Colin Luther Powell is a United States statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005). He was the first African-American appointed to that position. He was the first, and so far the only, African-American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
***Note – Colin Powell’s 13 rules of leadership are listed at the end of this post.***
Thoughts on Leadership
- Never graduated from West Point. Probably couldn’t get in.
- Where did you go? City college in NY. Public school.
- We all deserve the right stewardship and caring
- Leadership is getting more out of people than the science of management says you can
- You get leadership, by having a vision that has a purpose.
- Leaders inspire people to reach beyond themselves.
- there is no such thing as an unimportant person in an organization.
- You have to constantly show people what their purpose is.
- The best organizations are where the leaders not only show why the vision of the organization is important, but that each person has an important individual vision that helps achieve the organizations vision.
- Leadership is always about followership
- It’s about investing in people who get things done.
- People will listen politely as you tell them about YOUR problem. The problem is, they don’t think its THEIR problem.
- Empowering people always means taking risks.
- You may know more than your subordinates, but as their leader you must give them room to make a decision, a “zone of operation.” to make decisions and lead.
- As you think through how to grow your organization, you must empower your subordinates and you have to trust them.
- Great leaders have a vision and a sense of purpose.
- Leaders repeat simple themes that people understand in order tim impact entire organizations.
- If you want to be a great leader, take care of your troops.
- Execution is the most important part of leadership.
- Constantly review how you are doing.
- Failure is an option every time. Great leaders understand that and deal with it.
Interview with Bill Hybels
Question: Why did you ask wounded soldiers, veterans, “Did you serve well?” (Most people assume you would apologize that they were hurt and wounded)
Answer: Soldiers want to talk about their experience. They aren’t looking for sympathy. They want their service recognized and respected. I’m obviously devastated that they have been injured, but I never apologize for soldiers that want to serve their country and their buddies in arms.
Question: Just beneath of American society is this lurking hostility of racism. Were you ever a part of any racial discrimination? Overcome any minority status?
Answer: Yes. However I was also fortunate to come along when the country was changing. The important thing was always doing the best with what he was given. He took advantage of every opportunity to lead well. Everyone has an obligation to reach down, reach across and help them move on up.
Question: You like to use leadership proverbs. Respond why these mean so much.
a) It’ll look different in the morning
b) Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier
c) Get mad and then get over it
Answer: a) It may not. (laughing) a day can go very bad, but i always go to bed thinking, “its been a bad day, it’s going to be better in the morning” Its not a prediction, its an attitude and aspiration. it’s going to be better because we are going to make it better. Successful leaders infect their leaders
b) You always look for ways to make your people more powerful. Constant optimism does this. We had a great day, we’re going to have a better day. I don’t overdue it, but I try and stay level headed. People look to the leader for confidence.
c) Being mad is a bad attitude. everyone gets mad, but get over it. I don’t find that you act your best when you are mad.If you stay mad, you contaminate the whole organization.
Question: How do you know when to fire a person or give a second chance?
Answer: I always try and adapt to my subordinates. I try to strengthen the weaknesses in my team members. When a subordinate can’t align with the vision, I must let them go.
Question: When you see an aspiring leader, what characteristic do they manifest that puts up warning signs for you?
Answer: Ego. Humility and consideration of others is key.
Question: Have you ever had to tell someone you aren’t cut out to be a leader?
Answer:Yes. Some people are perfect at the level they are at. you promote people based on their potential and not just past performance. Past performance is not always an indicator of potential. When people don’t know its time to get off the train you sometimes need to throw them off.
Question: What leader, on the word stage, did you admire and respect.
Answer: I wont single out a single one because it does a disservice to another leader. I’m a product of everyone who has intersected my life.
Question: Talk about the axiom “tell Me Early.”
Answer: I have always insisted to my staff to tell me early before something blows up. Don’t hide it. If I have time, I can study the situation and often make a plan of action. I had a special phone in my office with a special number that only I was allowed to answer. My trusted friends that helped be my ears in the organization.
Question: What has God done, taught you, about Himself since we were last together?
Answer: Born and baptized Episcopalian. that i need to spend the remainder of my life serving others. Started a student ministry about leadership in our church.
Question: As a parishioner, what would you like to say to pastors and preachers?
Answer: I would say, we come to church to learn more about faith and the Bible. We also want it made relevant in the world we are living. Tell us how it’s relevant and tell us how to apply it. Challenge people.
Colin Powells 13 rules of Leadership
- It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. This rule reflects an attitude and not a prediction. I have always tried to keep my confidence and optimism up, no matter how difficult the situation. Things will get better. You will make them better.
- Get mad, then get over it. I’ve worked hard over the years to make sure that when I get mad, I get over it quickly and never lose control of myself.
- Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. Accept that your position was faulty, not your ego. Loyalty is disagreeing strongly, and loyalty is executing faithfully.
- It can be done! Don’t surround yourself with instant skeptics. At the same time, don’t shut out skeptics and colleagues who give you solid counter views.
- Be careful what you choose. You may get it. Don’t rush into things.
- Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Superior leadership is often a matter of superb instinct. Often, the factual analysis alone will indicate the right choice. More often, your judgment will be needed to select from the best courses of action.
- You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours. Since ultimate responsibility is yours, make sure the choice is yours and you are not responding to the pressure and desire of others.
- Check small things. Success ultimately rests on small things, lots of small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things—a feel for what is going on in the depths of an organization where small things reside. The followers, the troops, live in a world of small things. Leaders must find ways, formal and informal, to get visibility into that world.
- Share credit. People need recognition and a sense of worth as much as they need food and water. Share the credit, take the blame, and quietly find out and fix things that went wrong. Whenever you place the cause of one of your actions outside yourself, it’s an excuse and not a reason.
- Remain calm. Be kind. In the “heat of the battle”—whether military or corporate—kindness, like calmness, reassures followers and holds their confidence. Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will recognize and care for you.
- Have a vision. Be demanding. Purpose is the destination of a vision. It energizes that vision, gives it force and drive. It should be positive and powerful, and serve the better angels of an organization.
- Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. Fear is a normal human emotion. It is not in itself a killer. We can learn to be aware when fear grips us, and can train to operate through and in spite of our fear. If, on the other hand, we don’t understand that fear is normal and has to be controlled and overcome, it will paralyze us and stop us in our tracks. We will no longer think clearly or analyze rationally. We prepare for it and control it; we never let it control us. If it does, we cannot lead.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe and have prepared your followers, the followers will believe.
What stood out to you from this session? Leave a comment and let us know.