Quotes from leaders in all walks of life who inspire creative leadership and innovation

Whenever you have no blueprint to tell you in detail what to do, you must work artfully.
— Robert D. Austin and Lee Devin, Why Managing Innovation is Like Theater

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
—Maya Angelou

I am not afraid…I was born to do this.
– Joan of Arc

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.
—Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady

Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

As leaders, we should think of ourselves as teachers and try to create companies in which teaching is seen as a valued way to contribute to the success of the whole.

We must remember that failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.

You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.

By ignoring my fear, I learned that the fear was groundless. Over the years, I have met people who took what seemed the safer path and were the lesser for it…I had taken a risk, and that risk yielded that greatest reward…Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.

Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.

— Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc


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Taking risk is okay. Failure is okay. If you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not growing quite as much as you could.
—Stacey Cunningham, President of NYSE

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you.
—Max DePree

If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.
—Don Draper, Mad Men

“Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.”
—Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.
—Seth Godin

You can listen to what people say, sure. But you will be far more effective if you listen to what people do.
—Seth Godin

Great leaders of innovation don’t fit the conventional mold of “good” leadership. They’re not visionaries who set direction and inspire others to follow. Instead, they create the context in which others are both willing and able to innovate. As one leader said, “My job is to set the stage, not to perform on it.
—Linda A Hill, et al, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation

You manage things; you lead people.
–Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.
–Steve Jobs

Done is better than perfect.
–Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.
—Douglas MacArthur

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

A leader is a dealer in hope.
—Napoleon Bonaparte

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

When you want to build a ship, do not begin by gathering wood, cutting boards, and distributing work, but awaken within the heart of man the desire for the vast and endless sea.
—Antoine De Saint Exupery

Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do. Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they’re doing it. That’s purpose. And that’s the key to achieving something truly transformational.
—Marillyn Hewson, CEO, Lockheed Martin

You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.
—Ken Kesey

Don’t avoid people who disagree with you — a dissenting view can push everyone else to do better work.
—Jake Knapp

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.
—Colin Powell

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

Your vision will become clear, only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
— Carl Jung

It’s very important to take risks. I think that research is very important, but in the end you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be fearless.
— Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue

Creativity and Innovation Quotes

  1. Art and Creativity
  2. Creativity Quotations: New Beginnings
  3. Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace
  4. Creativity and Play
  5. Creativity in Science
  6. Inspiring Quotes for Creative Leadership
  7. Imagination Quotations