As business leaders, we all look to other great leaders for inspiration and guidance. As if American business is a sport, we all have our favorite marquis “players” that we follow and idolize. I like to read quotes from the most successful CEOs of our time and see what lessons I can pull from them.

Here are a few business leadership quotes I find to be very insightful:

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” – Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple

Lesson: Great leaders are diligent and strategic, and understand that a company cannot be all things to all people.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.” – Ronald Reagan, US President

Lesson: Micromanaging, or feeling like “no one can do it like I can” is a recipe for failure. After all, you cannot duplicate yourself. You need help, so get the best of the best, get out of the way and let them do their thing.

“The only thing worse than a coach or CEO who doesn’t care about his people is one who pretends to care. People can spot a phony every time.” – Jimmy Johnson, former NFL coach

Lesson: Charismatic leaders are genuine and true to themselves. Employees will never be passionate about a company or a leader that is fake, uncaring or unwilling to listen.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft

Lesson: Learn from your failures. If you aren’t delivering on the customer’s expectations, find out why and fix it. Your best customers will never tell you what’s wrong, and that means you may be missing out on those customers who would come to you if you only fixed the problems.

“I don’t think just trying to maximize profits is a very good long-term strategy for a business. It doesn’t inspire the people who work for you.” – John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods

Lesson: Employees never become passionate about profits. For them, profits don’t seem to directly impact them in their daily lives. People need to see the big picture; how they are a part of something bigger than just the dollars. Motivate them with an inspired mission.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin, author of On The Origin of the Species (the theory of evolution)

Lesson: Change is inevitable in business. Great leaders see change coming, strategize and adapt to it. They don’t change their business to answer a trend. They educate themselves and find the bigger picture wisdom to evolve.

Howard Shore is a business leadership consultant and founder of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to their executive leadership. To learn more about business leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at (305) 722-7213 or email him.

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About Howard M. Shore

Howard M. Shore is a Certified Gazelles Coach, Certified Public Accountant Certified Executive Coach, Certified Behavioral Analyst, Certified Values Analyst, and Certified Attributes Index Analyst. He has earned Bachelor and MBA degrees from Florida International University, and completed advanced executive programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.