was the Scottish American industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. He led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He certainly got the oyster (and the pearl too) becoming the richest man in the world. Importantly he was also the father of modern philanthropy. One of his great innovations was the cheap and efficient mass production of steel; the second was in changing the supply chain for all the raw materials used so that it was owned by his company. Carnegie made a global impact that lives on today.
2. ‘Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.’ Bill Gates
Leadership is about helping others to improve their skills continually. A bridge player may have a fantastic memory and be a black-belt at statistics, but if they haven’t learnt the art of positive body language, their chances of success will be reduced. Bill Gates is one of the greatest business men on earth and this quote captures his collaborative approach to achieving goals. Through his incredible business acumen, he has become one of the world’s wealthiest people; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the world. He is one of the greatest examples of someone who shows true leadership.
3. ‘Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see father.’ J. P. Morgan
American financier, banker and philanthropist, John Pierpoint Morgan was one of the most influential people in finance of his generation, best remembered for his role in modernising banking and American business as a whole. His visionary approach was second to none. He is another example of an incredibly generous philanthropist.
4. ‘Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.’ Warren Bennis
The American scholar and author, Warren Bennis, makes a very important point: leadership is the ability to make things happen. There are lots of people with lots of great ideas and vision, but without effective leadership, the winning formula will remain on the page it is written or the brain in which it was conceived.
5. ‘A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus’ – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr, highlights the fact that an effective leadercreates the way for everyone to agree rather than seeking a way for everyone to agree. Innovation is the hallmark of great leadership.
6. ‘Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.’ James MacGregor Burns
Pulitzer Prize winner, American historian and political scientist, James MacGregor Burns, is known for his aspirational and visionary theories on leadership. At the heart of this is the way in which he moved the dial on perceptions of leadership from actions of great men to the interaction of leaders and their constituencies – at the core of this is ethics which delivers mutual benefits.
7. ‘People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.’ Theodore Roosevelt
The 26th American President was known for his great personality and leadership skills. He transformed the nation’s political system and is the architect of modern presidency. This quote sums up his approach!
8. ‘Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.’ Dwight D. Eisenhower
The 34th President of the United States and first supreme commander of NATO strongly believed that citizen interaction would promote cultural interaction and world peace. An essential skill for all leaders is motivation: success is intrinsically linked to the desire and passion of everyone concerned to do what needs to be done.
9. ‘Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower’ Steve Jobs
The late, great Steve Jobs had all the characteristics of a great entrepreneur and leader. He was also a truly inspirational innovator. His vision led Apple to become one of the biggest companies in the world, not to mention revolutionising an entire sector. Many others have since followed in his footsteps.
10. ‘Keep fears to yourself, but share your courage with others’ Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson was the author of some of the greatest novels such as Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island and ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world. Whilst not a great leader in his own rights, this quote sums up one of the big challenges for leaders: there are many ups and down on the road to success, the trick is to display confidence at all times.