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A Salute: Colin Powell's 13 Rules of Leadership
by Steve Engelhardt
December 19, 2022
General Colin Powell

America lost a truly great leader and man when General Colin Powell passed away this month. He left a legacy of statesmanship and leadership we all should aspire to. He is well known for his 13 Rules of Leadership which I have repeated below. As you read these ask yourself if you truly conform to them in deed and action or just think you do. Be honest with yourself, he was.


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.

Colin Powell picture used by permission (CC BY-SA 2.0).


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About the author
Steve Engelhardt
Steve Engelhardt
Steve Englehardt is a current SCORE Mentor helping small businesses develop and grow.
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