Leadership Poems to Motivate and Inspire

Leadership poems can be powerful tools that leaders can leverage to drive home critical leadership messages.

Poems, used similar to how you might sprinkle in a motivational quote or two into your next presentation, can make a powerful impact and add additional value to your team. 

leadership poem

We hope you'll enjoy our Leadership Poem Collection

Great leaders use every tool at their disposal to empower, inspire, ignite emotion, and create positive change in the heart and mind of the reader.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said that power is the ability to achieve purpose. Therefore the poet has a huge responsibility when it comes to the choice of the words she uses.

Everyone has in them the ability to be a poet since all of us are born with the ability to be truthful. 

The primary role of the poet is to be honest. The goal of the poet is make others think inwardly. As a result, there is not much difference between a poet and a leader since both demand truth and thoughtful action.

"One can only agree that when the skillful poet tells the truth, he often speaks the words that we recognize as our own."

We have compiled a collection of fun and meaningful leadership poems, with the purpose of providing you with thoughtful tools and lessons that promote positive change.

These leadership poems were selected because they provide timeless wisdom and insight. Really great poems can reflect how things really are, or provide a unique perspective on how things ought to be. In the wise words of Armando Martinez, "a poet must always be willing to speak up because a word or a line can save a life." (not to mention possibly saving an important project or your career)

It would certainly be interesting to know how many inspiring poems have made a meaningful difference in a person's life; halted a suicide attempt; rescued a failing relationship,  or provided the necessary push for a person to take action and overcome obstacles.

Obviously, we'll never know the answer to those questions, but what we do know is that poetry can move men and women into action; to change direction, and provide the motivation to persist in life when they might otherwise lose sight of what is truly "worth while". Here's a great example... 

Worth While

‘Tis easy enough to be pleasant
When life flows on like a song,
But the man worth while is the man with a smile
When everything else goes wrong.

- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Leadership Poem: Worth While

"Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful."

- Rita Dove

Leadership Poem Collection

The following is a collection of leadership poems from a variety of leadership poets that we believe offer insightful lessons on life and the art of leadership.

We have identified a leadership trait that can be supported by each selected poem. Think about how you might incorporate these poems into your next staff meeting or presentation and determine how poems can be another kind of leadership development tool for your team. Enjoy.

Message of leadership poem:  Persistence is required of winners  

Just Keep on a Fishin’

Supposin’ that th’ fish don’t bite,
What’s th’ use o’ yer retreatin’
An’ sneakin’ ‘round by th’ back way,
Jest appearin’ ‘s’tho yew’re beaten?
‘Taint no use o’ givin’ up
An’ be content with jest o’ wishin.’
Come now! Throw in yer hook agin;
Mebby some old speckled beauty
‘S a waitin’ in that shady hole
Fer yew t’ dew yer solemn dewty.
Come now! Throw in yer hook agin
An’ grin ‘n’ jest keep on a fishin’.

Some day th’ sun don’t shine jest right,
Th’ wind don’t seem t’ be a blowin’
From th’ right quarter; so yew see
Yer ketch aint hardly worth th’ crowin’
Over when yew git it home,
An’ yew humps right down ‘n’ goes t’ wishin’.
But what’s th’ use? Brace up, old man
An’ put away yer dumps ‘n’ sorrow;
If yew aint got no bites t’ day,
Jest try agin ‘n’ try t’morrow.
Try agin, yer luck’ll turn;
Jest grin ‘n’ keep right on a fishin’.

Of course, yew’ve tramped ‘n’ tramped ‘n’ tramped;
Yer legs ‘er short ‘n’ feet a draggin’;
Yer back’s a achin’, ‘n’ all yew’ve ketched
Aint worth the while o’ any braggin’;
Yew’re out o’ wind; but ‘taint no use
In settin’ down ‘n’ jest o’ wishin’.
Ther’s lots o’ things yew might wish fer
Thet other folks around are gittin’.
Jest throw yer hook right in agin,
An’ grin ‘n’ jest keep on a fishin’.

Yer neighbor got his basket full!
Well, what o’ that? Yew aint a cryin’
Because he found that dandy hole
‘Fore yew was up, ‘n’ kept a tryin’?
Don’t do no good t’ git up late
An’ poke around a jest a wishin’.
Git up, old man before th’ sun,
An have yer bait all dug ‘n’ ready
T’ make them specked beauties’ feast,
Thet’s shinin’ in that pool so shady.
An’ now’s yer chance! Throw in yer hook!
An’ grin ‘bn’ jest keep on a fishin’.

Yew’re bound t’ git yer bite some day
‘F yew hang right on ‘n’ keep a fishin’.
Spit on th’ bait, work every trick;
It’s better ‘n’ t’ only keep a wishin’.
I swan! I’d ruther fish all day
Without a bite than jest a wishin’
An nothin’ doin’ on th’ bank.
Yew git some good fer jest a tryin’.
Yew have ben faithful, man. “Well done”
Will sound real good when yew’re a dyin’;
So never mind defeat t’ day,
Jest grin ‘n’ keep right on a fishin’.

- Uncle Sant

Message of leadership poem: Honesty wins the day 

Nobility

True worth is in being, not seeming,-
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good, not in the dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.

- Alice Cary

Message of leadership poem: Make the most of the time you have on earth

A Leaf of Paper

Life is a leaf of paper white,
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two, and then comes night.
Greatly begin! Though thou have time
But for a line, be that sublime, -
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.  

- James Russell Lowell

Message of leadership poem: The world makes way for the determined man or woman

Determination

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,
Can circumvent, or hinder, or control
The firm resolve of a determined soul.
Gifts count for nothing; will alone is great;
All things give way before it soon or late.
What obstacle can stay the mighty force
Of the sea-seeking river in its course,
Or cause the ascending orb of day to wait?
Each well-born soul must win what it deserves.
Let the fool prate of luck.
The fortunate is he whose earnest purpose never swerves
Whose slightest action or inaction serves
The one great aim.

- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Message of leadership poem: Courage is required of leaders

The Inevitable

I like the man who faces what he must
With step triumphant and a heart of cheer;
Who fights the daily battle without fear;
Sees his hopes fail, yet keeps unfaltering trust
That God is God; That somehow, true and just,
His plans work out for mortals; not a tear
Is shed when fortune, which the world holds dear,
Falls from his grasp; better, with love, a crust
Than living is dishonor; envies it,
Nor loses faith in man; but does his best,
Nor even murmurs at his humbler lot;
But with a smile and words of hope, gives zest
To every toiler; he alone is great
Who by a life heroic conquers fate.

- Sarah Knowles Bolton

Message of leadership poem: Great rewards from daily persistence

Goethe's Philosophy

Yes, to this thought I hold with firm persistence; The last result of wisdom stamps it true: He only earns his freedom and existence Who daily conquers them anew.

- Goethe

Message of leadership poem: Always take time to enjoy the journey

Why Don't You Laugh?

Why don’t you laugh, young man, when troubles come,
Instead of sitting ‘round so sour and glum?
You cannot have all play,
And sunshine every day;
When troubles come, I say, why don’t you laugh?

Why don’t you laugh? ‘T will ever help to soothe
The aches and pains. No road in life is smooth;
There’s many an unseen bump,
And many a hidden stump
O’er which you’ll have to jump. Why don’t you laugh?
Why don’t you laugh?

Don’t let your spirits wilt;
Don’t sit and cry because the milk you’ve spilt;
If you would mend it now,
Pray let me tell you how;
Just milk another cow! Why don’t you laugh?

Why don’t you laugh, and make us all laugh, too,
And keep us mortals all from getting blue?
A laugh will always win;
If you can’t laugh, just grin, -
Come on, let’s all join in! Why don’t you laugh?

- from The Independent

Message of leadership poem: Be optimistic and actively lead your life

Life Is What We Make It

Let’s find the sunny side of men,
Or be believers in it;
A light there is in every soul
That takes the pains to win it.
Oh! There’s a slumbering good in all,
And we perchance may wake it;
Our hands contain the magic wand;
This life is what we make it.

- Boston Transcript

Message of leadership poem: Worry is a waste of time

Worry

The burdens that make us groan and sweat,
The troubles that make us fume and fret,
Are the things that haven’t happened yet. 

- George Bain

"Wine is bottled poetry."

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Message of leadership poem:  Choosing happiness is a great gift to yourself

Our Lives Are Songs

Our lives are songs
God writes the words
And we set them to music at leisure;
And the song is sad, or the song is glad,
As we choose to fashion the measure.

We must write the song
Whatever the words,
Whatever its rhyme or meter;
And if it is say, we must make it glad,
And if sweet, we must make it sweeter.

- Gibbons

Message of leadership poem: With age and experience comes great wisdom

The One I Hate

I have in me a tendency to hate,
Yet see with joy that tendency abate,
As each new year against my casement knocks
And leaves his drift among my temple locks.

For sometimes I hated hard and long,
And found, too late, that I had hated wrong.
I hold, at length, one dominant belief:
Hate comes but when acquaintance is too brief.
So now, when half inclined to nurture spite
Against some one I deem eschews the right,
I let not judgement yield unto my huff,
But say, “I do not know him well enough.”
For always comes this thought to give me pause,
To plead the erring human’s doubtful cause;
Although my eyes discover only ill,

God knows him through and through – yet loves him still.  

- Strickland Gillian

Message of leadership poem: Break bad habits or they will break you

Habit

How shall I a habit break?
As you did that habit make.
As you gathered, you must lose;
As you yielded, now refuse.
Thread by thread the strands we twist,
Till they bind us, neck and wrist;
Thread by thread the patient hand
Must untwine, ere free we stad;
As we builded, stone by stone,
We must toil unhelped, alone,
Till the wall is overthrown.  

- John Boyle O'Reilly

Message of leadership poem: Focused and resolute effort prevails

Toiling Upward In The Night

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb,
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summit of our time.

- Longfellow

Message of leadership poem: Will power often determines victory and success

Persistence

The force that is going to carry you to your goal,
Is coiled up inside of you, in your energy, your pluck, your grit,
Your originality, your character, and your possession of a strong,
Persistent, tenacious purpose.

Whatever you do in life, keep in an ambition – arousing atmosphere.
Keep close to those who are dead in earnest,
Who are anxious to do something in the world.
You will catch the spirit of your environment.

- Orison Swett Marden

Message of leadership poem:  Mastery over self builds character

A True Hero

Let others write of battles fought,
Of bloody, ghastly fields,
Where honor greets the man who wins,
And death, the man you yields;
But I will write of him who fights
And vanquishes his sins,
Who struggles on through weary years
Against himself, and wins.
Here lies a soldier, whom all must applaud;
Who fought many batles at home and abroad.
But the hottest engagement he ever was in,
Was the conquest of self in the battle of sin.
Who conquers self, - he is a hero born,
His name may die, forgotten by his peers,
But yet the seed he sowed in care and tears

Shall bear rich harvest through immortal years.

- F.A. Shaw

Message of leadership poem: Personal ownership is freedom

A Striking Scene

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie
Which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky
Gives us free scope; and only backward pulls
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.

How much I could do if I only tried. 

- Shakespeare

Message of leadership poem: How you think determines your reality

Thinking

When you think you’re beaten, you are.
When you think you dare not, you don’t.
When you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It is a sure thing that you won’t.

When you think that you’ll lose, you’ve lost;
For out in the world you will find
Success begins with a man’s will –
It’s all in the state of mind.
When you think you’re outclassed, you are.
You have got to think BIG to rise;
You have to FEEL sure of yourself
Before you can win a great prize.
Life’s battle does not always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the one who THINKS he can. 

- Unknown

Message of leadership poem: Belief in yourself attracts opportunity

Striving

To dare is better than to doubt,
For doubt is always grieving;
‘Tis faith that finds the riddles out;
The prize is for believing. 

- Henry Burton

Message of leadership poem: Ownership of where you are in life ensures a better future

The Power of "I"

I WILL DO MORE
I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And what I can do, I ought to do.
And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.
I will do more than belong...I will participate.
I will do more than care...I will help.
I will do more than believe...I will practice.
I will do more than be fair...I will be kind.
I will do more than dream...I will work.
I will do more than teach...I will inspire.
I will do more than earn...I will enrich.
I will do more than give...I will serve.
I will do more than live...I will grow.
I will do more than talk...I will act.
I will be more than good...I will be good for something.

- Anonymous

Want More Leadership Poems?

Thanks for visiting our Leadership Poem Collection - we hope you've enjoyed the poems we chose for your consideration.

Do you want to view some additional selections? Check out our encore collection of leadership poems.

› Leadership Poem

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