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Colin Luther Powell: 5 April 1937 – 18 October 2021 by Jim Sellers

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

This is one of many quotes attributed to legendary public statesman and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Since his retirement from public office in 2004, Powell has spent much of his time sharing his leadership knowledge with the business community.  In his 2012 book, It Worked For Me, Powell attributes his success to hard work, straight talk, respect for others, and thoughtful analysis.

At the heart of the book are Powell’s “13 Rules” — ideas that he gathered over the years that formed the basis of his leadership principals.

Powell’s 13 Rules are listed below. They are full of emotional intelligence and wisdom for any leader.

1. It Ain’t as Bad as You Think! It Will Look Better in the Morning.   Leaving the office at night with a winning attitude affects more than you alone; it conveys that attitude to your followers.

2. Get Mad Then Get Over It.  Instead of letting anger destroy you, use it to make constructive change.

3. Avoid Having Your Ego so Close to your Position that When Your Position Falls, Your Ego Goes With It.  Keep your ego in check, and know that you can lead from wherever you are.

4. It Can be Done.  Leaders make things happen. If one approach doesn’t work, find another.

5. Be Careful What You Choose. You May Get It.  Your team will have to live with your choices, so don’t rush.

6. Don’t Let Adverse Facts Stand in the Way of a Good Decision.  Superb leadership is often a matter of superb instinct. When faced with a tough decision, use the time available to gather information that will inform your instinct.

7. You Can’t Make Someone Else’s Choices. You Shouldn’t Let Someone Else Make Yours.  While good leaders listen and consider all perspectives, they ultimately make their own decisions. Accept your good decisions. Learn from your mistakes.

8. Check Small Things.  Followers live in the world of small things. Find ways to get visibility into that world.

9. Share Credit.  People need recognition and a sense of worth as much as they need food and water.

10. Remain calm. Be kind.  Few people make sound or sustainable decisions in an atmosphere of chaos. Establish a calm zone while maintaining a sense of urgency.

11. Have a Vision. Be Demanding.  Followers need to know where their leaders are taking them and for what purpose. To achieve the purpose, set demanding standards and make sure they are met.

12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.  Successful organizations are not built by cowards or cynics.

13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.  If you believe and have prepared your followers, your followers will believe.

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Colin Powell’s rules are short but powerful. Use them as a reminder to manage your emotions, model the behavior you want from others, and lead your team through adversity.

Rest in Eternal Peace, General!

Thank you for your service to the United States, the world, and Mankind.

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The world is a better place for you having been in it for 84 years.