"Leaders are readers" is a common lesson in leadership schools and seminars. Learning and heeding the advice of great leaders is a key step toward becoming a better leader yourself. While the tools leaders use in their specific environments may vary, the basic tenets of leadership are timeless and applicable to any situation.
"The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there." John Buchan was a Scottish politician and writer who ultimately became Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor-General of Canada. The lesson for the leader in this quote is humility. Leaders need to realize they are merely an engine, guiding and directing an entire train toward a mutual destination.
"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives." Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was a former governor of New York, former Vice President of the U.S. and 26th President of the U.S., as well as a highly decorated military man. His ascent was based on the principle set forth in this quote. A leader stands in front where he must face the consequences of any action, while the boss drives his subordinates into action while they shield him from any consequence. E. M. Kelly echoed this sentiment in "Growing Disciples" when he wrote, "The difference between a boss and a leader: a boss says, 'Go!' -- a leader says, 'Let's go!'"
"The first step to leadership is servanthood." John Maxwell has written many books on leadership and has taught leadership throughout the world. His cornerstone book, "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership," includes the concept of servant leadership throughout almost all of the 21 laws he puts forth. A true leader educates and mentors those beneath him to create better leaders than himself. A true leader also ensures those below him have the environment and tools necessary to complete their tasks before he even considers his own needs.
"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." Michelangelo's art is still revered though he died centuries ago. His example of "vision" is one all leaders need to follow. Without a clear vision and a plan to achieve it, one cannot be a leader because a leader must have a place to go as well as people to bring.
General George Patton
"A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow." General Patton was a brilliant strategist and proved himself so in the early parts of WWII. He understood the necessity for a leader to have a ready answer for his followers. "I don't know" are words that should never come from a leader because these words are more deadly to his organization than a loud and hearty "Charge!"
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership; John Maxwell; 1998