In our Ditch Mediocrity leadership development programme, we love drawing inspiration from thought leaders who have shared impactful ideas, articles or ted talks around the topics of leadership skills and team development.
We include these thought leaders in our online leadership courses to deepen the learning experience. We then unpack a particular theory using a practical activity that embeds the learning in our minds.
If you’ve explored the Ditch Mediocrity programme, you may have already come across some of them. If you’re yet to dive into the course then here are some of my favourite motivational quotes, and a few thoughts on why I love them:
Best Leadership Quotes:
- “When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, ‘Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again’ – my gut reaction is, ‘What a badass.’” – Brené Brown
- Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” – Brené Brown
- “Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.” – Adam Grant
- Members of trusting teams admit weaknesses and mistakes, take risks in offering feedback and assistance, and focus time and energy on important issues, not politics. – Patrick Lencioni
- “Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.” – Jocko Willink
- “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins
- “It is the culture you create that is going to determine whether your players perform and execute.” – Jon Gordon
- We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for. – Malcolm Gladwell
- “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” – Sheryl Sandberg
- Something from me: Knowledge isn’t power, action is
1. Brené Brown Quote on owning your truth
“When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, ‘Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again’—my gut reaction is, ‘What a badass.’”We often speak about focussing on your circle of influence and this quote from Brené Brown reminds me so much of that. A circle of influence means being aware of the situation you’re in and owning your reaction.
I think about it this way:
‘It sucks what I am going through but I am going to put my focus on what I can do to make my environment work for me. That might mean pushing through the difficult situation I am in, but it also means I choose to increase the influence I have over my own environment.’
2. Brené Brown Quote on showing up
“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
This is what we invite leaders and their teams to embody in our workshops and in any leadership development process. It’s about showing up and trusting us to guide a process so everyone can learn and grow together.
For me, it is often about choosing to show up, stay in that feedback session, and facilitate the team meeting where people are raising concerns. It’s hard – it’s super hard – but it makes a difference.
For more on Brené Brown, watch her talk titled ‘Have the Courage to Stand Alone’.
3. Adam Grant Quote on listening
“Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.”
The last part of this saying is what really struck me: listen like you’re wrong. What this means for me is to listen with curiosity, and keep these points in my mind:
- I’m curious as to why their opinion is so different from mine – what information do they have?
- What was the build up to their decision? – explore and understand their journey
- I wonder what’s going on for them that their reaction is like this?
- What can I learn, even if I am not changing my mind? What information or knowledge can I tap into that they are sitting with?
Watch Adam Grant’s TEDTalk on the surprising habits of original thinkers.
4. Patrick Lencioni
Members of trusting teams admit weaknesses and mistakes. They take risks by offering feedback and assistance, and focus their time and energy on important issues, not politics.
We have a very strong feedback culture at Credo (well I believe so ☺) and we often focus on giving feedback in this way:
- What I think you do really well
- What I would like you to do differently
- What will make things easier for me to connect with you
My biggest learning as a leader is to breathe when someone makes a mistake or takes too long. My driver type personality kicks in immediately and I have to self-talk my way into a calmer state. But the latter is a more effective tool to build a trusting team than me just lashing out.
The number of times I have to apologise for answering too quickly, or for having a tone of voice that is irritated or an annoyed facial expression, is endless. But I have learnt to make it part of my language so that we can build a culture of trust where we can admit weaknesses, give feedback and offer assistance.
For anyone who wants to dive into more about trust and teamwork, I’d recommend the TEDTalk ‘Are you an ideal team player’ by Patrick Lencioni.
5. Jocko Willink
“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.”
We often work with leaders and team members on how to approach motivation to create an environment where people can show up motivated, but also on how we as individuals can take ownership of our own motivation. We like to assess motivational gaps and create plans to deal with it. However, as per Jocko’s point, both of these require discipline.
As a leader, we need to engage with our team members and ask what we can do to remove obstacles for them so that they can do their work well.
As a team member, we have to ensure that we look at the areas that motivate us and identify where we have some gaps and what we can do to “show up”. We have a responsibility to be engaged too.
One of my favorite TEDx Talks by Jocko Willink is his talk on Extreme Ownership.
6. Jim Collins
“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
What comes to mind whenever I hear or read this quote from Jim Collins book, Good to Great, is: it’s not just about our team members. It is also about those we engage with from other walks of life, like our chosen business partners, friends, mentors and fellow leaders.
I am on a mission to surround myself with people who I can learn from, add value to who I am, and are genuinely interested in my success. And then I make damn sure I am able to offer them the same.
Great people around me are what gives me energy when I am running low. They are the ones that tell you the truth even if it is tough to hear. They support you, no matter what. While I am typing this I can’t help but think that, to ensure we can keep these great people around us, we have a responsibility to be disciplined (as per Jocko’s sharing) to stand up, show up and work through things, and not just complain about it
For more, watch Jim Collins’ keynote about how being great is a matter of choice and discipline.
7. Jon Gordon
“It is the culture you create that is going to determine whether your players perform and execute.”
Every time I am in one of our weekly huddles and I know I didn’t execute on a specific task I set for myself with my own deadline, I cringe…. and it happened this morning!
If I am not able to get to all my stuff how can I keep my team accountable?
This is a hard reality to confront as leaders.
We are also allowed to forget things and have too much on our plate, and can simply re-prioritise tasks. Yes, it means something has to move to the following week, and that’s okay.
The thing here is for me to acknowledge it, speak directly to it and not try to “cover it up”. For me it is about ensuring that our team has a culture of execution with flexibility when needed and not one of blaming and justifying.
The talk ‘The secrets that drive us to greater success’ by Jon Gordon is a must watch if you’re interested in grit.
8. Malcolm Gladwell
“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”
When we work with teams we often speak about trust elements, one of which is Credibility or ‘the words you speak’. When assessing whether or now you are credible, someone might ask:
- Can I believe what you are saying?
- Can I see that you have done your research?
But they may also question if you’re able to lean into the discomfort of admitting when you are uncertain or don’t know something.
This has been a great development area for me and it is such a release to no longer feel as if I have to know everything or pretend to know everything. Rather, I’m striving to empower my team to actually show up and bring their expert knowledge to the table.
Keep your ego in check and move away from wanting to know everything.
If you’d like to explore more about capitalising on your team’s potential, watch Malcom Gladwells’ talk Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Others Don’t.
9. Sheryl Sandberg
“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
A very good friend of mine once said to me: “My sole purpose is to ensure I develop my kids so they can be the best versions of themselves.”
At the time we were chatting about being parents of multiples, but the same thought can be applied to leadership.
This is exactly how I see leadership and Sheryl Sandberg’s quote speaks to that too.
How can we empower our team members to be the best versions of themselves? How do we remove obstacles so our teams can get on with what they need to do, and develop them with skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives and future careers, even if it is not with you?
How we interact is important, and Shery Sanberg’s talk on The Importance of Authentic Communication is filled with great insight around team development.
10. A Quote from me, Heléne Smuts 🙂
Knowledge isn’t power, action is.
For me, the process of leadership or personal development isn’t going to change behaviour.
When I think about the work we do at Credo Growth and how much our clients change from development training and coaching, it is clear that knowledge alone cannot help you.
You can read all the books in the world and attend all the courses, but if you don’t implement the learnings, how do all those ideas and tips actually help?
Our aim as leadership coaches is to support our clients to implement the learnings from the work they do with Credo Growth so that there is behaviour change in their businesses, and so that people work better together to create high performance cultures.
Watch this short speaker reel to get a feel for what we do at Credo Growth, and how I engage with topics around leadership.
If you’re curious to find out how we weave the learnings of predominant thought leaders into the Ditch Mediocrity leadership programme, then head over to our online learning portal. You’ll find a collection of resources and courses about effective communication, ego states, transactional analysis and, well, everything leadership.