It’s easy to understand why the majority of people think leadership is all about making speeches and being liked. Leadership, however, is defined by your ability to influence others.
Effective leaders are catalysts that don’t try to do everything themselves; they hire talented people and inspire them work together toward a common goal. A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement in order to steadily raise their level of aspiration and so should you as a leader.
The best leaders have confidence, courage and compassion–and those who become one by the equality of their actions and integrity of their intent. Here are 50 funny leadership quotes!
Funny Leadership Quotes & Jokes
1) “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”
– Adlai Stevenson
Adlai Stevenson was a lawyer and politician who served as the 31st Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961
2) “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”
– Arnold H. Glasow
Arnold H. Glasow was a famous business man who was often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune and more.
3) A good manager is a person who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him.”
– H. S. M. Burns
H. S. M. Burns was a great speaker, author and consultant to business firms all over the world. He is the founder of the HSE culture in decades past and has been given much respect throughout his life for his ideas and initiatives to make changes in work environment.
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4) “A good manager is one who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him.”
– Harold S. Geneen
He founded the company IT&T during the 1940s, which came to be known as International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation. He served as the company’s president from 1957-1971.
5) “Always drink upstream from the herd.”
– Will Rogers
Rogers became a popular humorist, social critic, and commentator on events of the day. He was one of Hollywood’s top stars through the 1920s.
6) “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”
– Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli served in the British government and became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Earl of Beaconsfield in 1868. He was a member of Parliament and its leader for nearly twenty years.
7) “All corny jokes aside, leadership is not about where you stand in line but where you line up your troops and march towards a common destination.”
– Tom Kolditz
Tom Kolditz is an American psychologist and researcher in military psychology. He is a leading thinker on leadership and moral development in the military, and has written extensively about the need for leaders to focus on developing strategies that adapt to unforeseen circumstances rather than relying on intuition or risk-averse decision making.
8) “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”
Casy Stengel was one of the major figures in baseball’s early years. He was the player-manager for the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1925. He was known as a great humanitarian. After retiring, he held various positions with the team, though he would never again have the same success he’d had as its manager.
9) “Bad leaders have a trickle down effect from the top. The leader makes one bad decision and those who follow do likewise. If you want to be a good leader, surround yourself with people better than you. Never become comfortable with the abilities of those around you because complacency breeds mediocrity.”
– Jack Daly
Jack Daly is a serial entrepreneur and author who has written sales books including “Hyper Sales Growth: Street-Proven Systems & Processes”
10) “Bad leaders are like baths – they either do too much or not enough.”
– Vicki Halsey
Vicki Halsey is a writer and researcher in the field of military psychology. She is a leading thinker on leadership and moral development in the military, and has written extensively about the need for leaders to focus on developing strategies that adapt to unforeseen circumstances rather than relying on intuition or risk-averse decision making.
11) “Being a servant leader doesn’t mean being a wimp. It means empowering others to take responsibility.”
– Dr. Ivan Misner
Ivan Misner, PhD is the founder and chairman of BNI. He holds a Ph.D. in Engineering from University of Miami and an MBA from the University of Florida. He is the author of many books for business people, has written numerous articles for trade magazines, and has been a guest speaker on radio talk shows and conferences all across the globe.
12) “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”
– Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is a co-founder and the former CEO and chairman of Apple Inc. He is best known as the man who led the company for 20 years between its rebirth in 1997 and his death in 2011
13) “First rule of leadership: everything is your fault.”
– A Bug’s Life
14) “Bosses who are too nice are actually bad bosses because they don’t know how to establish boundaries, which can create confusion in their employees’ minds about what is expected of them. A boss who doesn’t set clear expectations is asking for an employee who will take advantage of him or her.”
– Tony Allesandro
Tony Allesandro was born in Brooklyn, New York. He then went onto to study at Northeastern Illinois University. Tony is the co-founder and managing director of The Global Leadership Group. Tony has lectured and traveled across the globe to share his knowledge on leadership.
15) “Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.”
– Robert Half
Robert W. Half is a major staffing and personnel service in the United States. Robert Half is also the world’s largest and oldest staffing services company in America with headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The company was founded by Robert W. Half in 1948 and he served as its president until his death in 1962.
16) “When I finally got a management position, I found out how hard it is to lead and manage people.”
– Guy Kawasaki
Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com and a former chief evangelist for Apple Inc. He is also a venture capitalist and the author of 10 books on entrepreneurship. In this book, he emphatically shows that anyone can come up with an idea for a successful company, as long as they have the perseverance to work hard and the bravery to take risks.
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17) By surrounding yourself with good people you never have to worry about becoming a bad leader. The quality of your team will ultimately determine the quality of your leadership. People who possess integrity, strong work ethic and strong communication skills should be an automatic selection for any team. Unfortunately, all too often organizations select individuals based on loyalty, politics and nepotism rather than leadership qualities.
– Jack Daly
18) “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
– Michael Scott
Michael Scott was born in 1956 in New Jersey. He then studied at the University of Pennsylvania. Michael then served as the chief executive officer for Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. The company is a paper sales company that produces promotional material, office supplies, and other paper-related items in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
19) “You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for long.”
– Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin was born on February 1, 1931, in the village of Butka. Boris was the first president of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was also General Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee from 1989 to 1991.
20) “Don’t allow yourself to become so focused on your success that you forget about the needs of those around you. You must recognize that people are one of your most important assets and without them you will fail.”
– John C. Maxwell
John C. Maxwell is a speaker and author who has written many books on leadership and leadership development. He is also the founder of INJOY, an online resource for churches and faith-based organizations. Maxwell has been recognized as one of the world’s top five speakers, by TED.com.
21) “Great leadership does not mean running away from reality. Sometimes the hard truths might just demoralize the company, but at other times sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.”
– John Kotter
John Kotter is an American professor. He is known for his work on leading large organizations into the 21st century. John has also authored many books on business leadership and he has also written two books about his ongoing research.
22) “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”
– Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi was the first female Prime Minister of India. She is remembered for her social work and for her mass sterilization policies in the 1970s. Indira was also the only woman in Asia to become head of government.
23) “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.”
– Malcolm Muggeridge
Malcolm Muggeridge was born in 1903. He then attended the University of Cambridge and served as a reporter for the Manchester Guardian before he became its editor. He wrote many books on the subjects of Christianity and politics.
24) “You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”
– Dwight Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower was the President of the United States from 1953-1961. Dwight was born in 1890 and attended West Point Military Academy. After graduating, he served as a major general in the US army during World War II. He then retired from the military and became President.
25) “Don’t be a good leader, be a poor person’s best friend.”
– Tom Peters
Tom Peters is an American author, speaker, and management consultant. He has written many books on the subjects of the changing workplace and the steps to take to prepare for it.
26) “Don’t pick a job you love, where you’ll get paid well for doing it. Find out what you love to do, then find out how you can get paid well for doing it.”
– Jim Rohn
Jim Rohn was an American motivational speaker. He also founded multiple companies, including Rohn Enterprises and the Sales Network. Jim authored 23 books and was featured in several films and television shows.
27) “Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.”
– Groucho Marx
Groucho Marxx was an American comedian. He was also one of the members of the Marx Brothers, alongside his brothers Chico and Harpo Marx. Groucho had received multiple awards in media and film.
28) “Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
– General George Patton Jr.
General George Patton Jr. was an influential American military leader. He was known for his role as a senior officer during World War II and the Korean War. George also played a pivotal role in World War I as well as the invasion of Sicily and D-Day.
29) “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by your ability to influence others.”
– Dr. Barbara Kellerman
Barbara Kellerman is a scholar, speaker, and one of America’s most prominent women in foreign policy. She has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 1986 and is still included in their lists of notable members to this day.
30) “Effective leaders are not bosses, they’re catalysts. They don’t try to do everything themselves — they hire talented people and inspire them to work together toward a common goal.”
– Eli Broad
Dr. Eli Broad, often called the “patron saint of American philanthropy,” is a retired American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He has been ranked by Forbes as one of the wealthiest Americans and by Bloomberg as the world’s seventh richest billionaire in 2012. Broad has given away more than $2 billion in total, including to his foundation, which focuses on public education and lifelong learning.
31) “You will never lead well if you’re not committed to developing your leadership skills.”
– Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader is an American lawyer, author, lecturer, and political activist. He has been a leader in the consumer protection movement for over 45 years. Nader’s 1965 publication Unsafe at Any Speed brought wide public attention to auto safety issues – it argued that car manufacturers had known about the danger for over 20 years but did nothing. This work led major legislation which changed car design. His latest book, “The Seventeen Solutions” identifies seventeen areas in our society where he believes changes are needed for this country to continue to exist as a democracy.
32) “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
Laotze (Chinese: 老子; Pinyin: Lǎozǐ) was an ancient Chinese philosopher who lived in the 6th century BCE. Laotze is believed to be a contemporary of Confucius, but there are no conclusive records to prove this assumption. As mentioned in the Tao Te Ching, Laotze was not born into a wealthy family and he was not formally educated. Nonetheless, he became one of the most influential thinkers in history.
33) “A leader need not be an angel; a leader can never afford to would the appearance of evil or indecisiveness. Yet he must always inspire trust and have the ability to illuminate the right path out of a situation that has become hopelessly entangled.”
34) “A leader should provide his people with opportunities for joy, happiness, and success. He must communicate to them what is expected of them, what they can expect from him, and what they need to do to make the team successful.”
– Sigurd Olson
Sigurd Olson had some popular quotes that I think sum up the idea of leadership. He said, “Leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by your ability to influence others.” He also said, “The key to a successful life lies in a person’s willingness and capacity to change.” These quotes prove that being a leader doesn’t mean doing everything singlehandedly. It’s about finding people who have the qualities you’re looking for and inspiring them so they can do what needs to be done together.
35) “Leadership is not position or power. It is influence on others.”
– Craig A. Johnson
Leadership is the exercise of moral authority through reasons that are persuasive to others. The leader serves as a channel through which followers channel their own energy for the purposes of accomplishing some goal.
36) “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelist and short-story writer. His work is characterized by understated humor, solid technique, and a preoccupation with death. His fiction has been carelessly misinterpreted. For example, in his well-known story The Old Man and the Sea he purportedly wrote about “a man who battles against insurmountable odds to capture a giant fish.”
37) “Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.”
– John Naisbitt
John Naisbitt was an Economist, author, professor from New York City, United States of America who died 2012 (aged 69)
38) “Today, you have 100% of your life left.”
– Tom Landry
Tom Landry was a legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988. His coaching record for that team is 182-67-6. Tom was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and he also has a street in Downtown Dallas named after him.
39) “The question, ‘Who ought to be boss?’, is like asking, ‘Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?’ Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.”
– Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American businessman. He founded the Ford Motor Company and he also introduced mass production to the world. Ford died in 1947 at the age of 83.
40) “A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. An excellent person demonstrates. A superior person inspires others to see for themselves.”
– William Arthur Ward
William Arthur Ward was a motivational speaker and writer. He is remembered for his various quotations, including the following: “Leaders aren’t born they are made.”
41) “All effective leadership is based on a vision that goes beyond the present and the known and invites others into a future that is full of uncertainty and potentiality.”
– Peter F Drucker
42) “Actually, I am a people person.”
– Peter F Drucker
Peter F Drucker, the father of modern management and a strategist for executives and corporations.
43) “All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”
– Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African political leader. He served as President of the African National Congress party from 1991 to 1997, and was the first South African president elected in fully representative democratic elections. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
44) “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.”
– Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr was an influential Danish scientist who made contributions to the understanding of chemistry. He is best known for his work on nuclear structure and his complementarity principle.
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who helped found quantum mechanics. He had four important contributions to the field. They were the Bohr model of the atom, which explained certain atomic energies; the Bohr-Sommerfeld quantization rule, which explained how electrons move around the nucleus; his theory on atomic electron emission; and his hydrogen models of spectral lines.
45) “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.”
– The Duke of Wellington
The Duke of Wellington was a great military leader because he had the emotional courage to face his fears and failures, without fear. His courage enabled him to not retreat from an opponent when he was outnumbered.
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46) “A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration.”
– David McClelland
David McClelland is a researcher in the areas of leadership and organizational psychology. One of his main contributions to that field was his formulation of the three major needs that are necessary for people to succeed in organizations. McClelland theorized that need strength is an important characteristic that should be assessed during the process of choosing effective leaders.
47) “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
Douglas MacArthur was a military leader who served in the United States Army for over 40 years.
48) “A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.”
– Chinese Proverb
49) All great leaders are made up of an odd collection of contradictions, held together by a unifying strength that usually amounts to nothing more than their own self-confidence.
– David McClelland
50) “An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.”
– Arab proverb
51) “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”
– Publilius Syrus
Publilius Syrus is a Latin writer, who was a slave during the time of Ancient Rome. His date of birth or death is unknown, but his writings were quite popular in the first century.
One of his most famous quotes comes from the above sentence: ‘Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm’. This quote can be interpreted as meaning that people have their own qualities which they are suited for. It may also refer to things going smoothly and people taking advantage of this.
His other well-known saying is: ‘charity is a good tree, but it must not grow too high.’ This may seem contradictory to what he says in the sentence before about being charitable and giving generously.
The first instinct for a leader is to take charge and do everything himself. The next goal he should set for himself should be wider and higher than before. For example, instead of “I want to make this project successful,” he may want to say, “I want to make this project one-hundred percent successful.”
There are many funny leadership quotes and jokes that we can all learn from. As a leader, it’s important to take the time to laugh at yourself every once in awhile. Humor is an excellent way for leaders to connect with their team, as well as keep themselves sane! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our list of 50 funny leadership quotes and now have some great material for your next presentation or speech.