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General Colin Powell: 18 Lessons from a very successful leader

General Colin Powell is a leader that I admire. I ran across this list in my travels and thought it worth sharing.

Lesson 1: “Good leaders sometimes make people unhappy.”

Lesson 2: “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 a relationship”

Lesson 3: “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.”

Lesson 4: ” Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.”

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: “Organization 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.”

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 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.”

Lesson 14: (Borrowed by Powell from Michael Korda): “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Lesson 15 Part I: “Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.”

Lesson 15 Part II: “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 proven 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 and play hard.”

Lesson 18: “Command is lonely.”

[Source: Little Africa]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire