The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell

Posted on April 6, 2010


Colin Powell is one of the military generals who pursued a successful career in government under the leadership of former President George W. Bush. During his term as a military general and later as Secretary of State of the United States, he learned a lot of lessons that helped him become one of the respected leaders all over the world. He shares a lot of his leadership secrets. The leadership secrets of Colin Powell are not secrets, really. He managed to discover a number of principles he used in managing and leading people.

Powell said that “being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” Let’s face it. You can’t please everyone. And if you have to do your job, you will have to make tough decisions. Some people will like it. Chances are, there are those who will not be please with some of your decisions. The right way to deal with this is to accept the reality of your decisions and stand by them.

“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.”

Communication is very important for any leader. The leader is actually privileged to listen to seemingly mundane cares from the subordinates. After all, a leader cares for the people who work with and under him. If the followers no longer voice out their concern to their superior, then the implications are not good! The leader should start listening to them again.

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

Powell warns us against trusting the experts and the elites blindly. And for good reasons. Sometimes, the data that the experts possess are mere excuses for making real-time decisions in the real world. Most of the time, the models and the decisions advocated by elites tend to be arm chair analyses that might not hold true in the real world.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.” Nobody has the monopoly on truth and good practices. If you feel that you have sufficient power, inspiration and truth on your side, don’t be afraid. Just live your life and start gunning for supremacy even in the turf of the professionals and the veterans. Who knows, you just might win the game.

These are but some of the leadership secrets of Colin Powell. If you follow these advice, you can make significant difference in the way you play your game and lead your people.

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