Lead with Head & Heart: 88 quotes on the power of kindness and giving

July 2018 marked the 100-year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Nelson Mandela is celebrated around the world for his leadership style. At the heart of his leadership, arguably more than any other leader, was the triumph of love over hate and fear.

If you think of the leaders through history and current times who are world class, who produced consistently great results, they have some characteristics in common – surely smart, resilient, visionary, deep business acumen in their field of expertise. These are well socialized qualities of great leadership. We measure their success and value their “personal brand” in terms of productivity, Return on Investment and others.

But one other quality demonstrated by the best leaders I have admired and do admire most is often less celebrated: kindness. Worst, it might at times be seen as a sign of weakness or as a nice-to-have-but-unnecessary personality trait. Also think of it as thoughtfulness, paying it forward, giving to those who cannot do anything in return or little, giving without expecting anything in return, giving some of our most precious resource to others: time, giving a simple smile or kind word or a message of gratitude …

Yet, Return in Kindness might be the best little kept secret in the world, including in business … inspiring, contagious, powerful, and a key driver of better results and impact on others, business, the economy and society.

As the proverb says, “The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose”.

What happens when we put kindness at the center of our leadership?

There’s plenty of hard evidence suggesting that kind leaders get better outcomes.

Emma Seppala, Ph.D, a Research Scientist at Stanford University and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, details several studies in her article, Hard Data on Being A Nice Boss, at Harvard Business Review.

That’s also the message in one of my favorite books, by Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, Give and Take: Why helping others drive our success.

He highlights how the real power lies in becoming a giver. Those who succeed (not only personally but for their clients and companies) don’t take or match. They give, although they’re not necessarily philanthropic. The book is full of stories of successful givers and tips on how to become a successful giver. It beautifully illustrates a huge belief and core value of mines: look to sort out other people’s problems, to help them or add value to them even when there is nothing in return for you, and it will pay off (sometimes serendipitously).

Here is a great quote from the book: “This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Each individual has the power to drive positive change wherever they are and whoever they are.

Everyone can help, influence and inspire, empower the people around them one way or another.

That’s what Drew Dudley calls on all of us in his funny Ted Talk, Leading With Lollipops: to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.

So … Which souls did you enlighten today? How will you do more of it tomorrow?

Here are my top 88 quotes on kindness and giving to inspire you!

  1. “Don’t mistake politeness for lack of strength.” Sonya Sotomayor


  1. “Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people.” Aung San Suu Kyi


  1. “A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” Zeus, from Hercules


  1. “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain


  1. “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa


  1. “When you plant a tree

every leaf that grows will tell you,

what you sow will bear fruit.

So if you have any sense, my friend

don’t plant anything but love,

you show your worth by what you seek.” Rumi


  1. “Your acts of kindness are iridescent wings of Divine Love, which linger and continue to uplift others long after your sharing.” Rumi


  1. “Well, your greatest joy definitely comes from doing something for another, especially when it was done with no thought of something in return.” John Wooden


  1. “Render more service than that which you are paid and you will soon be paid for more than you render. The law of increasing returns takes care of this.” Napoleon Hill


  1. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie


  1. “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.”

“If the other person injures you, you may forget the injury; but if you injure him you will always remember.”

“It is well to give when asked but it is better to give unasked, through understanding.”

“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.”

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Khalil Gibran


  1. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia


  1. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato


  1. “A generous heart, kind speech, & a life of service & compassion are the things which renew humanity.” Buddha


  1. “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” John Holmes


  1. “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.” First Lady Barbara Bush


  1. “To feel intimacy of brothers, is a marvelous thing of life to feel the love of people whom we love is a dire that deeds our life, but to feel affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknowns to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses, that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our beings and unites all living things” Pablo Neruda


  1. “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. “Remember this. Hold on to this. This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting meaning. This is why we’re here.” Andre Agassi


  1. “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahlil Gibran


  1. “From what we get, we can make a living. What we give, however, makes a life.” Arthur Ashe


  1. “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Malcolm S. Forbes.


  1. “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” Albert Einstein


  1. “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. “You don’t have to move mountains, simply fall in love with life. Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance. You will change the world by just being a kind warm hearted human being” Anita Krizzan


  1. “The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture is the set.” The Dalai Lama


  1. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Maya Angelou


  1. “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou


  1. “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” Mark Twain


  1. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Gandhi


  1. “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively” Bob Marley


  1. So, let us reflect what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.” Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness


  1. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness


  1. “My biggest mistake is probably weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.” Elon Musk


  1. “If you can’t help people, then what is the point of being successful?” Matt Damon, Nominee for Best Actor in a Leading Role for “The Martian”


  1. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”Eleanor Roosevelt


  1. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou


  1. “One kind word can warm three winter months.” Japanese Proverb


  1. “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” Mark Twain


  1. “A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” Zeus (Hercules) Disney


  1. “By developing a strong network, people can gain invaluable access to knowledge, expertise, and influence. Extensive research demonstrates that people with rich networks achieve higher performance ratings, get promoted faster, and earn more money. And because networks are based on interactions and relationships, they serve as a powerful prism for understanding the impact of reciprocity styles on success.”

“If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensue from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.”

“The more I help out, the more successful I become. But I measure success in what it has done for the people around me. That is the real accolade.”

“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

  1. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Martin Luther King


  1. “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson


  1. “The more you give, the more you want to do it—as do others around you. It’s like going to the gym. If you’ve been working out your kindness muscles, you get stronger at it. “ Nipun Mehta


  1. “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.” Ralph Nichols


  1. “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” Paulo Coelho


  1. “You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate: only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.” Charlie Chaplin


  1. “You need Power, only when you want to do something harmful otherwise Love is enough to get everything done.” Charlie Chaplin


  1. “Heart is what separates the good from the great.” Michael Jordan


  1. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

Maya Angelou


  1. “You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” Audrey Hepburn


  1. “Since the world has existed, there has been injustice. But it is one world, the more so as it becomes smaller, more accessible. There is just no question that there is more obligation that those who have should give to those who have nothing.” Audrey Hepburn


  1. “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.” Audrey Hepburn


  1. “Make-up can only make you look pretty on the outside but it doesn’t help if your ugly on the inside. Unless you eat the make-up.” Audrey Hepburn


  1. “The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” Audrey Hepburn


  1. “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

“Whoever is happy will make others happy.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.”

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

Anne Frank

  1. “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa


  1. “Honesty is a very expensive gift, do not expect it from cheap people.” Warren Buffet


  1. “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Never throw out anyone.” Audrey Hepburn


  1. “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha


  1. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

The Little Prince, St Exupery


  1. “Be a rainbow in someone else cloud.” Maya Angelou


  1. “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Maya Angelou


  1. “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” Thích Nhất Hạnh


  1. “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Madeleine Albright


  1. “See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see.” Dr. Wayne Dyer


  1. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only lift can do this. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do this.” Martin Luther king


  1. “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro


  1. “It takes courage to stay delicate in a world this cruel.” Beau Taplin, Shed Your Sharp Edges


  1. “Be an encourager the world has plenty of critics already.” Dave Willis


  1. “Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.” Pablo Neruda


  1. “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton


  1. “This world is in deep trouble, but it can be swiftly healed by the balm of love.” Rumi


  1. “dont you know yet? it is your light that lights the world.” Rumi


  1. “life most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others.” Martin Luther King


  1. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” Graham Moore accepting his award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game.


  1. “Call your mum, everybody. I’ve told this to like a billion people or so, call your mum, call your dad. If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t email, call them on the phone. Tell them you love then and thank them and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you. Thank you Mum and Dad.” Best Supporting Actor winner J.K.Simmons


  1. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams


  1. “When you have a voice you have an obligation to use it to empower others.” Diane Von Funtersberg


  1. “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Albert Einstein


  1. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Mohammed Ali


  1. “Heart is what separates the good from the great.” Michael Jordan


  1. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” Nelson Mandela


  1. “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Princess Diana


  1. “You cannot do a kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth


  1. “When someone is kind to you, you feel understood and seen.” John O’Donohue