What makes a great leader? There’s no singular definition. But specific qualities matter most, not personal traits. It isn’t necessary to be “eccentric,” for instance, or some sort’ve lone genius whom everyone follows because that person — usually a man — is a so-called universe master. (No disrespect to the oft-quoted Musk, Zuck, or Bezos.)

First, leaders are women. Leaders are old and young, black and brown, tall and short — you get the point. And leaders don’t, despite popular belief, need to be “difficult.” Not at all. In fact, many leaders are what they are because of exemplary kindness and compassion.

Still, something sets leaders apart. What is that quality? What makes a leader worth trusting and following?

When you need a leadership quote (for that preso, say) you want it to express in a few words something profound, to encapsulate a deeper truth that aligns with your message. And we can only get so much inspiration from so many Vince Lombardi quotes, or another Bill Gates platitude.

That’s why Jane Goodall’s on this list. A great leader? IMHO, she’s the epitome of one. Not because she leads huge teams (though, in a sense, she does) but because of what she stands for, the example she sets. Her long-standing, passionate work helps us understand our humanity and what it means to be a part of – not apart from – nature. She inspires us to look deeper, and longer, and more truthfully at the world around us.

Her quality is conviction, and effort. That makes a great leader.

13 inspirational leadership quotes

“Only if we understand will we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help will we all be saved.”

– Jane Goodall, primatologist

“Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”

– Gloria Steinem, activist

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

– Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister

“You can’t change conditions. Just the way you deal with them.”

– Jessica Watson, sailor

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

– Malala Yousafzai, activist

“If a person is drowning, they must be rescued regardless of their religion or nationality.”

– Irena Sendlerowa, Polish war hero

“The main thing about being ‘heroic’ is helping others.”

– Sarinya Srisakul, NYC firefighter

“You must figure out your own destination and the best route to get there because no one else knows the way.”

– Nadia Comaneci, gymnast

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.”

– J.K. Rowling, author

“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it.”

– Grace Hopper, Navy codebreaker and computer scientist

“If you have to choose between an easy thing and a hard thing, the hard one’s usually a lot more fun.”

– Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut

“If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change.”

– Khoudia Diop, model

“Never be afraid to be a poppy in a field of daffodils.”

– Michaela Deprince, ballerina

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Teamwork quotes

13 leadership quotes you won’t find online (until now)