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16 Key Principles of Leadership from Some of History’s Top Leaders

Kristen Harcourt Sep 13, 2016 6:30:00 AM

Companies, sports teams, and nations flourish under smart, successful leadership, and flounder without it. There are many ideas on what qualities make a successful leader. 

Who better to look to for guidance on this topic than some of the most prolific leaders of our time? Here are their thoughts on the principles of leadership.

First, a leader must have vision

"Vision without execution is just hallucination." ~Henry Ford

"The question I ask myself like almost every day is, 'Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?' ... Unless I feel like I'm working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I'm not going to feel good about how I'm spending my time." ~Mark Zuckerberg

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." ~Steve Jobs

"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus." ~Martin Luther King, Jr

A leader also needs to possess focus and drive

"Eliminate the clutter and all of the things that are going on outside and focus on the things you can control with how you go about and take care of your business." ~Nick Saban

"Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you." ~Margaret Thatcher

Communication and the ability to motivate people are keys to a person being able to lead efficiently

"Great leaders are almost always great simplifies, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everyone can understand." ~General Colin Powell

"The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes." ~Tony Blair

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

"As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." ~Bill Gates

Strength of character is another important aspect of leadership

"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy." ~Norman Schwarzkopf

Determination, and enthusiasm all serve to build an effective leader

"If you act enthusiastic, you will become enthusiastic. A mediocre mind that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one." ~Mary Kay Ash

“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” ~Jeff Bezos

Accountability and adaptability are traits leaders wield

"Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation." ~Mahatma Gandhi

"Accountability is essential to personal growth, as well as team growth. How can you improve if you're never wrong? If you don't admit a mistake and take responsibility for it, you're bound to make the same one again." ~Pat Summit

"The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change." ~Bill Clinton

Successful leadership requires nuances that many people never develop. However, we can acknowledge and understand the qualities it takes to be an effective leader, and begin adapting our styles to evolve into a more effective, respected leader. 

What do you think makes an effective leader?


Leadership Effect

Topics: Leadership development

Kristen Harcourt

Written by Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a highly trusted, creative and collaborative advisor who is passionate about people. She really enjoys helping companies make the right people decisions to achieve long term productivity.