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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - Elevate Your Leadership: Five Essential Quotes to Inspire Innovation

CEO Advisory

Elevate Your Leadership: Five Essential Quotes to Inspire Innovation

five quotes

In Ron Howard’s 2016 documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week,” Ringo Starr recalls the pep talks John Lennon used to give them when they were feeling miserable in their dismal lodgings in Hamburg in the early Sixties:

“He’d say, ‘Where are we goin’, fellas?’ And we’d go, ‘To the top, Johnny!’ And he’d say, ‘Where’s that, fellas?!’ And we’d say, ‘To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!’ And he’d say, ‘Riiiiight!’ And we’d all sort of cheer up.”

The Beatles, my idols, were innovators in their field of music. They started their journey, dreaming of making it big in the music scene. They persevered when they encountered rejection after rejection along the way to becoming the top music group in pop music history. They embraced their personal growth and experiences to grow and innovate music-making throughout their career.

In business, the axiom “Innovate or Perish” has never been more applicable than today, with the rapid technological advances. All business leaders can up their innovation game by taking the cue from five inspirational quotes.

Quote #1: “Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” – Claude Bissell

The story of Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, illustrates what is possible when you dream big and take risks. Schultz grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a public housing project. He pulled himself up with his bootstraps to launch “Il Giornale,” furthering his dream to open an Italian-style coffee house, and later merged it with Starbucks, and took it to great heights. Under his leadership, Starbucks grew from a few stores to over 20,000 stores globally.

Innovative leaders are fearless in taking risks to fulfill the promise of their dreams. Dreaming big or having a blue-sky vision gives them an enormous canvas to think of possibilities. They are not afraid to take calculated risks.

Risk tolerance is unique to each of us. The spectrum stretches from extremely risk-averse to extremely adventurous or sometimes foolhardy. Taking calculated risks involves building up the courage to do so as you would a muscle by exercising. Taking small risks prime you to take bigger ones.

Quote #2: “Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?” – Robert Noyce: 

Walt Disney epitomized optimism. As recounted in my book, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles,

“After a failed business meeting in New York in 1928, Disney sent a telegram to his brother Roy, telling him not to worry, before boarding the train back to California. He said everything was okay and would provide the details in person. He didn’t tell Roy that he tried to promote his existing popular character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but lost his contract. The indomitable Disney sketched furiously on his three-day train journey back, and a brand-new character Mickey Mouse was born. The rest is history. Optimistic leaders don’t give up in the face of difficulties but persevere.”

As I write in my CEOWorld Magazine column Optimism: What Every Leader Needs Today, “Optimism is contagious. When a team hears a leader say something can be done, and we can do it together, the positivity energizes the team members to pull together and deliver the best for the organization’s success. Balancing optimism by acknowledging the challenges creates a realistic environment that promotes actions and results.”

Quote #3: “No child learns to ride a bike without falling over.” – Amy Edmondson, Right Kind of Wrong 

Elon Musk’s failures are legendary. He had to leave Zip2, a company he started due to disagreements with leadership. He was fired from his position as CEO of PayPal by his co-founder and investor. His first rocket launch was a spectacular failure. His companies, Tesla and SpaceX, were close to collapsing in 2008. Yet, Musk has continued to innovate and won young entrepreneurs’ admiration.

Innovators experiment a lot. Some of these will fail. But those with tenacity understand it is a long and winding road to success, and don’t let failures stop them. They learn from each failure, pivot if necessary, and keep going.

Quote #4: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Leon C. Megginson, paraphrasing Charles Darwin’s ideas on adaptability 

Several business leaders exemplify the spirit of adaptability. Jeff Bezos turned his idea of online bookselling into the e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon. Satya Nadella turned the behemoth Microsoft to become nimble and regain leadership in AI, open source, and cloud computing.

We have several cases where leaders of organizations such as Kodak and Blockbuster missed the opportunities by being rigid in their approaches. Kodak missed out on the digital revolution and Blockbuster on media streaming.

We live in a world that is constantly changing. The pace of change has become rapid due to the speed with which technologies are being developed and how they affect how we live, learn, and conduct business. In this world, those who adapt to the changing conditions emerge victorious.

Quote #5: “Execution is everything.” – John Doerr

In a 2015 question-and-answer session at UC Berkely, John Doerr says,

“I worship at the altar of ideas. I love Innovation. I bet everybody in the room here does, but I’ve seen so many disruptive ideas where there’s not been execution. The team doesn’t get it done. That causes me to admire the innovators who can also lead—who can assemble, recruit, hire and motivate a great team.”

Innovation doesn’t see the light of day without execution, which requires one to be a leader who can share one’s vision, recruit the best people, and inspire the team to do the best with passion, optimism, and can-do spirit.

Elevate Your Innovation Game

Business leaders who innovate set their organizations on a path to success. Be that leader by dreaming big. Don’t let failures deter you from achieving it by being a realistic optimist. Adapt to the changing world by unlearning and re-learning. Execute your strategy by building strong teams to make your dreams a reality.


Written by Shantha Mohan, Ph.D.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Advisory - Elevate Your Leadership: Five Essential Quotes to Inspire Innovation
Shantha Mohan Ph.D.
Shantha Mohan Ph.D. is an Executive In Residence at the Integrated Innovation Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, she was a global software engineering leader and entrepreneur, co-founding Retail Solutions Inc., a retail analytics company. Shantha also has over 20 years of experience focused on mission-critical systems to support semiconductor and other high-value-added manufacturing. She is the author of Roots and Wings - Inspiring stories of Indian Women in Engineering and is a co-author of Demystifying AI for The Enterprise - A Playbook for Business Value and Digital Transformation. Her book, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles, was published by Taylor & Francis in May 2022.


Shantha Mohan Ph.D. is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.