Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Colin Powell's Lessons on Leadership

Colin Powell, former Army Chief of Staff, Colin Powell, outlines six “rules” of leadership he discovered while in the military.

First, Make the Difficult Decisions. “Being in charge means making decisions, no matter how painful," Powell says. In today’s businesses we need leaders who will do what is right, even if it is politically painful. Powell continues: "If it’s broke fix it. A leader cannot allow the majority to suffer under a bad situation to spare the feelings of an individual, or an organization.”

Second, Don’t Punish Every Mistake. “No body ever got to the top without slipping up. When somebody stumbles,” Powell explains, ”I don’t believe in stomping on him. My philosophy is: pick ‘em up, dust ‘em off and get ‘em moving again.” Too many managers spend inordinate amounts of time and energy criticizing every little mistake employees make. There are so many little things that just don't matter. Don't sweat the little stuff.

Third, Have Clear Objectives. The Vietnam war was a perfect example of the failure that can occur when the objectives are not clear. “Leaders must establish clear, achievable objectives and apply the means to accomplish those objectives,” Powell says, “or they are just wasting time, resources, and, tragically, lives.”

Fourth, Make Your Team Feel Important. “Find ways to reach down and touch everyone in a unit. Make individuals feel important and part of something larger than themselves.” Or, as Ken Blanchard has promoted for many years: "Catch people doing things right!"

Fifth, Be Skeptical of Experts. “Don’t be buffaloed by experts,” Powell warns. “They often possess more data than judgment.”

As I have often said, too many organizations rely on external consultants when they have the abilities and experience within their own employees. Use the talents within your company first. Then look outside for additional support.

And finally, Never Beat Down Enthusiasm. When employees get excited about something, get out of their way and let them do it. You’ll be surprised at how much they can accomplish when their excited. “Enthusiasm can overpower incredible obstacles,” Powell says.

“During my years in the Field, I learned what makes American soldiers tick,” Powell explains. “They will gripe about being driven to high performance. They will swear they would rather be somewhere else. But at the end of the day, they always ask proudly, ‘How’d we do.’

Powell concludes that “Americans love to win. They respect leaders who hold them to high standards and take them to the limit — as long as they see a worthwhile objective.”

Good advise for every manager!

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