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Henry Kissinger Quotes on Leadership, Success and Government

Stephanie Kirby, Content Writer

Enjoy these Henry Kissinger quotes that will teach you about success.

Henry Kissinger is a very accomplished man that is a great example of hard work and determination having a greater influence on your life than your beginnings.

You see Henry Kissinger was born in Nazi Germany but came to the United States in 1943.

From his humble beginnings, he later joined the Army and eventually graduated from Harvard.

He then continued his career ascent as he became the United States Secretary of State and then the National Security Adviser, among other things.

Over his military and political career, Henry Kissinger has received many awards, medals, and he is still influential in politics today.

Don’t forget to also check out these wise JP Morgan quotes on success and life.

If you enjoy this article, check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily motivation. 

If you want more motivational quotes, check out our motivational quotes category page.

Wise Henry Kissinger quotes

1. “In crises, the most daring course is often safest.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: Sometimes, when it feels like everything is crashing around us the best course of action is going to be the one that scares you the most. Growth happens when we leave our comfort zones. So, when you are at the crisis of a crossroads, be daring, be bold. Take a risk and you just might discover it was the safest choice after all.

2. “Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: You are the only you there is. You shouldn’t apologize or regret who you are. Own your right to take up space on this planet and shine bright. Accepting and loving yourself doesn’t mean you stopping seeking to grow, it just means you accept that you are important and bring value just by being you!

3. “Whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: If you know that something is going to happen or needs to happen, don’t put it off. We may not like the outcomes of certain decisions for a variety of reasons, but if the answer is clear as to what ultimately will happen, then just go that route. Begin as you mean to go (or know you will end up going)!

4. “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: Have a goal and a clear vision about where you want to end up! Know why it matters to you and you will increase your focus. If you flounder about with no direction then every road will indeed get you nowhere!

5. “Even a paranoid can have enemies.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: This great quote reminds us that two things can be true at the same time. Life is not one or the other all the time. You can love someone and still be upset with them. You can be brilliant and still make a mistake. Even paranoid people might have real enemies. Embrace these seemingly conflicting truths and open your mind to a more complex way of thinking.

6. “Moderation is a virtue only in those who are thought to have an alternative.” – Henry Kissinger

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Everyday Application: We think of moderation as a virtue because it makes us feel good to have a middle ground. Moderation is thought to keep our desires and passions in check; it keeps us from doing things to excess. Kissinger points out that if you do not believe that you could live a life full of your passions and desires, then moderation is not virtuous. You do not realize that you are sacrificing anything.

7. “Art is man’s expression of his joy in labor.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: It is work to create art. Not only do you need some kind of passable talent to make art look appealing, but you need to invest hours and hours transferring the image into your head into some other kind of medium. However, for artists and other creative beings, this is the thing that brings our souls joy.

8. “Any fact that needs to be disclosed should be put out now or as quickly as possible because otherwise, the bleeding will not end.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: Any decision that needs to be made should always be done with as many facts as possible. If you have facts that are pertinent to a situation then you should share them. You can not solve a problem if you do not know all the facets of it.

9. “It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: The truth matters and it should be a simple matter to know what is true. However, people all have different perceptions. Our perception of things dictates what we focus on, how we process things, and the way we interpret the world around us. It impacts the way we remember, interpret, and understand things. We make decisions based on what we think reality is.

10. “If it’s going to come out eventually, better have it come out immediately.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: Honesty is always the best policy. If something is going to come out, then it is better that it just come out now. Rip the band-aid off and deal with the consequences now before it gets worse.

Henry Kissinger quotes on politics and government

11. “Diplomacy: the art of restraining power.” – Henry Kissinger

12. “Most foreign policies that history has marked highly, in whatever country, have been originated by leaders who were opposed by experts.” – Henry Kissinger

13. “You can’t make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria.” – Henry Kissinger

14. “For the greatest part of humanity and the longest periods of history, empire has been the typical mode of government.” – Henry Kissinger

15. “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” – Henry Kissinger

16. “No foreign policy – no matter how ingenious – has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.” – Henry Kissinger

17. “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” – Henry Kissinger

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18. “The American temptation is to believe that foreign policy is a subdivision of psychiatry.” – Henry Kissinger

19. “It was a Greek tragedy. Nixon was fulfilling his own nature. Once it started it could not end otherwise.” – Henry Kissinger

20. “For other nations, utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans, it is just beyond the horizon.” – Henry Kissinger

21. “The statesman’s duty is to bridge the gap between his nation’s experience and his vision.” – Henry Kissinger

22. “The issues are too important to be left for the voters.” – Henry Kissinger

23. “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.” – Henry Kissinger

24. “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” – Henry Kissinger

25. “We are all the President’s men.” – Henry Kissinger

26. “Politicians are like dogs… Their life expectancy is too short for a commitment to be bearable.” – Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger quotes about success

27. “Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.” – Henry Kissinger

28. “If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all of your items, just carry those twenty percent.” – Henry Kissinger

29. “Americans have a tendency to believe that when there’s a problem there must be a solution.” – Henry Kissinger

30. “Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: People will follow a leader before they sign up to follow a vision. It is the leader’s job to convey the benefits of a vision, but if the people do not trust the leader, then they will not trust the vision.

31. “Don’t be too ambitious. Do the most important thing you can think of doing every year and then your career will take care of itself.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: This is an interesting perspective. Think of all of the tasks and goals you are working on right now. Is your focus divided? Are you using your energy on things you don’t really want? If we each accomplished the most important thing we could think of, what would you get done this year?

32. “Empires have no interest in operating within an international system; they aspire to be the international system.” – Henry Kissinger

33. “A leader who confines his role to his people’s experience dooms himself to stagnation; a leader who outstrips his people’s experience runs the risk of not being understood.” – Henry Kissinger

34. “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: A leader has many jobs, but this is a significant one. Inspiring others to create the change (whether personally or on an organizational level) needed to move them from their current place to an unknown place is not easy. It will take hard work, empathy, trust, and intentional focus.

35. “A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.” – Henry Kissinger

Everyday Application: This statement is technically untrue. A diamond did not form from coal, although both are comprised of carbon. A diamond is made from pure carbon that was exposed to immense heat and pressure. Whereas coal, is not pure carbon. Coal contains plant matter and other minerals and elements. However, the idea here is still the same. Had pure carbon not been pressurized, there would be no diamonds. So remember, that our darkest and hardest moments have the potential to yield something beautiful and valuable.

36. “Every victory is only the price of admission to a more difficult problem.” – Henry Kissinger

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More Henry Kissinger quotes

37. “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that, if you bore people, they think it’s their fault.” – Henry Kissinger

38. “Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls but for the consequences of their actions.” – Henry Kissinger

39. “If I should ever be captured, I want no negotiation – and if I should request a negotiation from captivity they should consider that a sign of duress.” – Henry Kissinger

40. “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.” – Henry Kissinger

41. “Behind the slogans lay an intellectual vacuum.” – Henry Kissinger

42. “No country can act wisely simultaneously in every part of the globe at every moment of time.” – Henry Kissinger

43. “High office teaches decision making, not substance. It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it. Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make.” – Henry Kissinger

44. “Blessed are the people whose leaders can look destiny in the eye without flinching but also without attempting to play God.” – Henry Kissinger

45. “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” – Henry Kissinger

46. “Power is the great aphrodisiac.” – Henry Kissinger

47. “It is, after all, the responsibility of the expert to operate the familiar and that of the leader to transcend it.” – Henry Kissinger

48. “The Vietnam War required us to emphasize the national interest rather than abstract principles. What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn’t make it.” – Henry Kissinger

49. “I am being frank about myself in this book. I tell of my first mistake on page 850.” – Henry Kissinger

50. “The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” – Henry Kissinger

What did you learn from these Henry Kissinger quotes?

As the quotes above show, Henry Kissinger is a man of intelligence and ambition.

Throughout his life, he has continued to accomplish things regardless of the circumstances.

One of the reasons Henry Kissinger has been so successful is his focus on the basics.

He may have said it in a different manner, but it is better to focus on less and be successful than try to accomplish everything and succeed in nothing.

Although some historians have different opinions of Mr. Kissinger, his drive and intelligence have allowed him to be influential in politics and business for many years.

Henry Kissinger is a man worth learning about.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Henry Kissinger quotes and sayings?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

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