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Maya Angelou on Leadership Communication

communication courage leadership
A photo of Maya Angelou with a quote from her that concludes people will never forget how you made them feel.


By John Millen

As a writer and teacher of leadership communication, I use a lot of quotes, stories and metaphors to influence positive outcomes in people.

My favorite of all quotes, the one I use nearly every keynote or coaching session is from the poet and writer Dr. Maya Angelou:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

You need only think about a hurtful comment in your past to understand the truth of this quote.

In fact, I tell leaders that if they get nothing else from our work together, they should take Angelou’s statement to heart and use it in their communication every day.

And, in the face of the “great resignation” and our fragmented workplace relationships, the power of Angelou’s sentiment has never been stronger.

With this in mind, I smiled this week when I learned that the U.S. Mint announced Maya Angelou will be featured on the American quarter dollar

If you’re not familiar with Angelou, who passed away in 2014 at age 86, she was a poet laureate, college professor, Broadway actress and dancer, among many other vocations.

She was also a prolific author of essays, poetry and seven autobiographies, including the powerful I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. *

Here are other Maya Angelou insightful quotes that inspire me, so I share them with my listeners:

  • When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
  • A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.
  • I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
  • I am convinced that courage is the most important of all virtues. Because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently….it is only with courage that you can be persistently and insistently kind and generous and fair.

If you’re one of my clients and we work together in person again, don’t be surprised if I hand you a coin.

I’ll tell you to remember that when you speak people will never forget how you made them feel.

Thank you, Maya Angelou.


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John Millen

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