“If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton
How can you and I possibly use this leadership quote?
A lack of humility in a leader who is in the public spotlight can have a dramatically bad effect on the perception of those who follow us.
I was castigated by one of my Twitter followers for quoting this, because, he said, it is so oft repeated all over the internet. As Newton wrote to himself, “Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth.” The headline quote, without a doubt he saw as the truth. And it is one of the most famous leadership quotes you can find in the proverbial manual.
As one who has scientific training, I make no apology for repeating this quote. I regularly walk through the grounds of Trinity College, Cambridge where Sir Isaac Newton amongst so many others was a member. A feel overawed and hear the echoes of history all around me. There is no doubt that so many have stood on the shoulders of Newton.
We, who may tend towards arrogance, we leaders who are sometimes surrounded by “yes-men” (oh how they are to be avoided) should listen to Newton and learn some humility from a man with one of the greatest brains and who made some of the greatest discoveries of all time.
He did not claim to know everything, even though he gained adulation in his own lifetime. He knew he couldn’t possibly know everything. As he said “To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age. ‘Tis much better to do a little with certainty, & leave the rest for others that come after you, than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing.”
The great ocean of Truth
And to finish this little homily to one of my heroes, I believe this to be probably his greatest saying and one of the most inspirational leadership quotes I keep coming back to every now and again:
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
Acknowledge our boundaries
What he appears to me is something more than a little boy playing on the seashore, but I catch his drift :). By acknowledging our boundaries and limitations, we attain greater heights than we ever will by appearing to think we know everything.
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