51 Toxic Leadership Quotes from the greatest Leaders.

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Good leadership skills are not easy to acquire.

According to statistics, 9 of 10 startups fail, which makes only 10% of newborn companies survive.

And bad leadership is one of the most common reasons why many companies fail.

A history of entrepreneurship is full of examples of toxic leaders. Some of them have been able to overcome this behavior and become the best leaders in the history.

The founder and CEO of one of the most successful companies is a perfect example: Steve Jobs.

After he was forced to leave Apple in 1985, he learned and “adjusted” his management style and has become an excellent leader and an inspiration for many leaders today.

It has become even more difficult today to find a good leader for all the open leadership positions in every company.

And so management is forced to hire managers with “lower” level management skills.

“Toxic leaders” a term popularized by American political scientist Marcia Lynn Whicker is a common trait of many unprofessional leaders. 

Toxic leadership can cause big problems within an organization because it makes people feel oppressed and disempowered.

Basically, like they’re working under someone who’s trying to control everything instead of helping everyone get things done together.

What is toxic leadership?

Toxic leadership is a selfish orientated “egocentric” management style. This unprofessional leadership behavior do not focus on the company or a team’s mission, but on the personal goals of the leader. 

These leaders are often charming people who know how to win over others with their charisma, but this power comes at a price: it means squashing dissent and silencing voices that question their authority.

If a leader can’t be swayed by logic or reason, then you know he or she isn’t fit for leadership. 

Why? Because this person will never be able to make good decisions for the company.

Let’s have a look at how to recognize a company or team that is dealing with a toxic leader. 

Common signs of toxic leaders

  • Toxic leaders often have a large ego and are not open to criticism.
  • They talk more and listen less.
  • They don’t ask for opinions and feedback, they tell. 
  • They don’t like being questioned.
  • They don’t like to be held accountable.
  • They think they are always right.
  • They can be defensive when criticized, even when the criticism is valid and well-deserved.
  • Toxic leaders make decisions without consulting others.
  • Poor teamwork and cooperation with other departments

The main goal for such a personality is not caring about what is best for the team; they only care about what is best for themselves and their reputation within it

Many well-known politicians, entrepreneurs, psychologists, and philosophes have said an apt quote on bad and toxic leadership. 

And so I’ve written down a collection of the best quotes related to toxic leadership.

Most of these quotes are not based on a critical view of toxic management. They are touching on the points a company or leader should be focusing on to avoid it.

These are famous leaders’ quotes for those, who want to become great leaders

51 Famous Quotes on Toxic Leadership

“I’ve always believed that the difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi.

“When leadership gets bad, everyone suffers.”Unknown

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Arnold H. Glasow - Leadership quote

“It is an old prerogative of kings to govern everything but their passions.” – Charles Dickens.

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” – Bob Nelson.

“Bad leadership turns good employees into enemies.” – Unknown

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” – Arnold H. Glasow.

“Leadership – leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.” – Mitt Romney.

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” – Henry Ward Beecher.

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” – Paul Hawken.

“Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time.” – George W. Bush.

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” – Bob Dylan.

As legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” – Vince Lombardi

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

“Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” – Jean-Paul Sartre.

“The cautious seldom err.” – Confucius.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu.

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  – Nelson Mandela.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“Leadership consists of picking good men and helping them do their best.” – Chester W. Nimitz.

“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine. – Chris Hadfield.

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Colin Powell.

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker.

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller.

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” – Harold S. Geneen.

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger. 

“The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.” – Casey Stengel.

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.” – J. Paul Getty.

“It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.” – Dee Hock.

““The servant-leader is servant first, it begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first, as opposed to, wanting power, influence, fame, or wealth.” –  Robert K. Greenleaf

“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” – Bill Bradley.

“If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” – Thomas Aquinas.

Ray Kroc - Leadership quotes

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton.

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” – Ray Kroc. 

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado.

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

“Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention.” – Deepak Chopra.

“The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way.” – Henry Miller.

“Ego can’t sleep. It micro-manages. It disempowers. It reduces our capability. It excels in control.” – Robert K. Greenleaf.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey.

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” – Laurence J. Peter.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln.

The selfish man suffers more from his selfishness than he from whom that selfishness withholds some important benefit.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The leader is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity … out of discord, harmony … and out of difficulty, opportunity.” – Albert Einstein.

“Honor bespeaks worth. Confidence begets trust. Service brings satisfaction. Cooperation proves the quality of leadership.” – James Cash Penney. 

“One must be convinced to convince, to have enthusiasm to stimulate the others.” – Stefan Zweig.

“A manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.” – Frederick W. Smith.

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs.


Toxic leadership can be a problem in any organization, but it’s important to know that it isn’t inevitable. 

There are ways to recognize the signs of it and take steps towards creating a positive environment and healthy work culture.

And strong leaders like those from our quotes are proven they know how to create such an environment. 

I hope our list has shown you the way a good leader can avoid falling into the trap of toxic leadership.  

Furthermore, they might be used as a refreshing part of your next management meeting or to create engaging social media posts for your profile.

If you’re looking for more leadership inspirations, check our latest post: best movies about leadership and teamwork.


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