50 Inspirational Quotes on Leadership and Innovation

50 Inspirational Quotes on Leadership and Innovation

Over the course of my career and in writing this blog, I have become a collector of quotes that can serve as inspiration in innovation, leadership, and even in day-to-day life.  A simple insight… the distilling of a complex situation into a short and pithy concept and phrase is a powerful tool in understanding the world, our teams, and ourselves.  So below are 50 of my favorite quotes from individuals far more insightful than myself…


1) “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford

2) “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world.  But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

Walt Disney

3) “Good is the enemy of great.”

Jim Collins

4) “At the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated, and scorned.  When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”

Mark Twain

5) “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called Research.”

Albert Einstein

6) “There are no rules here.  We’re trying to accomplish something.”

Thomas Edison

7) “We more frequently fail to face the right problem than fail to solve the problem we face.”


 8) “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius- and a lot of courage- to move in the opposite direction.”

Albert Einstein

 9) “Only those who dare to fail greatly, achieve greatly.”

John F. Kennedy

10) “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.  They presented him with the words, ‘And this too shall pass away.’  How much it expresses.  How chastening in the hour of pride.  How consoling in the depths of affliction.”

Abraham Lincoln

 11) “Vision without action is daydream.  Action without vision is nightmare.”

Japanese Proverb

12) “You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks.”

George Lucas

 13) “It is not enough to do your best.  You must know what to do, and THEN do your best.

W. Edwards Deming

14) “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Antoine de St. Exupery

15) “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

Henry Ford

16)  “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

 17) “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas Edison

 18) “Some see things as they are and ask why.  Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”

George Bernard Shaw

19) “There are only two rules for being successful.  One, figure out exactly what you want to do, and two, do it.”

Mario Cuomo

20) “To avoid criticism- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard

 21) “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

22) “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

23)  “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

Albert Einstein

 24) “I am an optimist.  It does not seem too much use being anything else.”

Winston Churchill

25)  “Managers help people see themselves as they are; leaders help people to see themselves better than they are.”

Jim Rohn

26)  “Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

27) “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

Woody Allen

28) “Good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed!”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

29)  “In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are.  They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.”

Hubert Humphrey

 30) “The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Charles Du Bos

 31) “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Alexander Graham Bell

32)  “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi

 33) “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Carl W. Buechner

 34) “Don’t sell your story, just tell your story.”

J.J. Abrams

 35) “To do great work, a man must be very idle as well as very industrious.”

Samuel Butler

 36) “There are two possible outcomes- if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.  If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.”

Enrico Fermi

 37) “I am a man of principle, and one of my basic principles is flexibility.”

Everett Dirkson

 38) “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

T.S. Eliot

 39) “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.”

Albert Einstein

 40) “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.  Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.  All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

George Bernard Shaw

41) “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

42) “You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

J.K. Rowling

43) “You can do anything, but not everything.”

David Allen

44) “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

45) “The difficulty is not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

John Maynard Keynes

46)  “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

Theodore Roosevelt

47)  “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

48) “What counts can’t always be counted; what can be counted doesn’t always count.”

 Albert Einstein

49) “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

J.K. Rowling

50) “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”

Walt Disney

Those are my Top 50… if you have any to add to the list, please throw them into the comments section.  Enjoy!


Check out my book, Agents of Change, available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com


  1. first one was Henry Ford… great list of quotes

    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


    • Nate- wow… I have used that Henry Ford quote for 15 years. Of all the places to have a typo! To better quote Mark Twain, “there are no mistakes to be made, only lessons to be learned.” That said, I fixed the mistake 🙂

      Great quote and a very true insight about great leaders. Thanks!


  2. This is a great list! Here are two of my favorite quotes.

    “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere” – Albert Einstein

    “Believe you can and you are half way there” – T. Roosevelt


    • free5pirit- thanks and I love the 2 quotes. I had never seen the Einstein quote, but was really inspired by that one. Particularly as organizations and individuals work so hard to simplify and to speed up getting from A to B… they often miss the time and space to be imaginative. Thanks again!


    • Thanks and that is a great list of quotes! I especially like the quote from Steve Jobs about the choices to NOT do the 1,000’s of things so as to focus on the right few. Thanks for sharing!


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