Leadership is all about continuous learning. I really like quotes as they are a great reminder of best practices, awesome inspirational tools, and also very useful building blocks in learning. In this post, I collected a few of my favorite quotes–and what I learned from them.

  1. A great leader is a great manager

Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist and US Navy admiral. She was a pioneer of software engineering by inventing the first linker (a program that combines one or more objects into a single executable file), being one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and creating the foundation for the oldest high-level programming language, COBOL.

She has one of the most famous leadership quotes:

You manage things; you lead people.
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

The quote itself is very descriptive: people are not things, so you can’t manage them. But for me, it also means, that in order to become a great leader (of people), I must become a great manager (of things) first. And while I can’t manage people, I can manage the way I’m working and interacting with them, helping them in reaching their goals.

Check out Péter Orbán’s talk about a Leadership Toolbox from a previous Stretch Conference.

  1. Effective leaders delegate

Stephen Covey was an American businessman, university professor, keynote speaker, and author. His books are always recommended in leadership discussions, many leaders would mention The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First as mandatory readings. He was very influential in popularizing the famous Eisenhower Decision Matrix and other time management and personal organizer methodologies.

He once said:

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
Stephen Covey

This quote is reminding me how important it is to delegate and to always be conscious when doing, or not doing something.

To learn more about Effective Leadership, check out Shawn Fair’s talk from a previous Stretch Conference.

  1. Trust is the foundation of leadership

Peter Drucker was an Austrian-American university processor, management consultant, and author. His book, The Effective Executive dates back to 1967 but is still mentioned and quoted frequently among managers. He was a leader of management education and his work is considered to be the practical foundation of the modern business corporation and many says he was the founder of management as we know it today.

He stated that:

Leadership is an achievement of trust.

Peter Drucker

And while it is pretty self-explanatory, I love how we all tend to forget this sometimes. You can’t follow people you don’t trust. In every human relationship, but especially in leadership, the stakes are very high to form a connection that is based on trust. Gaining someone’s trust is not necessarily easy, and I think this provides a pretty good answer to the question of why leadership can be very hard sometimes.

If you are keen to find out more about trust, check out Melinda Miklós’ talk I Trust You from a previous Stretch Conference.

  1. Lead with influence, not with authority

Kenneth Blanchard is an American business consultant, motivational speaker, and author of more than 60 published books and led multiple research activities, having a great influence on how companies are doing leadership and management. One of his most popular books, The One Minute Manager, is praised by many for reducing management theories into easily actionable techniques.

He once said:

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.
Kenneth Blanchard

This one is an excellent reminder that people won’t follow you because of your job title, and how everyone knows a few colleagues who are not “managers” or “leaders”, yet people follow them. Influence is a complex concept made by many small things, including trust, integrity, and authenticity. However, authority (or power) is none of those things.

If you are interested in Leading Without Authority, check out Kate Wardin’s talk from a previous Stretch Conference.

  1. It is all about (receiving) feedback

Sheila Heen is an American university professor, public speaker, consultant, and author. She is a senior lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, and a member of the Harvard Negotiation Project, where she has been developing negotiation theory and practice since 1995. She is the author of two New York Times Best Sellers – Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, and Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. She is an expert in negotiation and conflict management.

She thinks that:

Learning to receive feedback from each other is what leadership is all about.
Sheila Heen

I love this one as in leadership we always talk about the importance, practices, and techniques of giving high-quality feedback, however, we talk way less about the other end of feedbacks: receiving. Many times, receiving well-phrased, high-quality, constructive but hard feedback is really complicated. And it is definitely something that we leaders should talk about more.

If you’d like to know how to move from ancient performance management to continuous feedback and expectation management, check out the related panel discussion from a previous stretch conference.


If you found these topics interesting, you should join us during the next Stretch Conference where experienced leaders will share their learnings about leadership and management. This year, it’ll be an online event between December 7-9, tickets are available.