Every day, I find these inspirational quotes on LinkedIn, most of them reportedly from people that are commonly admired. I have to admit, I am one for this kind of quotes. The good ones go straight from my brain to my heart and spread warm emotions over my whole body. Other things happen, too. Some unconscious part of my mind regrets that I haven’t met those people and probably won’t meet them ever (well, some of them are already dead). Other parts of my brain (and my heart as well) fire: “What a good place this would be if only leaders would act according to these quotes!”. I suppose many fellow followers of these posts react like this. After all these posts are by my private statistics the second-most liked category (the most-liked are highly emotional videos). Yet there are three puzzles left around these inspirational leadership quotes.

Be wary about superstars

First, be wary about celebrity leaders as such. When I was a young manager (and even when I was an older manager), Jack Welsh was the superstar of management. Almost everything he said and did was admired. Forced ranking in performance management, for example, is one of the gifts he gave to this generation of managers. Forced ranking is out today. So is Jack Welch’s myth. And — by the way — also GE; — at least out of the Dow Jones Index. You hardly find Jack Welch quotes on LinkedIn today. Who knows what we might learn later about today’s superstars … .

The knowing-acting gap

Second, there is gap between talk and action. From what we know, some of these superstars had/have a management style that was or is less in line with the warm emotions these quotes bring forth within our hearts. Some of them appear to having been (or being) more on the harsh side of personalities. Most of them will have fought tough battles and wrestled down more than one opponent. This is not to say that they don’t mean what they say in terms of inspirational leadership quotes. On the contrary. After all, they are very smart people. Yet there might still be a (huge) gap between knowing and acting (which applies not only in this specific case). With a dialectical twist, this also poses the question whether or how the behaviours suggested by such quotes actually make success … .

A cry for help?

Finally, what puzzles me is the popularity of these quotes (expressed by today’s means in their number of likes) as such. Is it a way for the masses that suffer from their leaders’ behaviours to express their desires? Or is it a way for people on their leadership tracks to say “I’d know what is right but I have to behave differently” (bringing us back to the dialectical question above)? Is it a way to complain or ist it a cry for help …?

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