We do ourselves a disservice when we make leadership to be something mystical or supernatural. Leadership is practical. Rather than asking pointless questions such as, “Am I a leader,” or even whether you are any good as a leader, you can do yourself and your team a greater service by regularly asking two simple questions:
- Am I on course or am I off course?
- Have I been intentional or have I been accidental?
You can read more about these two questions and the value they bring to the leadership equation in this acclaimed article from The DYOJO, Am I a Leader? These two questions are helpful regardless of how “high” or “low” you are on the organizational ladder.
I would like to introduce you to some of my friends and peers from various industries, whom I asked to share a quote that has been helpful to them in understanding leadership. As I read their feedback, I believe the concepts typically fell into two main categories, the effort to shape the right mindset for leadership and the concepts that help people in a position of leadership to execute their ideas.
To kick things off, a friend of mine, Alex Watts, recently shared this great quote from Nelson Mandela, “Action without vision is only passing time; Vision without action is merely day dreaming, But vision with action can change the world.” My hope is that hearing what everyday leaders, all at various “levels” within their organizations, find inspiring in the quotes that they share will connect with you. I have also recorded an accompanying discussion with two people I respect to do a deeper dive into the quotes that they shared, this can be experienced on via The DYOJO Youtube or audio as Episode 12 of The DYOJO Podcast. The time for action is now, we all need to step up to the plate.
Our outline for categorizing these quotes are as follows:
1. Mindset (Internal Preparation)
- A. Personal development
- B. People skills development
2. Execution (External action)
- C. Leadership in action
- D. Proof of leadership
- 1. LEADERSHIP MINDSET (Internal Preparation)
- A. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT for LEADERS
Fatemeh Fakhraie, Northwest Community Credit Union
"When men speak ill of thee, live so as nobody may believe them." - Plato
I don't know if it's a leadership quote per se, but a quote that I keep coming back to is this one by Plato. I take this as a reminder to live my values and to approach things authentically. When people know who I am and how I behave, it makes me a more reliable leader.
Andrew Watlon, Common Concerns Home Inspections
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions; they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
I don’t know if this quote helps me to grow but I’ll look at it every once in a while and realize I’m being lazy.
Shane Johnson, Swallow Tail Spirits
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” - Thomas Merton
I am not a huge leadership quote person, but this pretty well influences me in every thing.
Derik Hendricks, Independent Adjuster
“Vision without execution is hallucination.” - Thomas Edison
To me it means that if I am spending time figuring out where I want to go and how I’m going to get there, it is all a waste of time if I don’t put in the hard work and sacrifice. It’s easy to ponder and dream. I want to be a man of action and achieve those things.
Daron K Roberts, Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation
Hope is not a strategy.
I try to keep my execution to hope ratio at 2:1. By this, I mean that I want to focus on executing my major strategies instead of relying on hope to push me across the finish line.
Michelle Blevins, BNP Media
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde
I think so often we get caught up in trying to "keep up with the Jones'" or watching what others are doing, then trying to mimic it. While there can be some value to that, it is also so important to maintain our own authenticity - flaws and all.
Another fav quote is from Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, but it needs some context. The quote is: “Done is better than perfect.” She was speaking about how as leaders, we can sometimes get caught up in everything needing to be perfect, and that truly just can't always happen. I obsess over every issue of Restoration & Remediation Magazine and have had to learn that not every issue is going to be as glorious as others. Some are going to be more mellow, some are going to be home runs, and that's OK! It's unrealistic to expect everything to be perfect - sometimes the job just needs to get done.
Stephen Harrington, The Diva of Insurance
“There is really no substitute for experience. You must have experience and be open to experience — that helps. That helps a lot. Most importantly, you have to be yourself, be who you are and take time to be open and honest with yourself. That is what it's all about. If you don't know yourself, you'll never have great style. You'll never really live. To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror, and not see yourself." - Iris Apfel
She is an amazing lady who doesn’t care what other people think. To her the way you dress is a vulnerable thing. If you aren’t comfortable with yourself or what you do or what you wear, no one else can be comfortable with you either. So when you become true to yourself and do something you like and dress in what makes you happy it helps others see your success because you believe in your success.
Celeste Edman, KinectAir
The trouble is, you think you have time. - Buddha
Reminds me to stay focused on what matters. “You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion.” I prefer to give teams time to try, fail, try again. However, sometimes we keep kicking a can down the road. And we don’t get to the doing of things. Then the opportunity passes us by.
- B. PEOPLE SKILLS DEVELOPMENT for LEADERS
Chad A Kerlegan, The MEM Show
“Leaders take the hits and give the credits.”
I’ve learned the above from personal experience. From my first hand experience I have witnessed leaders and owners giving credit (100%).
Marina Tanay, Sumner-Bonney Lake School District
"Leadership is not a position or title. It is action and example." - Donald McGannon
"Leading by action and example" is a concept that I believe in. Best quote I've seen that sums it up says that "Leadership is not a position or title. It is action and example." I believe that. The quote appeared on a LinkedIn article from March 2019 by Brigette Hyacinth and is titled, "Great Leadership isn't about control. It's about Empowering people.”
William Mendoza, Rockland Restoration
“I’m not a Contractor I’m a business man that Contracts.”
The story on that is as follows: I met the owner of a plumbing company once and we began talking. I always ask business owners how they got started. He explained to me that he had attended college and majored in marketing and advertising. Once he graduated he found work with a local plumber and learned plumbing while working on the company's marketing. He was able to make the company very profitable then he decided to leave and start his own plumbing business. He told me he wasn’t caught up in trying to validate himself to others as a plumber, his view of himself was, and is, “I’m a not plumber, I’m a businessman that plumbs”.
I myself come from a family of contractors. Our ego gets us caught up in wanting validation from others in our trade or field but hearing that business owners way of thinking freed my mind and eliminated my personal mental blocks. I can do and try anything. I’m a businessman. Enter my unique efforts with creating our own energy drink, a comic book, etc.
I tell this story to my employees. I help them advance and I never hold them back from opportunity if it comes knocking. Some leave and some come back. But I keep an open, honest policy with them. I believe in educating them and I always share any new knowledge that I come across myself whether it’s investing or strategy.
Alex Watts, Avenue 5
“I would never ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”
“Yeah, then why don’t you do it?”
“Because if i do your job for you, you will never learn how to do it yourself.”
This sequence of quotes is an amalgamation of numerous experiences including advice, experiences and people I hope to never work with again. Not a single instance in this case.
- 2. EXECUTION (External Action)
- C. LEADERSHIP IN ACTION
Greg Smith, Contractor Connection
“Listen to your people.”
I have learned this from many years and many personalities. Of course, some are better than others in swaying the leader. The challenge of a leader, in my opinion, is realizing that those that don’t speak out, tend to be the ones you need to hear the most. I believe that those that tend to prop themselves up as the spokesman for all, tend to say what they need to say to advance their careers. There are always more qualified candidates that just don’t like the attention and prefer to demonstrate effectiveness vs. talking the talk. It takes a good leader to be patient enough to wait for those results. Especially, with the pressure to show results. Very tempting to take Mr. Good Speaker to an event because it makes you look good vs. getting real data and coaching the right person to step up and take the praise. Even if they are terrified of it.
Scott Engler, BYOB Coaching & Consulting
“Do not be pushed by your problems, but be led by your dreams.” - Emerson
I believe I found it back in 2014. I can’t necessarily think of one instance, however, what I can say, is that especially during the stages of starting my own business, I found this quote to be extremely useful. It served as a reminder to follow my dreams, and be fueled by my creativity and passion and refocus my attention there versus getting stuck looking at all the obstacles and problems that seemed to be “pushing me down.” The merit was definitely that I would be able to continue the course despite all the obstacles when I heeded this quote.
Denis Beaulieu, Alliance Environmental
Everything you tell a customer before you begin is information. Everything after is generally an excuse.
I was told this many years ago when we had performed an abatement project that went wrong. Simply the estimator didn’t let the owner know we were going to be blocking off the areas and they wouldn’t have access. Didn’t tell them about containment damages, didn’t mention having to turn the water off if the valves leaked and that they could possibly have no water. So, after the fact I had to explain that this was all in the contract but they’re complaint was they were never told and had to leave and get a hotel on short notice. My regional told me that everything the estimator told her before we started was information, or lack of, and after we were done was just excuses.
Mike Kinney, Coppertop Construction
“Discipline equals freedom.” - Jocko Willink, from his book Extreme Ownership.
This applies to my efforts in managing a large team in a service industry as well as my entrepreneurial venture in starting my own construction company. It’s important to have a plan and execute on that plan to keep yourself and your team on track.
*See the accompanying video for further discussion of this concept.
Bryan Reynolds, Anthem Coffee
“When you spend your life building other people’s platforms, you’ll always have one.” - Bryson Foster of Foster’s Creative
This quote continues to haunt me and help me refocus when my focus becomes too much on myself. I’m most fulfilled when I’m serving and helping others grow their businesses, and become better in their leadership. This approach simultaneously causes me to become better while helping others rise.
David Baker, Home Estimating Services
“I love disruption. To me, disruption means that you see the way things are, and you're able to see a better way and see a path from where we are now to this better way." - Jim Koch
This is from the founder of the Samuel Adams Brewery. I saw it used in another LinkedIn post and it stuck with me. It reminds me of our industry. I hope we get to the vision I see, if we don’t our insurance rates will be going up like they are in Florida now.
- D. PROOF OF LEADERSHIP
Andrew McCabe, Claims Delegates
"If certain conditions are met and the people inside an organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things none of them could have ever achieved alone. The result is that their organization towers over their competitors."
This quote is from the book, "Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't," by Simon Sinek. It reminds me that culture is a competitive advantage
Tatsuya Nakagawa, Castagra
"Great Leaders Create More Leaders" - Roy T. Bennett
One of my core values is "Lead through service.” I've heard this quote over a decade ago, but I haven't done a great job of putting it into action until more recently. It's a great way to live your life and it has the added benefit of increasing your professional opportunities. I see the benefits on a daily basis.
Rob Galbraith, AF Group
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” - Steve Jobs.
In my travels, there are a ton of “innovation” pretenders who pay lip service to it but have not invested the proper resources and are quick to pull the plug if success is not guaranteed. Understanding that failure is inevitable - welcome really - in innovation makes being a leader in the space so rewarding even when others see the obstacles all around.
Rachel Stewart, Titan Restoration
“Face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility.” - Thomas S. Monson
As a leader we are going to face all of these things. How do we react and act when it occurs? But I think the most impactful thing to me is not a small quote: it’s Abe Lincoln’s Inaugural speech. Basically sums up Servant Leadership and acting on behalf of the greater good perfectly.
David Smith, QuoteSoft
“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” - Jim Rohn
I became aware of it juggling a number of responsibilities and even more aware after leaving that environment I put myself in. This has helped me develop my sense of daily awareness. While realizing to use the resources around me and that I am in charge of how I decide to use my time.
*See the accompanying video for further discussion of this concept.
Conclusion, don’t worry about leadership, be a leader.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that these categories tie in rather snuggly with the two questions that we opened this article with, which also touch on perspective and action. When considering the qualities that make for a good leader, you come to realize that there is no formula that leads to success. When you are trying to do your best, with the information and resources that you have available, the two steps you can take are to chart a course and be intentional to move towards that course. If you are honest and humble, you can recognize when you are veering off course or may have chosen the wrong course all together.
Without oversimplifying the qualities of leadership, if you are charting a course and moving towards your goals and others are following you, then you are a leader. People in a position of leadership aren’t always right, but they must be willing to recognize a vision and make a decision (or two). You will be wrong more than once in your lifetime if you dare to lead. When you are intentional, you can adjust your course and adapt as you acquire new information or resources.
If you are reading this, then you have a desire to make progress towards your personal and professional development. You may enjoy an article about an unsung hero who resurrected an icon by following a few simple principles. We discuss a few of these leadership quotes via video, as well as Episode 12 of The DYOJO Podcast, with Mike Kinney and David Smith who each contributed to this article. Please reach out to me via instagram @TheDYOJO or on LinkedIn to share your thoughts on developing as a leader. I am interested to hear and share stories from people who are in the trenches making things happen every day.