Not only is Colin Powell’s life extraordinary, but so is his viewpoint. Here is a man who has lived in a tumultuous world and who has unabashedly confronted some of the toughest challenges imaginable, yet he has managed to preserve his “true north” authentic leadership compass. In the retired four-star general and former statesman’s book, he has compiled his vivid experiences and lessons learned into a compendium of leadership principles and practices. As he conveys his thoughts through exceptional storytelling, he connects with his readers so they can identify with, practically adopt and successfully apply his “Thirteen Rules”.
While there is an abundance of golden nuggets woven into each chapter, the most resounding themes fall into the following “always” categories — always:
- Be self-aware
- Know what’s going on around you
- Know where you came from
- Give credit away
- Know when it is time to let go or move on
- Be perpetually optimistic
The last “always”, being perpetually optimistic or truly believing in yourself, is captured in Colin Powell’s second most inspirational statement…”Confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe you have prepared your followers, your followers will believe.” His first and most compelling statement is “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” While many of us fear the very thought of failure, the author embraces it. In less than eloquent terms, he shares a litany of mistakes that he has made throughout his extensive career, accompanied by his greatest lessons learned and how he has survived and become stronger as a result. His resilience is unequalled. One of his most poignant techniques that he shares with his readers, speaks to how he approaches a new leadership role. He authors a “full disclosure” letter which he immediately turns over to his new team. In his letter he states “here’s who I am…I’ve got things I need to work on and they are…I’ve got things that I could be doing better and they are…”. He intentionally explains to others what he’s about so they don’t need to waste their time and energy trying to figure him out. This approach illustrates the power of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to others— having the inner confidence to expose our flaws.
It Worked For Me In Life and Leadership earned my “five star” rating. Colin Powell’s mastery of his craft coupled with the engaging manner in which he revealed those fundamental principles that have shaped his life and career, ultimately delivered the quintessential leadership book.