To Lead Or Not To Lead

leadershipIn a moment of holiday insanity cheer, I signed up for my department’s Secret Santa exchange. I drew the name of a young woman whom I never met and whose job is to foster student leadership. I decided today’s “gift” would be a list of inspiring quotes about leadership, a nice way for her to start the day and for me to keep under the $10 cap.

I went to my usual haunts for quotes – and The Quotations Page – and pulled up a couple that struck a chord:

  • A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. – Stephen Covey
  • I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. – Ralph Nader
  • Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.  – George S. Patton

Noticing that I had picked quotes from a fairly homogeneous group of authors, I set out to find a few inspiring quotes from women. Unfortunately, the handful of female-uttered quotes on these sites did nothing for me.

The quote I saw most frequently was:

  • The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it. – Elaine Agather

Notwithstanding the interesting play on words and the similarity in our names, the quote left me flat.

So, I expanded my search, checked out several more sites, scrolled through hundereds of quotes, only to see saw male after (usually White) male quote.

Don’t get me wrong. There were SOME quotes from women. They urged leadership in a particular political context (like voting rights). Or, they offered words of wisdom on leadership, but their words seemed less lofty or not not as relevant as their male counterparts (at least to me).

I finally found one I liked:

  • Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person. – Mother Teresa

Try Googling “leadership quotes women” and see if you notice the same thing. Any theories as to why I came up empty? Or, any good quotes on leadership by women hanging on your wall?


  • Catherine Says:
    12-8-2009 15:00:21

    “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Leslie Ulrich. May be better suited to feminism rather than leadership?

  • laurie Says:
    12-8-2009 23:04:31

    Here are a couple that are attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt….

    Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

    A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.

  • Anne Says:
    12-9-2009 13:28:15

    Remember, all the great quotes from men are written by their female speech writers!

  • Cindy L. Says:
    12-10-2009 10:35:44

    Love this! I’ve been an avid quote collector since college, and am amazed at how much inspiration can be packed into an adage or an aphorism! The Mother Theresa quote is perfect, at home, at school, or in business. Thanks for the lift!

    P.S. I have the “Well-behaved women never make history” on a bumper sticker, and get lots of interesting comments on it! :-)

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