Opinion Column

10 great leadership quotes

By Larry Schruder, The Delfi Group

There are many great teachers and mentors when it comes to leadership skills – and today I want to borrow a few lines from some of the best to stimulate some reflective thoughts about leadership as we race towards the end of another year. Whether these people led a country, a company, or a movement, the words of these leaders can provide a yardstick on how we see ourselves as leaders – and how we might become an even better leader in the year ahead.

1. "A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see and who sees before others see." – Leroy Eimes, author and leadership expert. Leaders are looking down the road to the future rather than in the rear-view mirror – or at the hood of the car.

They must have a clear line of sight to what is coming around the next corner for the team – and ready the team for what lies ahead.

2. "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 first lady of the United States. Leadership can be a lonely role – because just as the orchestra leader must turn her back to the audience, so too must the leader be able to step above and beyond the views of many in order to do what must be done. Leadership takes courage and perseverance – and it is not always a shortcut to popularity.

3. “The mediocre leader tells. The good leader explains. The superior leader demonstrates. The great leader inspires." – adapted from William Arthur Ward, author. The creation of a shared vision and mobilizing and engaging the team to want to get to a future place can move mountains. These past two years of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks football team are the best example of this principle in action.

4. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." – Jack Welch, former GE chairman and CEO. A leader’s responsibility is to leave the team a better and stronger entity than when the leadership was assumed. This means that the leader must grow the talent of the team individually and collectively so that the team is more capable to address the future – and better able to support the next leader. In effect, leaders are granted temporary stewardship of team capability and must ensure that the capability is greater on the way out than on the way in.

5. "What you do has far greater impact than what you say." – Steven Covey, author, business man, speaker. Followers watch your feet rather than your lips – as actions always speak louder than words.

6. "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." – Gen. George S. Patton. Effective leaders specify the desired outcomes rather than the detailed path to success. There are many paths to a destination – and the leader does not always have the inside track on the best way forward.

7. "A good leader takes a little more than the appropriate share of the blame, a little less than the accurate share of the credit." – Arnold Glasow, humorist and author. A leader must set the accountability example and take more ownership for what could have avoided the problem – and less ownership and credit for what went right.

8. "The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what needs to be done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it." – Theodore Roosevelt. Micro-management is one of the most frequent criticisms that followers level at those trying to lead. A willingness to grant empowerment and trust to followers to get the work done must be a replacement for micro-managing all of the little details of task completion.

9. “Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it, so it goes on flying anyway” - Mary Kay Ash – business woman. With a wingspan of 0.7 square centimetres and a weight of 1.2 grams, the rules of flight technology dictate that bumble bee flight is impossible. Whoever thinks or says “I can’t”, only sets unnecessary obstacles for oneself. Know your limitations and ignore or challenge them – and try substituting “I won’t” for I can’t” - it is almost always a more accurate statement of personal accountability. And bees do fly, despite the assumed impossibility that we assign to them.

10. "Earn your leadership every day." – Michael Jordan, former NBA basketball player. Leadership is conveyed from below rather than an entitlement from above and in every sense of the word, must be earned by the leader’s behaviours, attitudes and interactions with others. And just as the right to lead is earned, it can also be lost through poor leadership behaviours. So never take the leadership position for granted – it must always be earned.

We now approach the celebration the birth of one of the greatest leaders in history – a man initially seen as an itinerant preacher who led a group of 12 uneducated followers with no social status, money or legitimate authority. A man who embodied all of the concepts reflected in the quotes above. His team founded the Christian faith that has grown over the past 2,000 years to more than 2.5 billion followers. As this Joyous Christmas Season approaches, Helen and I, along with all of the members of The Delfi Group wish you the very best of a loving, sharing and meaning-filled Christmas.

Merry Christmas from all of us to all of you. And Happy Leadership in 2017.

Larry Schruder is president and co-owner of The Delfi Group, Pembroke and can be reached at larry.schruder@thedelfigroup.com.