WHO SAID IT: Florynce Kennedy, an American lawyer, activist, civil rights advocate, and feminist. She spent her life working tirelessly for the oppressed and marginalized. In 1966, she founded the National Organization for Women (NOW). You can learn more about her extraordinary life and accomplishments here and here.
WHAT IT MEANS: Leaders who seek to influence in an enduring way cannot sit idly by waiting for leadership mastery. You must act. Especially in the face of adversity or injustice. Dreaming is not achieving. You may have great ideas for effecting change. But, to be the best leader you can be, you have to work hard to develop the skills necessary to meaningfully put those ideas into action. You simply do not begin your leadership journey equipped with all the tools you will need to lead. You acquire them by actively doing, learning, and growing. Don’t waste valuable time that could be spent bettering yourself, your organization, and the world.
WHO SAID IT: Galileo Galilei, famed Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. Widely regarded as the “father” of observational astronomy he is lauded for his revolutionary improvements to the telescope and his correct belief, in the face of massive opposition, that the earth revolved around the sun (a blasphemous notion at the time).
WHAT IT MEANS: Even an expert like Galileo, at the top of his field, still benefited from listening to, and learning, from others. Leaders should particularly heed this advice. Leading effectively for the long haul requires constant change and growth. Don’t believe you have all the answers. Don’t succumb to arrogance or bravado. Instead, humbly seek out knowledge from experts and laymen alike. You will be surprised what you can learn. And, your acquired knowledge will pay dividends as you hone your leadership craft.
WHO SAID IT: Dr. Maya Angelou is a revered poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. What is even more impressive than the sheer breadth of disciplines she practices is that she has become accomplished in all of them. This requires tenacity, skill, and great wisdom. You can learn more about her life and accomplishments on her website here.
WHAT IT MEANS: The lesson of persistence, while oft repeated, is so essential to exemplary leadership that it bears reiteration. Treat each setback as a learning moment. Reflect on what you could have done differently. Get better. While it may be tempting — do not recoil in the face of adversity. Do not become embroiled in self defeatism, victimhood, or inaction. Nobody ever achieved anything great who did not encounter obstacles and blows. While this lesson may be “common knowledge” it is still surprisingly rare to encounter people who truly do forge forward, even stronger, after momentous letdowns or failures. Be tenacious.
WHO SAID IT: The 26th President of the United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt. “Teddy”, as admirers called him, was a vigorous and active President whose countless accomplishments while in office included mediating the Russo-Japanese war (for which he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize), ensuring the construction of the Panama Canal, conserving several national forests, and expanding foreign policy. Never one to rest on his laurels, he did not wait to take action, leap into tasks, and get things done. You can find some additional fun facts about this prolific President here.
WHAT IT MEANS: Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Do not wait for conditions to be “just so” or for “x, y, or z” to fall into place before you begin pursuing your goals or initiatives. Things will never be exactly right. You must begin working towards your goals immediately, using the resources you have at your disposal at the time. If you aim for excellence, instead of perfection, you’ll get twice as much done. Developing the skills to do a lot with a little will make your leadership indispensable. Get started.
WHO SAID IT: Arthur Ashe was a celebrated professional tennis player, activist, and humanitarian. He won three Grand Slam Titles including victories at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. After being denied the ability to play at the South African Open, he fought determinedly against the injustice of apartheid. Later in life he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion and worked resolutely to spread awareness of the disease. Before he died, he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. His good work continues today at the Arthur Ashe Learning Center.
WHAT IT MEANS: Ultimately, it is a far nobler cause to fight for others than to fight for oneself. The most effective leaders know this. They approach each interaction with a servant leadership mindset. Remember, leadership is not about you – it is about the people. Always ask, “how can I help?” Listen carefully when people tell you what they need. Do your very best to provide them with the tools for success. You’ll find that the more you give, the more you get back. At ConantLeadership we’ve seen it time and time again — if you give people the energy and resources to fight the good fight for your company they will give you that same energy in return. It’s symbiotic success.
We want to hear from you – what are some of the quotes and bits of wisdom that inspire you to do better and do more?