Titles like team manager, supervisor or even CEO are little more than a plaque on the door if you don’t think and act like a leader. From the mouths and minds of the greats, past and present, here are a few thoughts on what it means to take on a leadership role.
What’s it take to become a leader?
Whether you ‘achieve greatness or have greatness thrust upon you,’ leadership is all about the attitude.
‘Success,’ according to Winston Churchill, ‘consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’
Margaret Thatcher said, ‘I wasn’t lucky. I deserved it.’ She recognised the work she put in to become a leader, but also that ‘being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.’
Leadership is …
If you’re looking to define leadership, more than a few individuals have weighed in on what it means to be a leader:
- ‘Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.’ –Simon Sinek, author
- ‘Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.’ –Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
- ‘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, former US first lady
Leaders quoting other leaders
Even pros take cues from other great leaders. Richard Branson cited a few of his favourite quotes including:
- The smartest thing I ever did was hire my weakness. –Sarah Blakely
- Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand. –Colin Powell
An interview with Steve Jobs’ colleague, Jay Elliot, notes the Apple innovator loved to quote Henry Ford: ‘If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse.’
The lesson is summed up by Harold Geneen when he said, ‘Leadership cannot really be taught, it can only be learned.’ Leaders learn by following the example of other leaders.
What’s your leadership philosophy?
Learn from leaders in history, politics, business and in your own network whose stories, accomplishments, attitudes and quotes about leadership you admire.
These don’t have to personally adopt these specific quotes to be a great leader, but you do need to take cues from the pros if you expect to lead like one.