all resources & insights

26 Tough-Minded Leadership Quotes for Better Performance

At the end of the day, leadership is about getting things done and delivering value for all stakeholders. It’s not an easy job. It’s tough. And it requires a fierce commitment to high-performance and continuous improvement. For the best possible results, we champion an approach that is both tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people. The key to this approach is found in the 7 connected practice areas of our leadership model: The ConantLeadership Flywheel. This high-impact model, based on 40 years of leadership experience and study, is a highly effective way for 21st century leaders to practice leadership that works.

Each practice area is equally important; they don’t work on their own — they have to be used together. When they are all developed in harmony, they are a powerful, self-reinforcing tool for transforming individuals and organizations with everlasting momentum. But to become proficient in the model as a whole, you do need to give each individual practice area sufficient attention. Today, to inspire better performance, we’ve compiled  a collection of quotes that focus specifically on the final two areas in the flywheel: Execute with Excellence and Produce Extraordinary Results. These 26 tough-minded leadership quotes for better performance will inspire you to keep your eye on the ball and achieve your goals with grit in the face of adversity.  Enjoy!

1.“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations.” – Ralph Marston

2. “Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.” – Denis Waitley

3. “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” – Mae West

4. “The true measure of the value of any business leader and manager is performance.” – Brian Tracy

5. “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King

6. “Be spectacularly great at what you do. Wear your passion on your sleeve and hold your heart in the palm of your hand. And work hard. Really hard.” – Robin Sharma

7. “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” – Thomas Jefferson

8. “What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.”  – Wayne Dyer

9. “You don’t get any medal for trying something, you get medals for results.” – Bill Parcells

10. “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.” – Sun Tzu

11. “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” – Indira Gandhi 

12. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

13. “It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” – Warren Buffett

14. “He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.” – James Allen

15. “The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you.” – Indra Nooyi

16. “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine

17.  “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – Vince Lombardi

18. “If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.” – Dale Carnegie

19. “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” – Peter Drucker

20. “What do you really believe makes a difference in the company? For me it’s really clear. It’s about customers and employees. Everything else follows. If you take care of your customers and you have motivated employees, everything else follows.” – Anne M. Mulcahy

21. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee

22. “Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” – Mary Kay Ash

23. “Mastery is great, but even that is not enough. You have to be able to change course without a bead of sweat, or remorse.” – Tom Peters

24. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

25. “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan

26. “The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself.” – Bill George

Ready to be a better performing leader?

Take the first step towards fundamentally lifting the trajectory of your leadership. The BLUEPRINT Boot Camp will challenge and enlighten you as you explore thought-provoking questions and unearth career-altering insights.

Emerge from this boot camp armed with all the tools needed to continue to develop your leadership model throughout the course of your career. An enlightening pre- and post-program curriculum of correspondence, interaction, reading, and collaborative group work provide an ongoing leadership learning experience like no other.

For more collections of inspiring leadership quotes, check out our posts: Quotes That Inspire Greater Commitment, 37 Quotes on Reaching Life and Leadership Goals52 Quotes About Trust and Leadership26 Quotes for the Holiday Season, and 38 Quotes About Bravery and Leadership.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Doug Conant is remarkable—and so is this work.
– Stephen M. R. Covey
Author of The Speed of Trust

The Blueprint

The Blueprint

6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights

By Douglas Conant with Amy Federman

Have Doug Speak at Your Event

Doug works collaboratively with event organizers to customize his material for each audience.