Aphorisms endure because they capture sage advice in memorable phrases. Our question is what do some of the more enduring aphorisms and memorable quotes teach us about leadership?
Aphorisms are built upon analogies that concisely capture complex ideas. The power of analogies lies in their ability to explain something less familiar in terms of something more familiar. For example, the analogies expressed in the aphorisms “talk is cheap”, “practice what you preach”, and “actions speak louder than words”, enable us to map the known concept of monetary or moral value to speech and position the relative value of speech and behavior in human relationships. These same relationships are embodied in the popular aphorism about leadership which states that it is not enough for leaders to “talk the talk” they must also “walk the walk”. Yes, leaders inspire people through their oratory skills, but it is their actions that build trust and inspire followers to action.