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4 Leadership Quotes and How They Apply to Real Work Situations

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

Leadership can be tricky, even for the most experienced people, and I think every leader will agree that at some point they’ve had to turn to someone for some inspiration. As I started reading about other leader’s experiences, it quickly dawned on me that there is no dearth of inspiration out there and even the most visionary leaders of our time have at some point floundered and found their way up again. In my quest to find some truly motivating words, I came across a whole bunch of messages that left me feeling uplifted and inspired. I thought it would be equally helpful to all the other leaders out there who might be having a rougher day than usual…..

“There are no office hours for leaders.–Cardinal J. Gibbons

I learnt this early on in my career, before I was a leader in any capacity. I watched as my boss was always the last to leave and realised that it wasn’t because he ‘couldn’t finish his work on time’ or he had ‘too much on his plate’, it was simply because to him, work did not have a start or end time.

Over the years, as I climbed the ranks in my career and came to assume leadership responsibilities, I discovered that when you love what you do, it quickly becomes more than just a job or work. You stop looking at the clock and counting the hours, instead you immerse yourself in every action, only feeling like you’ve succeeded after you’ve perfected the task at hand.

Today, as I watch colleagues count the minutes until it’s time to leave, I often wonder how much they must dislike their work. But, it also dawns on me that when you’re in a position where you are accountable for the success and failure of others, you no longer have the luxury to count the hours – you must carry on regardless of the time. Many see this as a sacrifice, but, personally, I’ve always found this was the most rewarding part of leadership – knowing that you don’t clock in or clock out. You don’t live by boundaries that define when a day is done or a task is complete – you only stop when you know that something can’t be made better and that it has reached its most perfect conclusion.

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” –Arnold Glasow

This quote is especially important to me – I have always been a cautious person, whether it’s in my personal or professional life. Often, I am accused of being ‘boring’ or unadventurous because I insist on discussing the worst-case scenario in any situation. 

Don’t you think it is more productive to be prepared? 

Not only does it save time, it ensures that less people and resources are affected when a situation begins to spiral out of rational control.

Most people prefer to wait it out and see what happens – to me that is the most difficult thing to do. Whenever I find myself in a challenging situation, I immediately begin to deduce the multiple possibilities and the best ways to overcome them. I have learnt that a large part of leadership involves knowing when to take action and knowing when to sit back and let things unfold. But, without a doubt, being able to anticipate an emergency is one of the most important traits a leader can possess.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

This one is golden. Over the last couple of years as my role changed and I assumed more and more responsibility at work, the most crucial thing I learnt was that once people cannot relate to you anymore, they are going to find a reason to dislike you. The minute they feel the power balance has tipped against their favour, they feel the need to defend themselves by making you the enemy. This has been a painful lesson and I often wonder what the best way to deal with it is. But, in the end, I have come to terms with the fact that once you are a leader, every decision you make is going to be scrutinised and judged. All you can do is roll up your sleeves and march on.

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” –Brian Tracy

Nothing is more annoying than people who constantly complain – about their jobs, partners, health or the weather. I firmly believe that almost everything in life is in our control, and if something really bothers us, there has to be a way to change it. I’ve always found that the true differentiator between a successful leader and an unsuccessful one is the ability to find a solution. Often, it is the single defining difference in any trying situation.

We have all met leaders who will narrate a list of challenges and reasons for why something can’t be done or something won’t work – it’s the leaders who write down a second list – made up of solutions, that tend to succeed in the end.

If you know of other quotes that resonate with your experiences as a leader, please share them in the comments and let’s talk about how we can better ourselves by learning from other people’s experiences. 

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