It Worked for Me

BPF Book Review – It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership

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Published back in 2012, It Worked for Me is as timely as ever for leaders in business, government, the military and especially aspiring politicians. The author, Colin Powell, had an extraordinary run in leadership positions at the highest level of American government culminating as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of State.

The core of the book and what makes it relevant over time is the 13 rules that Powell collected or formulated over his distinguished military and diplomatic career — rules that can be applied no matter where in the chain of command you may find yourself.

  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 also conveys that attitude to your followers. It strengthens their resolve to believe we can solve any problem.”

  2. “Get mad, then get over it. Everyone gets mad. You get mad at your kids, your spouse, your best friends, your opponents. My experience is that staying mad isn’t useful.”

  3. “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. In short, accept that your position was faulty, not your ego.  This doesn’t mean you don’t argue with passion and intensity.”

  4. “It can be done.‘It can be done’ should not metamorphose into a blindly can-do approach, which leaves you running into brick walls. I try to be an optimist, but I try not to be stupid.”

  5. “Be careful what you choose: You may get it.Don’t rush into things.  Usually there is time to examine the choices, turn them over, look at them in the light of day and the darkness of nights, and think through the consequences.  You will have to live with your choices.”

  6. “Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Superior 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. Since ultimate responsibility is yours, make sure the choice is yours and you are not responding to the pressure of desire of others.”

  8. “Check small things.The more senior you become, the more you are insulated by pomp and staff, and the harder and more necessary it becomes to know what is going on six floors down.”

  9. “Share credit. When something goes well, make sure you share the credit down and around the whole organization.  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.  In ‘the heat of battle’ — whether military or corporate — kindness, like calmness, reassures followers and holds their confidence.”

  11. “Have a vision. Be demanding.  Purpose is the destination of a vision.  It energizes that vision, gives it force and drive.  Leaders must embed their sense of purpose in to the heart and soul of every follower.”

  12. “Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. You can only use naysaying as one line in the spectrum of inputs to your decision.  Listen to everyone you need to, and then go with your fearless instinct.  How many cynics built empires, great cities, or powerful corporations.”

  13. “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe and have prepared your followers, the followers will believe.”

These are good rules to live and lead by, and good rules for voters to contemplate when electing Mississippi’s new leaders in November 2019.


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