Colin Powell has long been one of the public figures I most respect. From his time as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to his service both before and after, Powell wields an incisive intellect and has powerful and practical wisdom to share.
A few weeks ago, my boss at Shopzilla forwarded A Leadership Primer – a presentation given by Colin Powell on leadership and victory in business and life. I highly recommend viewing the entire presentation – but here are the summary “Lessons” from his presentation:
- Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.
- The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
- Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.
- Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be double vigilant.
- You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.
- Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so because you might not like what you find.
- Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.
- Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.
- Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.
- Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
- “Powell’s Rules for Picking People: “ Look for intelligence and judgment and most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done.
- Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through argument, debate and doubt – to offer a solution everybody can understand.
- [paraphrased] Use the formula (Probability of success) = 40 to 70 – where the numbers are the percentage of information acquired. Once the information is in the 40-70 range, go with your gut.
- The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.
- Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace.
- Command is lonely
Powell finishes with: “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.”