Leadership Quotes

Leadership quotes are ideal for inspiration, guidance and provoking thought. These leadership quotes might help you think about what kind of leader you want to be, consider what leadership is or just give you a feel for what some of the world’s great leaders have reinforced. If you need a leadership quote for a presentation or a talk, go no further.

Below are over 50 leadership quotes that are relevant to an army leader.

Character, Leading by Example and Taking Responsibility, or

What Leaders Are

Slim Leadership QuoteUnselfishness, as far as you are concerned means simply this – you will put first the honour and interests of your country and your regiment; next you will put the safety, well-being and comfort of your men; and last – and last all the time – you will put your own interest, your own safety, your own comfort.

Field Marshal Sir Bill Slim, Courage and other Broadcasts,1957

No man is a leader until he is ratified in the minds and hearts of his men.

The Infantry Journal, 1948

…leaders under pressure must keep themselves absolutely clean morally. The relativism of the social sciences will never do. They must lead by example, must be able to implant high-mindedness to their followers, and must have earned their followers’ respect by demonstrating integrity.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, 1987

The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.

General Colin Powell

People think that the follower serves the leader. But that isn’t true. The leader and the follower both serve the mission.

Ira Chaleff

Albert Schweitzer Leadership Quotes

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

Albert Schweitzer

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.

Arnold H Glasgow

There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.
Peter Drucker, Managing for Business Effectiveness, 1963

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 2007

Leadership is that mixture of example, persuasion and compulsion which makes men do what you want them to do. If I were asked to define leadership, I should say it is the ‘Projection of Personality’. It is the most intensely personal thing in the world, because it is just plain you.

Field Marshal Sir Bill Slim, Courage and other Broadcasts,1957

Leaders are made more often than they are born. You all have leadership in you. Develop it by thought training and by practice.

Field Marshal Sir Bill Slim, 1949

Colin Powell Leadership QuoteThe day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.

General Colin Powell

Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear… What we need for leaders are men of heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, 1987

A [unit’s] quality, its discipline, its training will depend on your leadership. Whatever deficiencies there are must be charged to your failure and incapacity.

General George C.Marshall, 1941

The Skills of Leadership, or

What Leaders Know

We have all seen the officer who, by working very hard, produces an excellent performance but on promotion fails to maintain his promise. He reached that rank because he was clever enough not to need to delegate. He failed because he did not have the sense or character to know that he should.

Major General Rupert Smith, GOC 1st British Armoured Division, 1991

Montgomery Leadership Quote

The good military leader will dominate the events which surround him; once he lets events get the better of him he will lose the confidence of his men, and when that happens he ceases to be of value as a leader.

Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, The Art of Leadership, 1958

Leadership in war is an art, a free creative activity based on a foundation of knowledge. The greatest demands are made on the personality.

Generals Werner von Fritsch and Ludwig Beck, 1933

We, the officers and NCOs, owe it to the men that we command and to our country that we make ourselves fit to lead the best soldiers in the world, that in peace the training we give them is practical, alive and purposeful, and that in war our leadership is wise, resolute and unselfish.

Field Marshal Sir Bill Slim, 1949.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

Developing people

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Ralph Nader

Washington Leadership Quote

It is absolutely necessary…for me to have persons that can think for me, as well as execute orders.

George Washington

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Jack Welch, Winning, 2005

War is much too brutal a business to have room for brutal leading; in the end, its only effect can be to corrode the character of men and when character is lost, all is lost. The bully and the sadist serve only to further encumber an army; their subordinates must waste precious time clearing away the wreckage they make.

Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall, Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command, 1947

Ultimately, battles, particularly those conducted under hazardous conditions and in the face of a numerically superior enemy, turn on the fighting spirit of the soldier. High morale and determination to win can only be developed by hard, tough, purposeful training and with the aid of good leadership …This is our main responsibility in peace time.

Field Marshal Dwin Bramall, The Bramall Papers, 2017

JC Lord RMAS Leadership Quote

I agree with Emerson when he said, “Trust men and they will be true to you. Treat them greatly and they will show themselves to be great.” Its jolly easy to say that and its jolly easy to think that all you’ve got to do is give an order and, we go out and they get on with it. Well, it’s not so, because to do that, you’ve got to train with them, you’ve got to get to know one another, you’ve got to give of your best, and set the standards. Then you can trust them and they will trust you. You treat men greatly by briefing them properly or working with them or bringing them along in the right lines. Now that, I firmly believe, should be the approach of soldiers and leaders throughout all armies and all services.

WO1 J C Lord, RSM 3 PARA and AcSM RMAS, 1963

Building Teams and Cohesion

Many of the military forms which look so unnecessary or even absurd, the worship of regimental totems, the eccentricities of dress and custom, the cultivation of a separate identity for the group – these have been developed and are still dedicated precisely to the creation and maintenance of that coherence on which the effective performance of a group under pressure depends. The leader must realise this.

General Sir John Hackett, 1968

Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, 1987

Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.

Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, 2015

Vision and Inspiration

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.

Ken Kesey

Henry Kissinger Leadership QuoteThe task of the leader is to get his people from where they are, to where they have not been.

Henry Kissinger

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.

Lao Tzu

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

Father Theodore M. Hesburgh

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, 2008

What you permit, you promote.

Professor Aidan Halligan

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

General David Hurley, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force

Management vs Leadership

Leadership is of the spirit, compounded of personality and vision: its practice is an art. Management is of the mind, more a matter of accurate calculation, of statistics, of methods, timetables and routine; its practice is a science. Managers are necessary; leaders are essential.

Field Marshal Sir Bill Slim, Governor General of Australia, 1957

We never lost sight of the reality that people, particularly gifted commanders, are what make units succeed. The way I like to put it, leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.

General Colin Powell, 1995

Leaders and Learning

…we British instinctively avoid displays of keenness. The enthusiast, particularly if he is innovative, is an embarrassment. Thus the battlefield became our teacher and, inevitably, it exacted a grim price in blood and time.

Sydney Jary MC, 18 Platoon, 1987

Rommel Leadership QuoteWar makes extremely heavy demands on the soldier’s strength and nerves. For this reason, make heavy demands on your men in peacetime exercises.

German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Infantry Attacks, 1937

Imagine a situation where some of those who you anticipate will perform well go to pieces. On the ground you discover your maps are not accurate. Your supporting armour is delayed for reasons unknown to you. The opposition’s fire power is far greater than you anticipated. General chaos exists. If your school and university record has been one of unparalleled success, giving you no experience of failure, you will find yourself at a disadvantage. ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same’. Never have Rudyard Kipling’s words been more appropriate.

Sydney Jary MC, The British Army Review No 29.

Every great leader I have known has been a great teacher, able to give those around him a sense of perspective and to set the moral, social and motivational climate among his followers.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, 1983

Dealing With Defeat

I had a sort of a motto, “No details, no paper, and no regrets.” No details-don’t go about setting machine guns on different sides of bushes. That is done a damn sight better by a platoon commander. Then, no paper. You cannot entirely do without paper, but you can get rid of quite a lot of it. Do not have people coming to you with huge files, telling you all about it. Make the man explain it; and if he cannot explain it, get somebody else who can. When I say “no regrets”, that is important. You do the best you can. You may have gotten it wrong; you may have lost a battle. You may even have lost a good many of your men’s lives which hurts more, but do not have regrets. Do not sit in the corner and say, “Oh, If I had only gone to the left instead of the right,” or “If I had only fought in front of the river instead of behind it.” You have done the best you could-it hasn’t come off. All right! What’s the next problem? Get on to that. Do not sit in the corner weeping about what you might have done. No details, no paper, no regrets.

Field Marshall Sir Bill Slim

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas A. Edison

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Summary

In the British Army there are no good units and no bad units – only good and bad officers and NCOs. They make or break the unit.

Field Marshal Sir Bill Slim, 1949 (in the foreword to the first edition of the British Army Review, then called the British Army Journal)

Successful leadership in battle, although complex and intangible, always seemed to me to depend on two factors. Firstly, soldiers must have confidence in their leaders’ professional ability and, secondly, they must trust them as men. It helps, too, if a leader has the reputation of being lucky.

Sydney Jary MC, 18 Platoon,1987

Basil Liddell-Hart Leadership Quote

The quality of leadership needs, above all, spirit, intelligence and sympathy. Spirit is needed to fire men to self-sacrificing achievements; intelligence, because men will only respect and follow a leader whom they feel knows his profession thoroughly; sympathy, to understand the mentality of each individual in order to draw out the best that is in him. Given these qualities, men will conquer fear to follow a leader.

Basil Liddell Hart, 1944

A successful leader of men must have character, ability and be prepared to take unlimited responsibility. Responsibility can only be learned by taking responsibility; you cannot learn the piano without playing on one. Leadership is the practical application of character. It implies the ability to command and to make obedience proud and free.

Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, 1960

A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.

Nelson Mandela

There are three kinds of people: Those who are immovable, those who are moveable, and those who move them.

Li Hung

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