Leadership Lessons from Maya Angelou

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Posted by Jaime Leben

June 11, 2014

maya-angelouAs you've likely heard, our country lost someone who was quite possibly the definition of a national treasure. Dr. Maya Angelou was a "warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” as noted on her website. For most, including myself, she was best known for her writing and sharing of inspirational words. Even though she is now gone, her words will live on.

I looked at some of her quotes main tribute, and I was reminded of their simplicity, power, and, most of all, grace. Below are some of Dr. Maya Angelou's most uplifting pieces. Not only are these words to live by, but many of are lessons that apply directly to workplace management and leadership.

The 7 Best Quotes by Maya Angelou


Maya_Angelou_LeadershipMy mom very much dislikes the phrase, “It is what it is”, but I find that this quote is a much more eloquent way of saying just that. Sometimes you cannot change what is, but you can change how you approach it.


Nothing_Will_Work_Unless_You_DoI have a confession: I have been known to have a little problem with procrastination. I would be fully embarrassed by this, but I know I’m not the only one. I’ve found that my procrastination often comes when I’m nervous to start a new project or initiative, for fear that it will fail or fall short. Well, of course it will, if one never takes the first step.


People_Will_Forget_What_You_Did_but_not_how_you_made_them_feelDon’t we all need a reminder on this one every once in awhile? Work can be fast-paced, overwhelming, monotonous, and a whole bunch of other not so positive sounding things, but that’s not to be rude or not say thank you. On the flip side, it’s amazing how positive feedback and a thank you can stick with someone.


History_Despite_Wrenching_PainsLast year I had a bad meeting with a customer. I won’t go into details, but it was the kind of meeting you walk out of feeling utterly defeated, and I did. I felt utterly defeated. In order to move past it, I did the only thing I could. I picked myself up, made a plan, and worked through the issues and concerns brought up in said meeting. When with the same customer months later, the meeting and outcomes were a complete opposite from the previous encounter, all due to facing the situation without fear and moving forward.


In_Diversity_there_is_beauty-2 As HR professionals, we hear about diversity each and every day. I think the word strength in this quote is  the most powerful. The idea that we can become stronger because of our differences rather than in spite of them.



You_can_only_become_truly_accomplished_at_something_you_loveDon’t you just love the idea of this? While for many of us, we will always have to keep money as a consideration within our career choices, but we should remember to not make it the main focus. To really feel accomplished and fulfilled by our work, or at least most parts of it, should be the true goal, and quite often the other items will fall into place.



If_you_get_GIVEI wanted to leave you with this one, as it’s the simplest of all, but is a great reminder that we all have something to share, because we’ve all had something shared with us.

So, while we mourn the loss of a profoundly talented individual, we are reminded that her words will live on, and we can use them as insight into both our personal and professional lives.


This post was written by Jaime Leben. Jaime has over 10 years of experience in the RPO space working all aspects of the recruiting process as well as assisting with Implementation and Sales with various clients and industries. She started with Yoh’s RPO division in 2009, and currently works to drive recruitment, on-boarding, and process improvement for Internal Recruiting as well as her role as an Operations manager for small RPO programs. She holds a B.A. in Communications from U.W.S.P., and lives in Southeastern Wisconsin with her husband Jim, and 5 year old son, Carter.

Topics: Leadership & Management

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