Colin Powell: “It’s All About the People”; and his Thirteen Rules

May 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

A book landed on my desk from a fellow respected colleague and growing friend at Mozilla.  Thanks Pascal!   The book was Colin Powell’s:  It Worked For Me – In Life and Leadership.

The core of the book and of Powell are his Thirteen Rules and the stories of the people in his life.    These thirteen rules are self-described quotes or aphorism he had collected over the years (prior to the Internet).  He kept them front and center under the glass cover of his desktop.   I present them here as I can’t land this book on everyone else’s desk who might be reading this blog.  It’s much more efficient in simply sharing this way.

1.  It Ain’t As Bad As You Think.  It Will Look Better In The Morning  (Attitude)

2.  Get Mad, Then Get Over It.  (Attitude)

3.  Avoid Having Your Ego So Close To Your Position That When Your Position Falls, Your Ego Goes With It.

“Disagree with me, do it with feeling, try to convince me you are right and I am about to go down the wrong path.  You owe that to me;  that’s why you are here.  But don’t be intimidated when I argue back.  A moment will come when I’ve heard enough and I make a decision.   Loyalty is disagreeing strongly, and loyalty is executing faithfully.” 

4.  It Can Be Done.  (Attitude)

5. Be Careful What You Choose;  You May Get It  (Perspective)

6.  Don’t Let Adverse Facts Stand In The Way Of A Good Decision (Instinct)

7.   You Can’t Make Someone Else’s Choices:  Don’t Let Them Make Yours

8.  Check The Small Things.

9.  Share Credit.

10. Remain Calm.  Be Kind

“Kindness, like calmness, reassures followers and holds their confidence.  Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect.  If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will reciprocate and care for you.  They will not let you down or let you fail.”

11. Have A Vision.  Be Demanding.

12. Don’t Take Counsel Of Your Fears Or Naysayers

13. Perpetual Optimism Is A Force Multiplier

Other quotes

“Always do your best, someone is watching.  Even when no one else is looking, you always are.  Don’t disappoint yourself”

“Always show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know”

“Kindness is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of confidence.   Develop a reputation for kindness and consideration and even the most unpleasant decisions will go down easier as most will understand why you are doing what you are doing.  They will realize your decision must be necessary”

“To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world”

” If your desk is clean and nobody is bringing your problems, you should be very worried. It means either people don’t think you can solve them or don’t want to hear about them.  Or, far worse, it means they think you don’t care.  Either way, it means your followers have lost confidence in you and you are no longer their leader.”

“Potential, not just Performance”

“Take Care of the Troops;  Trust Your People”

“Mutual Respect;  respect for leaders by followers cannot be mandated;  it must be earned.  It has to be given to leaders by the followers”

“They want leaders who have moral and physical courage, who always do the right things and will risk their careers in so doing.  They want leaders who are tough but fair, and never abusive.  Leaders who not only are role models, but also inspire followers to be their own role models”

“All followers need to feel they belong to a team, a tribe, a band.  Leaders are leaders because they pass on the generations of experience they have amassed.  They give purpose to the team, give it structure, hold it to standard, nurse and nurture the team, slap it upside the head, as needed, and above all give the followers someone to look up to”

“I want subordinates who will argue with me and then execute my decisions with total loyalty.  I want imaginative and creative folks with ideas and the ability to anticipate.  I treasure the person who sees a problem before I do and does something about it before I even know it exists.  I treasure the person who sees opportunity before anyone else and smells risks and threats early.”

“Beware First Reports:  Does it make common sense?  Take a deep breath. Rub your eyes.  Does it Fit?  Can I confirm?  Try to let a hot potato cool a bit before picking it up”

“Five Audiences:  1)  the reporter asking the question  2) the American people 3) Political and Military leaders in 190 countries 4) the Enemy 5) The Troops”

“When Dealing With The Press:

  1. They get to pick the question.  You get to pick the answer
  2.  You don’t have to answer any question you don’t want to
  3. Never lie
  4. Never answer hypothetical questions about the future
  5. Direct your answers to the message you want your audience to hear
  6. Do not answer any question containing a premise you disagree with.
  7. If trapped, be vague and mumble
  8. Never cough or shift your feet
  9. When there are second or follow-up questions, you’re in trouble, break right, apply power, gain altitude, or eject.
  10. Never pause to think of what to say.  Start talking while you are thinking.  You can always just repeat the question.

“High performing, successful organizations build cultures of introspection and trust and never lose sight of their purpose”

“If you break it, you own it”

“When in charge, take charge”

“A life is about its events; it’s about challenges met and overcome–or not;  it’s about successes and failures.  But more than all of these put together, it’s about how we touch and are touched by the people we meet.  It’s all about the people”

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