Colin Powell on Leadership

Colin Powell on Leadership

I recently ran across this presentation by Colin Powell. I believe the lessons are timeless.

Lesson 1 – Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off

Lesson 2 – The day your people 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 is a failure of leadership

Lesson 3 – Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgement. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world

Lesson 4 – Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard. Leadership does not emerge from blind obedience in anyone

Lesson 5 – Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant

Lesson 6 – You don’t know what you can get away with until you try

Lesson 7 – Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so (just) because you might not like what you find.

Lesson 8 – Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.

Lesson 9 – Organizational charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.

Lesson 10 – Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it. Effective leaders create a climate where people’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities.

Lesson 11 – Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.

Lesson 12 – Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier

Lesson 13 – Powell’s Rules for Picking People: Look for intelligence and judgement, 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.

Lesson 14 – Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution anybody can understand.

Lesson 15 – Part 1: Use the formula P = 40 to 70, in which P is the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. Part 2: Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut

Lesson 16 – The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise

Lesson 17 – Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it: Spend time with your families. Corollary: Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard play hard.

Lesson 18 – Command is lonely.

Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible