Recently Newsweek magazine published a short excerpt from Colin Powell’s upcoming book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership (“The General’s Orders” 5/21/12, pp. 40–44).  Having followed Powell’s leadership for many years, I took special interest in this.

As we would expect, Powell certainly understands the fundamentals as well as the advanced principles of leadership.  He understands what goes into quality leadership decisions.  Here is one of my favorite nuggets:

“You can’t make good decisions unless you have good information and can separate facts from opinion and speculation.” (p. 42)

Your decisions are only as good as your information.  You must know what the facts are as opposed to opinions or speculations about those facts.  Give me lousy information and I will likely make a lousy decision every time, but give me good information, and I will make a good decision (usually).

Powell has a way of distilling leadership principles and practices down to their simplest forms.  Simple is best.  Here are the four rules he required his intelligence staff to follow concerning information they were passing to him as he prepared to made serious decisions:

“Tell me what you know.

Tell me what you don’t know.

Then tell me what you think.

Always distinguish which is which.” (p. 42)

Humorous, but very powerful.  It occurs to me these are good rules for all of us involved in leadership.  Correctly categorizing the information we receive or pass on adds clarity.  A good leader will embrace these principles.

One more favorite quote:

“The leader should never shoot the messenger.  Everybody is working together to find the right answer.” (p. 42)

This one speaks to me of integrity, respect, and teamwork.  Without these, there is no successful leadership.  Besides, it’s always good to conserve ammunition.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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