I get asked often to share my favorite leadership quotes – so I thought I would close out 2016 with some inspiring words for the Dare to Serve leaders working to be a better version of themselves! Here we go:
“Consider others more significant than yourselves.” – Ancient Literature
This quote sits at the top of my calendar on Monday-Friday. I haven’t found any quote that is more challenging to me on a daily basis. It is the essence of servant leadership – to set aside self-interest in favor of the people and the enterprise that you lead. It is really hard to do that. Our nature is to think of ourselves first. I’ve yet to find a quote more motivating to those who want to be remembered as a leader who served well.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.”
Bringing out the full potential of human beings . . . this is the leader’s role in coaching and developing people. We seek to know them well – their formative life experiences, their values, their hard-wired strengths. With this knowledge and their willing participation, we can lead them on a journey of discovery – helping them find their personal purpose and their best way to contribute to the enterprise. This is the legacy of our leadership: to make a true difference in the lives of others.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
~ The Golden Rule
Much has been written on this idea of treating others as you would want to be treated. It is so basic to our humanity, the idea is found in virtually all of the major religions of the world. It is a rule that is central to civilized society – and to a civilized workplace. Yet, it is often ignored at work. This quote asks us to make every work decision with the dignity of the person in mind – every performance review, every feedback message, every opportunity. This quote asks us to be the best boss that we’ve ever witnessed.
“Actions speak louder than words, but they do not speak as often.”
~ Washington Post 1904
Most of us have heard the first part of this quote — usually from our mothers. But few have pondered the implication of this version published in the Washington Post in 1904. Today we live in a culture where we say words like this, but don’t hold ourselves accountable to acting on what we say we believe. I see this every day at work. People say they respect others, then treat people with disrespect. They say they care for others, but do nothing to demonstrate concern. I know that I have this failing. How would work be different if we acted more often on what we believe to be important and true?
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
~ Nelson Mandela
In physical matters, I am an anxious, fearful person – I will never sky dive, bungee jump, or parachute out of the sky. In business, however, I’m pretty brave. People tell me that I tackle problems that previous leaders left alone for fear of failing. My belief is that the essential role of the leader is to envision a better future for the people. To get there, we have to be brave enough to solve the core issues that hamper success. Most of the problems in an organization have gone unaddressed for years. We cannot lead and serve the people or the enterprise well if we don’t barrel past our fears and tackle the biggest barriers to success.
“Business leaders are increasingly the stewards of civilization.”
~ Max L. Stackhouse, On Moral Business
Why do I think this is true? In this essay, Max Stackhouse says that many of our institutions are failing the people – government, family, education, religion – to name a few. He challenges us: what if the responsibility for future civilization depends on business leaders? I don’t know if this quote will prove to be true, but I know that this thought lights a fire in me to develop better leaders for the future of the world. I want to work as though society depends on business leaders to produce the leadership talent for all the institutions in society – people of competence, character, and purpose. Steward of civilization? Those words are more powerful than a strong cup of coffee. Do they motivate you?