While we remember those who served in the armed forces, it is also important to reflect on the lessons those soldiers learned. No other setting that can drive fear and summon courage like battle. Top commanding officers have to bring their troops through something no completely sane human would relish. The bad ones simply try to drive soldiers through fear. The great ones, even when deeply flawed, urge them on with inspiration.

Here are 23 expressions of wisdom from those for whom leadership was a literal matter of life and death:

  1. "You manage things; you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. It might help if we ran the MBAs out of Washington." -- Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hooper
  2. "A leader is a dealer in hope." -- Napoleon Bonaparte
  3. "My own definition of leadership is this: the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence." -- Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery
  4. "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." -- President Theodore Roosevelt
  5. "People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives." -- T. Roosevelt
  6. "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." -- T. Roosevelt
  7. "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." -- Gen. Douglas MacArthur
  8. "Never give an order that can't be obeyed."  -- D. MacArthur
  9. "There is no security on this earth, there is only opportunity."  -- D. MacArthur
  10. "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." -- President Dwight Eisenhower
  11. "You don't lead by hitting people over the head--that's assault, not leadership." -- D. Eisenhower
  12. "We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective." -- D. Eisenhower
  13. "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." -- Gen. George Patton
  14. "Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader." -- G. Patton
  15. "A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances." -- G. Patton
  16. "If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." -- G. Patton
  17. "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy." -- Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf
  18. "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand." -- Gen. Colin Powell
  19. "Experts often possess more data than judgement." -- C. Powell
  20. "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end -- which you can never afford to lose -- with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." -- Vice Adm. James Stockdale
  21. "What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away." -- J. Stockdale
  22. "We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship." -- Gen. Omar Bradley
  23. "Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all." -- President George Washington
Published on: May 25, 2015