Servant Leadership Workplace-Quote Me

“Servant Leadership is Good” – But Don’t Quote Me on That

Do you have a favorite servant leadership quote?

I have lots of favorites. I share them all the time. Here’s one for you now:

“For our own success to be real, it must contribute to the success of others.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said that. I think it captures the spirit of servant leadership rather nicely.

While I have lots of favorite servant leadership quotes, I also try to avoid certain types of quotes that might detract from my presentations. For what it may be worth, here are four types of quotes I shy away from.

  1. Quotes that are trite. The 1978 comedy film Animal House (staring John Belushi, pictured here) was set at fictional Faber College, whose fictional founder, Emil Faber, is quoted as saying, “Knowledge is good” – the college motto. I try to avoid quotes like that. They’re dumb. The audience might consider them condescending. So, yes, “servant leadership is good” – but don’t quote me on that.
  2. Quotes that are improperly attributed. There is no evidence that Gandhi said, ”You must be the change you want to see in the world,” or that Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted.” I’ve found that some of my favorite quotes are difficult to attribute to their commonly-recognized sources. So I try to verify them before I use them. *
  3. Quotes from the “usual suspects.” Military generals, sports figures, politicians. I worry that quotes from these sources get too worn out, or their authors are not relevant to all audiences. If I wanted to quote a sports figure, I would prefer Jill Ellis, coach of the US Women’s World Cup soccer team, to Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers professional football team.
  4. Quotes from jerks. The past and the present are filled with egomaniac CEOs, blowhard politicians and people insensitive to racial justice, gender equity or religious plurality. Nonetheless, such people can be revered leaders and, therefore, get quoted regularly. For my part, I try not to validate bad behavior by quoting people who have not walked the servant leadership talk.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite servant leadership quote? If so, please share it.

And like me, if you have pet peeves when it comes to quotes, feel free to share those, too.

As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!


* To verify quotes, I highly recommend the Quote Investigator website: But be careful, it has an addictive quality about it!