THE BLOG
10/06/2014 05:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2014

10 Things Great Leaders Do

Being a leadership coach, people often ask me what I believe is great leadership.

Because I think a good quote conveys a message much better then long explanations ever could, I've created a top 10 of inspirational quotes from the world's greatest minds to answer that question.

10.
In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

-- Thomas Jefferson

Many people in leadership positions think they have to be either pragmatic or rock steady. And this quote beautifully shows that you should be both, but in different situations.

9.
It is absurd that a man should rule others,
who cannot rule himself.

-- Latin proverb

This is completely up my alley. I strongly believe that to be a great leader, you should know yourself really well. And with knowing yourself ideally comes managing yourself really well too.

It's horrible to see that so many people in leadership positions are held prison by their quirks and fears, taking it out on the people that work for them.
To be able to lead others, really means to be able to lead yourself first.

8.
The best executive is the one who has sense enough
to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough
to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

-- Theodore Roosevelt

One of the biggest challenges in delegating tasks: to not interfere with the "how." I've written a "how-to" to successful delegation.

7.
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
-- Abraham Lincoln

Great leaders realize that a management or executive position is just a role they have. They also know that the people in their teams have other roles that are just as valuable. That's why leaders need "buy in" from their employees before they can accomplish anything. And "buy in" is most valuable when it's into the person (and not just into a topic or project). So smart and effective leaders take time to build a connection with the people on their team that will hold steady while projects change.

6.
You manage things, you lead people
-- Grace Murray Hopper

People so often ask me about the difference between management and leadership, and this quote by rear admiral Murray Hopper pretty much sums it up for me.

A leader is fully aware of the fact that she's working with people who have their own experiences, talents, fears and opinions. So to be able to get them to do things in a way that is remotely like what she aiming for, she'll have to connect, inspire and engage them. This has absolutely nothing to do with shoving paper, targets or next month's sale.

5.
Leaders must be close enough to relate to others,
but far enough ahead to motivate them.

-- John C. Maxwell

This quote is about finding the right balance between being "a real person" and being "an inspiration." And although the most optimum balance will change from situation to situation and from person to person, all great leaders succeed in finding the balance that works for them, their company and their team.

4.
Isn't it great that nobody needs to wait a single moment,
before starting to change the world.

-- Anne Frank

It is, Anne, and what a great philosopher you were at age 14! Of course I could have picked other beautiful quotes to convey this message, but I believe that when in doubt, it's best to pick a woman.☺

This quote -- in regards to leadership -- means to me that great leaders are fully aware of the fact that they are in a position to change things for the better. This is not unique to leaders. As Anne says: we can all take steps to change the world. But you can not be a great leader when you don't fully appreciate the fact that YOU can make ALL the difference. To one person or to many, but that's depending on the situation.

3.
Never allow a person to tell you no, who doesn't have the power to say yes.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

I was completely unaware of this quote while I was leading teams, and to be honest, I stumbled on quite a lot of NOs that shouldn't have meant anything to me in hindsight. And that's a BIG mistake. So keep this in mind whenever you hear "no," and push on until you hear "no" from someone who can actually make the decision.

2.
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

-- Jack Welch

To focus on the second part (as the first part is more or less the same as number nine): supporting your reports or employees to grow is of huge value to them, obviously. And it's also a very smart thing to do.
While helping others get better and find out what they're really good at, you builds trust, connection and loyalty. It gives you the opportunity to groom your successor (so you can move up) and to get great results (because you're not doing everything yourself, right?!).

1.
It's better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory. You take the front line when there is danger.
~ Nelson Mandela

I do believe this is the most important thing great leaders do. Letting go of your own ego to empower others is a beautiful thing. This doesn't mean that I believe great leaders should make themselves completely invisible. On the contrary, really. But when push comes to shove: you never see truly great leaders take the credit for themselves. Or put the blame for a failure on an employee.
That's just not what great leaders -- or great people -- do.

I love quotes on leadership and personal growth.
On my business cards I even have five different ones. I let everyone pick their own card (from a blind deck), and I'm always curious what the quote they got means to them.
In this post, I've shared the quotes that resonate best with my view on leadership.

So tell me. What are your favorite quotes? Who has inspired you or changed your perspective on leadership?
I challenge you to make me change my list by posting the brilliant quotes that changed you in the comment area below.