The right quote has the power to drive action. So, let’s start with one. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Most of the best leaders aren’t born. They’re made. Leadership coaching gives us the chance to see things from a different perspective and reach heights that we couldn’t possibly imagine alone.
A great coach can help you piece together the elements for great leadership. These words of wisdom from some of the most well-known and respected leaders of past and present should encourage you to take that first step.
Here are 32 quotes about the hard work, emotional intelligence, and social skills needed to become a great leader (with a few of my own peppered in).
Effective Leadership Coaching Quotes To Empower You
- “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” This Chinese proverb says it all. Have faith in your own abilities and of those around you.
- My friend and mentor Marshall Goldsmith said, “One of the most important actions, things a leader can do, is to lead by example. If you want everyone else to be passionate, committed, dedicated, and motivated, you go first!”
- As Leyda Lazo says, the value you’ll glean from coaching is a sliding scale: “What you get out of your leadership is based on what you ask for—both from yourself and from others. Set your standards high. The more you want out of your leadership, the more you have to be willing to ask for (and work for!) along the way.”
- “The best coach knows you better than you know yourself. Then enables you to discover your true self and potential while guiding your steps till you reach your goals, one by one.” Through a process of gathering advice, Cristina Imre explains you will be able to track your leadership effectiveness over time.
- “Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you—not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.” Simon Sinek highlights the differences between leading and being a “leader” by title.
- “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt spoke about the importance of leading with love long before it was a considered topic in the business world.
- “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward on the scaling up of leadership skills.
- Ronald Reagan once said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Most Loved Workplace® is based on a movement of companies that consciously place love for their employees at the center of their business model.
- Vince Lombardi said: “Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader.” A good coach can help you unearth qualities you may not even realize you possess. The leadership style you develop from there is up to you.
- “I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential.” Bob Nardelli explains that executive coaching can turn into one of your most valuable resources.
- “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” Elon Musk confirmed he doesn’t cause trouble for nothing. Sometimes you need to shake things up to solve a problem.
- “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” John Wooden nailed what it means to have genuine, not controlling, conversations.
- “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 summarized what leadership coaching can do for you and you can do for others.
- The world’s pioneer of patient-centered care Hunter “Patch” Adams told me in a personal interview, “There’s no place where loving, compassion, fun, creativity, understanding, generosity are not needed in the world. It can benefit every single environment, from churches and prisons, to hospitals and legislative halls, to city streets and elevators. There’s no place where I haven’t done it that it hasn’t obviously added something.”
Leadership Coaching Quotes from “In Great Company”
One of the most prominent parts of leadership coaching is breaking down what it means to be a good leader. It’s all about being able to effectively assess your own performance and where you could be lacking.
Here are some of my favorite leadership quotes I included in my book In Great Company that may help shine some light:
- Jack Welch, who was passionate about developing leaders at GE (General Electric) during his heyday as CEO, said, “…emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”
- “There’s no team without trust,” said Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook says that leaders can enable collaboration by “Looking for people who privately celebrate an achievement but do not care that their name is the one in the lights…people who appreciate different points of view.”
- In The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, arguably the most influential management book of all time, Stephen Covey proposes that we “begin with the end in mind.” That simple, brilliant idea offers a path to success that is more memorable than any case study or synthesis of research anywhere.
- Nick Perugini, GE’s head of Commercial Digital Technology, gave this inspirational quote which references being a good boss and the importance of teamwork: “We all cross the finish line together, or nobody wins.”
- Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson, who coined the term “psychological safety” in her 1999 research, said that it brings about “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up.” That’s why it’s one of the most important things you can do as a leader to ensure this feeling within your organization and encourage happiness.
- Deborah Lipman Slobodnik, my mentor and a noted executive coach and expert in team leadership and culture change, once told me: “One of the big killers of collaboration is leaders who are only going through the motions in terms of creating an inclusive process.” She continued, “They say they want to hear from their peers, but they have already made up their mind and usually the entire team knows that.” The resulting effect is a team that is demoralized and disillusioned.
- I learned the most about consensus building from Senator George Mitchell. Not only a United States Senator and Senate Majority Leader, Mitchell was also the principal architect of the Good Friday [Peace] Agreement in Northern Ireland, and United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace (2009–2011). His historic experience, rounded out by work on corporate boards including Disney, Xerox, and FedEx, led him to say: “You can’t always get everyone to agree…But by conducting yourself properly you can get everyone to agree that the process by which a decision was reached was fair and open.”
With that, Mitchell said, all sides may abide by the outcome because they feel that it was decided upon properly with impartial rules of order. He also said that consensus building requires rising above interpersonal differences that would only serve to deepen the conflict. “The lesson for me was that it is possible to play a constructive role in ending conflict without directly engaging in the conflict ourselves.” As part of that, remaining above the fray requires patience and dedication to the cause of conflict resolution.
- Spencer Stuart, the executive search and leadership development consulting firm, believes that the ability to accept and manage change presents such a powerful advantage for leaders that they have developed a tool to test for it. The “Executive Intelligence” evaluation measures a leader’s ability to thrive in new, unfamiliar and complex situations.
“There’s so much disruption, there’s so much technology and there’s so many new industries that leaders know very little with certainty,” Jim Citrin said. “The ability to learn and take in new information, and actually apply it in smart ways, is a core capability of great CEOs today.”
- Author Patrick Lencioni said core values “are the source of a company’s distinctiveness” and “need to be integrated into every employee-related process”, from hiring to firing.
- John Tu, CEO and co-founder of Kingston Technologies, told me that actively practicing the values you promote is about the small details as much as the big decisions. “Doing what you say you will at work and showing employees that you care,” he said, creates a bond between people and mobilizes them “to love coming to work every day.”
- “Our employees are our number one asset, period,” Kevin Stickles, Wegman’s vice president for human resources, said in The Atlantic. “The first question you ask is: ‘Is this the best thing for the employee?’ That’s a totally different model.”
“When you think about employees first, the bottom line is better,” Stickles argued. “We want our employees to extend the brand to our customers.
- The above sounds a lot like what Howard Behar told me about the big benefits of respect: “Grow the people, the people grow the organization, the organization grows the business. And that’s how it works,” he said.
A business coach focuses on your strategy. A leadership coach focuses on the individual. These motivational quotes show just how many elements there are to consider when developing your leadership skills.
To effectively make a change, you have to dig deep into your perceptions of your own leadership. Once you form solid self-awareness, it’s time to take a look at how others perceive it. Once you have that information, you’ll be in a position of strength to make decisions on what you want and do not want to change.
Don’t be resistant to change—work with your mentor and guide, help others through it, and face it head-on to unlock the power of extraordinary performance.
If you’d like to become a more successful and effective leader, get in touch with my team. For more strategies and tools for leading change in your organization, consider reading The Change Champion’s Field Guide.