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14 Renaissance leadership quotes that still apply today


Even the best leaders can find themselves in a rut. If your leadership style feels stuck in the dark ages, why not turn to Renaissance leadership quotes to help move it forward?

The Renaissance era is filled with guidance from forward-thinking and groundbreaking intellectuals. Let their points of view spark a fire in your leadership.

Spanning from the 14th to the 17th century, the Renaissance is considered the bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. The Renaissance was a rich period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic growth.

While many think of the Renaissance as simply a time of art and ideas, it was also a period of cultural revolution, promoting the rediscovery of classical philosophy and literature.

Some of the greatest minds in human history influenced the era, with authors, statesmen, scientists and artists exchanging ideas, while global exploration opened up new lands and cultures to European commerce. Names like da Vinci, Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Descartes were among the minds shaping the era.

The words and influence of this great era echo today, with lessons any leader or manager can apply. Here’s what some of the artists and architects behind that Renaissance era had to say that still resonates in today’s world, along with Insperity blogs that can help you put their words into action.

On training and development

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 to 1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, writer and mathematician known for his scientific inquiry and mechanical inventiveness.

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“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him to find it for himself.”

Galileo Galilei, Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher and mathematician, who lived 1564 to 1642, is known as the father of modern astronomy and physics.

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On communicating

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”

Martin Luther, a German theologian and religious reformer who was the catalyst behind the Protestant Reformation. Luther lived from 1483 to 1546.

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“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

William Shakespeare, the prolific playwright and towering figure regarded as one of the best writers in the English language. Shakespeare lived 1564 to 1616, helping lead the English Renaissance.

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“A speech comes alive only if it rises from the heart, not if it floats on the lips.”

Desiderius Erasmus, who lived 1466 to 1536, was a Dutch philosopher, humanist and theologian widely considered to have been the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance.

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“Saying is one thing, doing another.”

Michel de Montaigne, French philosopher known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre, who lived from 1533 to 1592.

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On leadership and management

“Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.”

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, better known as Michelangelo, the Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet who lived 1475 to 1564.

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“Strong reasons make strong actions.”

William Shakespeare

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“Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems.”

René Descartes, widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy, the French philosopher, mathematician and scientist lived 1596 to 1650.

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“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”

Niccolò Machiavelli, Italian political philosopher and historian, who lived 1469 to 1527 and was a key figure in realist political theory.

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“Fortune is powerless to help one who does not exert himself.”

Leonardo da Vinci          

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“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.”

Michel de Montaigne

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“He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.”

Niccolò Machiavelli

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“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.”

René Descartes

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Want to learn how these Renaissance leadership quotes still apply in the modern world? Download and read our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.