Leadership – General Colin Powell’s Rules

           I recently spoke to a class of graduating seniors at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland about being a consultant. The instructor said, “It would be nice if you could speak for a few minutes on leadership, too.”

Besides sharing my personal thoughts, I relied on what has worked for me for years: General Colin Powell’s Rules. I first read them when they became popular when General Powell released his first book, My American Journey, in 1995. I understood them immediately and gained a greater understanding of them while reading his book. I posted them on or near my desk or workplace in every job I could and still have a copy on my desk today.

Why? I’ve never found a time where at least one of them has not applied to the situation I faced. Sometimes, more than one applies. They also serve as a powerful reminder of perspective, human nature, and decision making in so many ways. So here they are.

General Colin Powell’s Rules:

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share Credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

I hope these may come in useful to you at some point, and thank you, General Powell, for sharing them with the rest of us.

Photo Credit: Photo illustration by Peggy Frierson