Last Updated 16 Jun 2020

Colin Powell Leadership

Category Leadership
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Colin Powell Leadership

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Colin Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey, coauthored by Joseph Persico (1995), is the story of a man who rose from seemingly unpromising beginnings to become one of the most admired public figures.  Undoubtedly, the man had to display tremendous leadership qualities to reach the place where he truly belonged.  This is the reason why he has clearly articulated his thoughts on leadership by boiling them down into some basic rules.  These rules apply to leadership in all areas, including the business world. 

     The first rule of leadership is “It ain't as bad as you think.  It will look better in the morning."  Hence, leaders can stop being overly self-critical and increase in self-confidence instead, knowing that they truly can find a way to reach their goals.  Powell also advises leaders to keep on going ahead despite the displeasure aroused in some people with respect to the leaders’ decisions and actions.  Additionally, leaders must make themselves available to listen to their subordinates.  They also must not be afraid to challenge the pros.  Leaders learn from countless people, according to the great man, who writes: "I'm not the product of one person, but hundreds."  Furthermore, leaders must not let their egos step in the way of goal achievement.

     Powell also believes that leaders must remain vigilant even when the rest have gone to sleep.  Leaders must influence and inspire, besides choosing the best people that they can possibly find for the designation of important tasks.  For this, leaders are especially reminded to look beneath the surface to find what others do not.  Powell’s last rule of leadership is, "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."  Therefore, leaders must be more positive minded than the rest.


Powell, Colin, and Persico, Joseph. (1995). My American Journey. (1st edition). New York: Random House.

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