In the nearly 250-year history of the United States, there have been only 45 Presidents (yes, 45 - Grover Cleveland served twice, as #22 and #24). It's an elite group, even if they're not always the most popular men in the country. James Buchanan hasn't exactly been lauded for his handling of the lead up to the Civil War. Even little orphan Annie jeered Herbert Hoover.

Good or bad, each of the presidents offer lessons to those who examine their terms. Even for those on whom history has looked poorly, they didn't gain the presidency without some leadership skill. Whether their backgrounds were politician, soldier, or businessman, each one has found some success in influencing others.

Here are quotes on leadership from each of the 45 Presidents of the United States, in order:

1. George Washington, 1789-1797: "I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."

2. John Adams, 1797-1801: "Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases."

3. Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809: "He who knows best knows how little he knows."

4. James Madison, 1809-1817: "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both."

5. James Monroe, 1817-1825: "We must support our rights or lose our character, and with it, perhaps, our liberties."

6. John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

7. Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837: "Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in."

8. Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841: "As to the presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it."

9. William Henry Harrison, 1841: "There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power."

10. John Tyler, 1841-1845: "Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette - the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace."

11. James K. Polk, 1845-49: "I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign."

12. Zachary Taylor, 1849-1850: "The appointing power vested in the president imposes delicate and onerous duties. So far as it is possible to be informed, I shall make honesty, capacity, and fidelity indispensable prerequisites to the disposal of office, and the absence of either of these qualities shall be deemed sufficient cause for removal."

13. Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853: "Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office-seeking. Men of good character and impulses are betrayed by it into all sorts of meanness."

14. Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857: "Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion."

15. James Buchanan, 1857-1861: "The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there."

16. Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865: "Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong."

17. Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869: "If I am shot at, I want no man to be in the way of the bullet."

18. Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877: "I appreciate the fact, and am proud of it, that the attentions I am receiving are intended more for our country than for me personally."

19. Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881: "The President of the United States should strive to be always mindful of the fact that he serves his party best who serves his country best."

20. James Garfield, 1881: "The President is the last person in the world to know what the people really want and think."

21. Chester Arthur: 1881-1885: "Be fit for more than the thing you are now doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it."

22. Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889: "In the scheme of our national government, the presidency is preeminently the people's office."

23. Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893: "I have often thought that the life of the President is like that of the policeman in the opera, not a happy one."

24. Grover Cleveland, 1893-1897: "These are days of special perplexity and depression, and the path of public duty is unusually rugged."

25. William McKinley, 1897-1901: "That's all a man can hope for during his lifetime - to set an example - and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history."

26. Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

27. William Howard Taft, 1909-1913: "Don't write so that you can be understood, write so that you can't be misunderstood."

28. Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921: "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all I can borrow."

29. Warren G. Harding, 1921-1923: "Treat your friend as if he will one day be your enemy, and your enemy as if he will one day be your friend."

30. Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929: "It takes a great man to be a good listener."

31. Herbert Hoover, 1929-1933: "Be patient and calm; no one can catch fish in anger."

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt: 1933-1945: "I'm not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues."

33. Harry Truman, 1945-1953: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."

35. John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963: "Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

36. Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969: "Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose."

37. Richard Nixon, 1969-1974: "Defeat doesn't finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he's defeated. He's finished when he quits."

38. Gerald Ford, 1974-1977: "If I went back to college again, I'd concentrate on two areas learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively."

39. Jimmy Carter: 1977-1981: "If you fear making anyone mad, then you ultimately probe for the lowest common denominator of human achievement."

40. Ronald Regan, 1981-1989: "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things."

41. George H.W. Bush, 1989-1993: "Don't confuse being 'soft' with seeing the other guy's point of view."

42. Bill Clinton, 1993-2001: "People around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

43. George W. Bush, 2001-2009: "Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time."

44. Barack Obama, 2009-2017: "We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it."

45. Donald Trump, 2017-present: "Leaders, true leaders, take responsibility for the success of the team, and understand that they must also take responsibility for the failure."

Published on: Feb 15, 2019
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