There’s no arguing that the entrepreneurs of our time have come up with some of the most important and prolific thoughts on business and leadership. How can their thoughts help inspire you?
Inspiration has come easily from the ranks of the world's best and brightest entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs was a machine of quotes on inspiration, determination and leadership.
But what can we actually learn from some of the most famous entrepreneurs and their famous quotes? The words spoken by history’s influential self-starters have more applications in the real world of business than you might have realized.
Take these 16 quotes as inspiration for how to be a leader amongst managers, and motivate your team to greatness:
1. Steve Jobs, Co-founder, CEO and Chairman of Apple Inc.:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Being a leader means encouraging others to live life as their most authentic selves.
In doing so, your business and workplace atmosphere will be one of inclusion and trust. Leading by example in following your heart and gut instincts, thinking for yourself and having your own voice, allows your colleagues to engage in a way that sees everyone contributing their unique experiences and knowledge.
2. Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon:
“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”
Encourage your team to try everything once. Failure is not something to be afraid of, and your employees should feel free to have new ideas and take risks instead of fearing your rejection.
3. Josh James, Co-founder and CEO of Omniture, Founder and CEO of Domo:
“When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.”
We’ve heard many entrepreneurs talk about “shower notes” and bedside diaries where their eureka moments happen when they’re least expecting it. One thing to recognize is that if an idea of yours keeps popping into your head and you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s worth giving it a shot. Encourage your team to do the same. If they keep coming across certain issues, or they keep finding themselves always coming back to the same idea for a solution, follow it up and see if it works.
4. Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn:
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”
Surround yourself with brilliance and encourage your staff to do the same. Facilitate trade shares, or outside of work workshops or events to give way to great conversation, learning opportunities, and the growth of trust and transparency with the people you work with.
5. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group:
“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”
Build a workplace atmosphere of stability and freedom. If your team is afraid to speak up for fear of ridicule or negativity, so many good ideas may be lost. As a leader, you should strive to create a fear-free environment and encourage others to step out of the their comfort zones from time to time, because if you can become comfortable with the uncomfortable, you can do anything.
6. Catharina Bruns, Founder of WorkIsNotaJob:
“Empower yourself and realize the importance of contributing to the world by living your talent. Work on what you love. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.”
Encourage your team to pursue their passions and explore their talents. Though someone’s job description may not include certain aspects of the work, allowing people to take on pet projects, or explore cross-departmental work will see your employees truly shine. It can also result in fresher perspectives on old problems, or job functions that are actually better suited to the individual instead of a one-size-fits-all role.
7. Caterina Fake, Co-founder of Flickr:
“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”
Remind your team to take a step back from a problem if need be. Working longer and harder on a problem isn’t always the indicator for actually finding a solution. Be mindful of time management. If something is taking too long, there is probably a better way your team could be spending their time.
8. Ryan Allis, Co-founder and CEO of iContact:
“Have the end in mind and every day, make sure you're working towards it.”
Encourage your team to be goal oriented. It helps everyone to be on the same page, and have a better understanding of their purpose. People who feel they have a purpose tend to be better at what they do.
9. Thomas Edison, Inventor:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Make sure your staff knows that if something doesn’t go as planned, it doesn’t have to be a setback. You’ve now learned a great way not to do something in the future.
10. William Rosenberg, Founder of Dunkin’ Donuts:
”Show me a person who never made a mistake, and I will show you a person who never did anything.”
Mistakes are part of the process, and they are rarely ever the end of the world. It’s important for your staff to also feel like if they did make a mistake, it’s better to let you and others know about it immediately, rather than fearing repercussions and potentially letting the mistake grow into an even bigger issue.
11. Bill Gates, Founder and CEO of Microsoft:
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
It’s also important that your team understands that unhappy customers are not necessarily a reflection of their performance, and that they shouldn’t take complaints personally. Taking issues personally can wear a person down, so make sure to establish the understanding to take the burden off of the individual and convert it into a learning opportunity for everyone.
12. Peter Schultz, Founder and Director of GNF
“Hire character. Train skill.”
Finding people who fit well into your culture and workplace environment can sometimes be more important than finding someone who knows how to do exactly what their job function is from day one. Someone who may be able to do a job perfectly may still have problems if they don’t jive with your overall company values and personality, which won’t set them up for success long term.
13. Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company:
"A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
Encourage your team to chase things other than just money. And having a team member who’s just in it for the money will bring you down as well. Offer other benefits to your employees like learning opportunities and emphasize that building a great company and product will do better to contribute to the overall success rather than just pursuing money.
14. Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway:
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Encourage your team to feel so closely a part of your company that they consider how their actions may affect your overall reputation and brand perception. All too often we’ve seen employees go off the rails on Twitter, resulting in a company entering crisis mode to distance themselves from that individual. Employees who respect others, respect you, and respect the company they work for, won’t be a liability - but it takes your leadership to get them there.
15. Andrew Carnegie, American Industrialist, Steel Magnate, and Philanthropist:
“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”
Hold your employees accountable for what they do, and show them they can hold you accountable as well. Be a leader of action, one who does what you say you’ll do…and expect others to be the same way.
16. John D. Rockefeller, American Industrialist, Oil Magnate, and Philanthropist
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
Always be encouraging your team to strive for greatness. When you set people up to be great, and do great things, give them a place to make mistakes, try new ideas, and be their most authentic selves, the success of everyone and your company as a whole will be effortless.
Sometimes, you have to take a breath and look for inspiration in the world around you.
What are some of your favorite inspirational quotes from the world’s foremost entrepreneurs and historical figures?