101 Motivational and Inspirational Leadership Quotes by Category

Doug Staneart  |  August 12, 2018
last updated

Motivational and Inspirational Leadership QuotesDon’t you hate quote pages that have bunch of boring and irrelevant quotes from people that you have never heard of? I do too. Below are some of my favorite Motivational and Inspirational Leadership Quotes. I’ve broken the quotes down into leadership categories, so they are easier find. I’ve also included the absolute best thing said by some of the most famous leaders in history. So, if you are looking for inspiration or motivation, this list should help!

When I first started The Leader’s Institute ® back in 2002, I began each session of my High Impact Leaders Course by asking a simple question to the group? “Think about a leader that you know. What characteristics does this person possess that other people don’t?” The following were always the most common answers, so I chose to organize these leadership quotes by the characteristics of a powerful leader.

Motivational and Inspirational Leadership Quotes by Category


Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence. - Vince Lombardi Out of all of the aspects of a leader, self-confidence is the characteristic that stands out the most. You will be hard-pressed to find any person that others look up to who doesn’t believe in himself or herself first. Step one in being a persuasive and powerful leader is believe in yourself!

  1. “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare
  2. “A man’s doubts and fears are his worst enemy.” – William Wrigley, Jr.
  3. “Self trust is the first secret of success.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. “Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honourable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.” – Marcus T. Cicero
  5. “It’s so important to believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it, under any circumstances. Because if you believe you can, then you really will. That belief just keeps you searching for the answers, and then pretty soon you get it.” – Wally “Famous” Amos
  6. “Immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control affairs.” – Andrew Carnegie
  7. “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” – Vince Lombardi
  8. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller
  9. “In forty hours I shall be in battle, with little information, and on the spur of the moment will have to make the most momentous decisions. But I believe that one’s spirit enlarges with responsibility and that, with God’s help, I shall make them, and make them right.” – General George S. Patton
  10. “I’ve always seen myself as a winner, even as a kid. If I hadn’t, I just might have gone down the drain a couple of times. I’ve got something inside of me, peasantlike and stubborn, and I’m in it ’til the end of the race.” – Truman Capote
  11. “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” – John C. Maxwell

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Can You Tell If Your Team Thinks You Are a Good Leader?“.


Look for your choices pick the best one and then go for it-Pat RileyAnother important aspect of leadership is to be decisive in your actions. A leader isn’t afraid to make mistakes. Rather, he or she will take action and then learn from every decision. In fact, leaders are not those who rarely make mistakes. They are people who make confident decisions, and then when they find that the decision is wrong, they make different choices in the future.

  1. “Man does not simply exist, but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.” – Viktor Frankl
  2. “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” – Peter F. Drucker
  3. “Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.” – Samuel Butler
  4. “Look for your choices, pick the best one, and then go for it!” – Pat Riley
  5. “Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.” – Pythagoras
  6. “So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.” – Lee Iacocca
  7. “He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.” – Horace
  8. “The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” – Henry Kissinger
  9. “When confronted with two courses of action I jot down on a piece of paper all the arguments in favor of each one, then on the opposite side I write the arguments against each one. Then by weighing the arguments pro and con and canceling them out, one against the other, I take the course indicated by what remains.” – Benjamin Franklin
  10. “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” – William James
  11. “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth


If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything-Mark TwainYou can’t create a list of inspirational leadership quotes without including integrity. An honest person will develop friendships and camaraderie. A liar will breed contempt. Keep your word. Treat other people fairly. If you do, you will be respected by everyone that you meet.

  1. “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley
  2. “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  3. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain
  4. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
  5. “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  6. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” – Jesus Christ
  7. “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein
  8. “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” – Frederick Douglass
  9. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln
  10. “A quiet conscience makes one strong!” – Anne Frank

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Do You Really Know How to Morivate Your Team?“.


Enthusiasm is a vital element toward the individual success of every man or woman-Conrad HiltonThe first sales book that I ever read was “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” by Frank Bettger. In the first chapter of the book, he talks about how he used enthusiasm (and only enthusiasm) to go from getting fired from a minor league baseball team to playing for the St. Louis Cardinals in a matter of weeks. It is one of the most inspirational leadership stories that I have ever read. He really understood that a successful leader shows enthusiasm in everything that he or she does!

  1. “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  2. “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  3. “Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” – Henry Ford
  4. “Indeed, there is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.” – Edgar Allan Poe
  5. “Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life.” – Tennessee Williams
  6. “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” – Dale Canegie
  7. “Enthusiasm is a vital element toward the individual success of every man or woman.” – Conrad Hilton
  8. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  9. “If you act enthusiastic, you will be enthusiastic!” – Dale Carnegie
  10. “Let us endeavor to live so that when we die, even the undertaker will be sorry.” – Mark Twain

Goal Oriented

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal-Earl Nightingale In order to be a confident leader, one must have a vision of where he or she wants to go and a plan to get there. Great people are trail-blazers who have a passion to accomplish the tasks that they set out to conquer. Below are a few of my favorite motivation quotes about goals.

  1. “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso
  2. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” – Earl Nightingale
  3. “All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  4. “If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.” – Les Brown
  5. “You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for.” – Ted Turner
  6. “The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.” – Seth Godin
  7. “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” – Andrew Carnegie
  8. “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.” – Mark Victor Hansen
  9. “I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” – Michael Phelps
  10. “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar
  11. “Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.” – Jim Rohn

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Four Ways That Poor Leadership Skills Can Ruin Team Morale“.

Listening Skills

You're short on ears and long on mouth -John WayneMy best friend when I was growing up, Chris, used to tell me, “Doug, you’d argue with a brick wall. I keep looking for the day that we’re all leaving school and see you on the sidewalk yelling, ‘You are NOT red!'” Although, I may be more extreme than others in my want to be heard, it seems to be very natural that most people just want to be listened to. So, when you are a good listener, you are giving those around you a vital fulfillment that they rarely receive. In addition, you also learn a lot more! It is no wonder that so many inspirational leadership quotes focus on listening.

  1. “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway
  2. “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
  3. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey
  4. “It takes a great man to be a good listener.” – Calvin Coolidge
  5. “You’re short on ears and long on mouth.” – John Wayne
  6. “An appreciative listener is always stimulating.” – Agatha Christie
  7. “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and another to hear.” – Henry David Thoreau
  8. “The chronic kicker, even the most violent critic, will frequently soften and be subdued in the presence of a patient, sympathetic listener— a listener who will be silent while the irate fault-finder dilates like a king cobra and spews the poison out of his system.” – Dale Carnegie
  9. “You can’t fake listening. It shows.” – Raquel Welch
  10. “I never miss a good chance to shut up.” – James Patterson

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Improve Listening Skills in the Workplace“.


Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror-Colin PowellIn addition to being decisive, a good leader is also focused. Having 1000 projects that never seem to get completed is a road to failure. I remember as a kid watching a plate spinner at the circus. He would stick a plate on a wooden stick with a point on the end. Then, to balance the plate on the sharp point, he’d spin the plate. While the plate was spinning and balanced, he’d start a second plate. Then a third. Of course, by this time, the first plate was starting to slow. So, he’d have to go back every once in a while and give it an additional spin. Eventually, he got so many plates to spin, that it became a little overwhelming. Many of us run our lives this way – always jumping from plate to plate. We get so busy doing so many things, that we never realize that nothing ever gets finished. Great leaders, however, are focused. They get things done.

  1. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar
  2. “Focusing is about saying No.” – Steve Jobs
  3. “Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror.” – Colin Powell
  4. “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” – Warren Buffett
  5. “In those days a boy on the classical side officially did almost nothing but classics. I think this was wise; the greatest service we can to education today is to teach few subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.” – C.S. Lewis
  6. “…you cannot eat every tadpole and frog in the pond, but you can eat the biggest and ugliest one, and that will be enough, at least for the time being.” – Brian Tracy
  7. “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” – Samuel Johnson
  8. “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle
  9. “Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” – LL Cool J
  10. “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett
  11. “The successful warrior is the average man, with laserlike focus.” – Bruce Lee

Empathy and a Willingness to Work Well with Others.

No act of kindness however small is ever wasted-AesopFor some reason, people seem to think that in order to be a great leader, you have to be arrogant and offensive. When I was a teenager, I’d watch Bobbie Knight throw chairs across the basketball court and Mike Ditka grabbing player face-masks and yelling at them. However, that was only one part of their success. Bobbie Knight and Mike Ditka had a love for every one of their players. Interestingly, their players loved and respected them a great deal as well. I was fascinated by this. After years of study, I was able to find out exactly why this was the case – empathy. These coaches expected a lot from their players. However, they treated every single person that they worked with respect. Their empathy for their fellow man made them respected members of their industries.

  1. “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
  2. “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. Your life will never be the same again.” – Og Mandino
  3. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one.” – Dale Carnegie
  4. “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” – Aristotle
  5. “If you envy successful people, you create a negative force field of attraction that repels you from ever doing the things that you need to do to be successful. If you admire successful people, you create a positive force field of attraction that draws you toward becoming more and more like the kinds of people that you want to be like.” – Brian Tracy
  6. “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” – Maya Angelou
  7. “The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” – Meryl Streep
  8. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato
  9. “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
  10. “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Soft Skills: What They Are and Why They Are Important.“.

Hard Work

If you can dream it you can do it-Walt DisneyThe old adage is “Lead by Example.” The most respected and powerful leaders who ever walked the face of the Earth were servants before they became leaders. Walk into any successful small business in the world, and you will often find the owner showing up early and staying late. That doesn’t mean that you should be solely focused on your work, but you do want to be the example that your associates look up to.

  1. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
  2. “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.” – W. Clement Stone
  3. “There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.” – Michael Phelps
  4. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
  5. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  6. “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  7. “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” -– John C. Maxwell
  8. “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln


Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage–ConfuciusSince we started with self-confidence, I wanted to end with an equally important quality — Courage. Confidence is critical to leadership. In addition, though, a leader will often be placed into situations where the outcome is uncertain. In those instances, courage is vital. Below are some of my favorite courage quotes.

  1. “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller
  2. ‘Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.’ – Steve Jobs
  3. “Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.” – P. T. Barnum
  4. “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne
  5. “You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” – Mary Tyler Moore
  6. “Only be you strong, and very courageous, then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” – Joshua 1:7-8
  7. “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill
  8. “Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.” – Confucius

My Favorite Motivational Leadership Quote Is…

Theodore-Roosevelt-White-House-Photo I went to High School in Temple, Texas. I remember walking into the football team field-house right after I transferred in my Sophomore year. There was a huge quote painted on one of the walls near the training room. I remember reading it and feeling inspiration. The quote was in a strategic place. You see, just before every game, the players would go to the trainer to get our ankles taped. It always took at least five minutes, but sometimes a little longer. This was before cellphones, so we really had nothing to do… but look at the wall directly in front of us. I must have read those words 100’s of times. They still get to me.

  1. “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Add Your Own Inspirational and Motivational Leadership Quotes

I hope that you enjoy and are inspired and motivated by reading through the above quotes. If you find others that need to be added to the list, make sure and leave them in a comment.

author Doug Staneart
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Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
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