One of my favorite things to do as a leader is make a big speech or presentation. The kind that is designed to “jazz up” and inspire the team.
I’ve been delivering them on a regular basis for the past 8 years in my (soon-to-be) former position as an SVP of Operations, and throughout that time I have sprinkled a few famous quotes here and there, to really bring home the point I was trying to make.
These quotes are quite useful because of their eloquence, and the way they bring a certain gravitas to the discussion.
I’ve assembled my 10 favorite quotes on this post (and the best context to use them) – the ones I have used the most effectively, and the most often, in practicing my leadership craft.
Try one of these yourself next time you are rallying the troops.
- Decisiveness: “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction”. – John F. Kennedy
- Excellence & The Joy of Work: ‘The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both” — James Michener
- The “Value” of Experience: “Experience suggests it doesn’t matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive“ – Lois McMaster Bujold
- Trust: “When trust is high, relative to fear, people and people systems function well. When fear is high, relative to trust, they break down.” – Jack Gibb
- Confidence & Determination: “An army destined to defeat fights in the hope of winning” – Sun Tzu, the Art of War
- Too Much Talk, Not Enough Action: “We have a ‘strategic’ plan. It’s called doing things.” — Herb Kelleher
- The Joy of Progress, and the Journey: “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb” – Sir Winston Churchill
- The Real Job of Leadership: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
- Bad News is Good News: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Colin Powell
- Overcoming Fear (and my All-Time Favorite): “It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, 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 short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt