It Worked For Me, Gen. Colin Powell


Gen. Colin Powell, former United States Secretary of State shared his thoughts on leadership at the Willow Creek Association's Global Leadership Summit. Here are excerpts from his talk:

On leaders and leadership:

  • Leaders are people who solve problems.
  • Leaders inspire people to go beyond themselves.
  • Successful leaders infect their people.
  • Ego in an emerging leader should be a red flag.
  • Leadership is getting more out of people than science and man say you can.
  • Leadership is all about followership; it's all about the people who get it done.
  • Gen. Powell said that he got the best people he could, people he could trust and people who trusted him.
  • Leadership is all about doing the best job with the opportunity I've been given.

Great quotes:

  • "There is no such thing as an unimportant person in an organization."
  • "Leaders have simple themes that they continually repeat."
  • "It freezes an organization when a leader runs around mad."

5 Key Leadership Lessons:

  1. Take care of your troops.
  2. Have a destination.
  3. Execution is most important
  4. Continually review how you are doing.
  5. Powell noted that he would tell his team, "Tell me early!" He wanted to know what was going on.
  6. Some people say, "Failure is not an option." Yes it is!

Colin Powell's Thirteen Rules:

  1. It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done.
  5. Be careful what you choose: You may get it.
  6. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can't make someone else's choices.  You shouldn't let someone else make  yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

"Leaders are learners. There is much to learn from Gen. Powell. What is your key takeaway from 'these insights? What will you do it with that insight today?

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings. He will not stand before obscure men." - Proverbs 22:29

Note: The "Thirteen Rules" (see above) were excerpted from It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership and provided by the Willow staff in our Summit Notebook.