4 Essential Leadership Skills (As Quoted by Leaders)


There’s no doubt that leadership skills are important. I’ve needed leadership skills in just about every job I’ve held. In fact, those skills will become even more important to me once I graduate and become a teacher.

But if you look beyond the role leadership skills play in the workplace, you’ll see that they are just as important elsewhere. At any moment, you could be put into an emergency setting where you need to direct people and take action. So in effect, anyone might need to take up the role of leader at any moment.

The Accidental Leader

I learned just how important leadership skills are at an early age. When I was in high school, I worked as a night manager at a grocery store. My normal duties included directing people and making sure everything was running smoothly. For the most part it was fairly routine.

But one night I was urgently called to the front desk to respond to an immediate emergency. A middle aged man had walked into the store gushing blood from his forehead. From what I was told, he had just been in a car accident and came inside seeking help.

Since I was the manager in charge, everyone looked to me for what to do. Of course, this was beyond my training, but I still needed to make decisions.

First, I directed the front desk cashier to call an ambulance. Then I made sure to cordon off the area and instructed other employees to direct incoming and outgoing customers around the scene. When the EMTs arrived, I monitored the situation and answered their questions until they took him away to the hospital. It was a lesson in leadership I’ll never forget.

So anyone can be tasked to become a leader at any moment. Here are five leadership quotes from five different leaders about what you’ll need if your moment comes.

1. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

A good leader empowers others to do what needs to be done. When working in large groups, no one person can do everything. It takes the combined work and effort of many diverse people working together.

Leaders have vision and guide others until their aims are fulfilled. However, credit must be given to those who did the most effort. When goals are accomplished, a good leader says “we” or “the team” did it, not “I”.

2. “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Colin Powell

Being a good leader and having good people skills go hand in hand. You need to be someone others can go to with their problems because they respect you and listen to your advice. Being seen as a problem-solver and a “go-to” person inspires confidence and trust. Without those two qualities, you’re not an effective leader.

When you’re the person in charge, you want to be someone anyone can talk to about anything. A big lesson I’ve learned as a teacher is that you have to interact and build rapport with your students if they are going to accomplish anything. If you can’t be someone they know and can relate with, getting things done becomes much harder.

3. “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

It’s common to hear that leaders lead through example. But the reason you hear it so often is because it is true. Being a leader means showing others how things are suppose to be done. And not only that, but how things should be done properly.

Leaders know that every one of their actions will be scrutinized. Just look to the U. S. President. Every minute detail of his actions are analyzed and up for discussion. The more you lead by example, the more you’ll get out of other people.

Furthermore, a leader’s actions must inspire others to become better people. You’re in a powerful position to make someone’s life so much better. And if you can empower others to believe in their dreams, actions or themselves, you’ll find they become forever grateful and loyal.

4. “Leadership is about magnetic communication. Leaders have a way of communicating that draws people toward the vision and the horizon.” – Doug Firebaugh

Just like leaders need to have good people skills. Leaders need to be great communicators to get their message and vision across to others. Learn to speak to others in a way that makes them feel important and valued. And remember that listening is just as an important communication skill as speaking.

Look at Ronald Reagan’s leadership style which earned him the nickname “the great communicator” because of his uncanny ability to connect with the American people. To this day he remains an inspiring leader whose message still manages to draw many people in. He was a master at getting his message across to others and people followed him.

Becoming a Leader

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that good leadership skills aren’t needed solely for people who run countries or big companies. They’re for everyone.

And don’t just settle for being a good leader; become a great one. When your time comes to lead, you’ll be glad you could step up to the challenge and overcome your obstacles. Prepare yourself now because you never know when an emergency will pop up and everyone looks to you for guidance.
photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

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  1. Hey Steve,

    So if you see a post from me about leadership pop up somewhere on the internet (a guest post I submitted for another site) don’t go thinking I copied you, OK? I actually wrote it before I saw this.

    It’s different anyway. Weird though, it’s like you read my mind (again). An interesting comparison I often like to look at when considering the subject of leadership (not that my article is about that aspect either) is when we look at leaders vs managers (e.g. Risk vs Control, Inspiration vs Standardization, Vision vs Plans etc etc).

    Great stuff as always,

    take care & best wishes,

    • Hi Alan, that’s funny that you have a post similar to this one. Maybe I should track it down to see how close it is to some of the things I wrote here. I like to look at the difference between managers and leaders too because there is a difference.

  2. Hi Steve,

    This was a very powerful post, and you included some fantastic and inspiring leadership quotes.

    I loved the story you included on how you were unexpectedly called upon to lead while working at the grocery store. This is a brilliant example of how there was a part of you (the leader) which manifested in the moment to deal with what had happened.

    • Thanks Hiten, I’m glad you like the story. You wouldn’t believe how shocking it was to see that man bleeding all over like that. It definitely wasn’t something they prepared you for. But like many situations in life, you have to sometimes handle things you don’t expect. Better to know the skills beforehand so you can handle things like that when they arise.

  3. Steve,

    I really agree with all these traits, especially about leaders inspiring others to do well. If I think about my own life and experience, the people who lit a fire under me are the ones I feel so much gratitude towards. It’s one thing as a leader to set up structure so that people have to follow through on some task. It’s so much different to motivate on a deeply personal level.

    • Hey Mary, you’re very right about that. Setting up a structure for everyday tasks and making sure they get done is one thing, but motivating someone on a deep level is different. It is really hard to reach someone to motivate them to something better. You can face reistance and setback on levels far different from just making sure people do their regular tasks.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Excellent! That is very good what you mention here. You remind me my last job in a big company. The management were so bad…so bad that I cannot even describe it. I totally agree with that the skill of leadership is really important and I believe that we can definitely work on this skill in order to improve our performance. I mention that because some people believe that leaders are not made but are born. Yes that is partially correct!
    Thank you for sharing.

    • I’m definitely in the “leaders can be made” category. I just don’t think leaders can only be born. I know that some leadership qualities come more naturally to some people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn them and make yourself better at it.

      I know what you mean about working somewhere with bad management. It can really make life difficult when the people looing over you can make your work miserable. I’ve learned that in those circumstances, you might just have to find a different place to work. You don’t want to work for a place that puts those kind of people in charge.

  5. Steve,

    Leaders not only get respect but they give it also. I really like #2, it can ring true for not only soldiers but bosses, teachers, parents, or anyone in charge. You show respect to those you lead, they in turn willl respect and follow.


    • Respect does have a lot to do with being a good leader. No one is going to respect you if you don’t give them respect back. It shows that you have trust and believe in that person which can ultimately motivate them.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Great collection of quotes and thoughtful post. Instilling confidence, inspiring and connecting. So important in leadership. I appreciate your relating it to your own experience, as well. Lovely share. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you like the story. It was a great lesson about leadership for me and I thought others could also learn from it too.

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