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Colin Powell’s Leadership Principles

Colin Powell’s leadership principles cover the basic insights that are useful for successful maintenance of leadership. First and foremost, Powell emphasizes that leadership position does not have much value as an occupation unless it is embraced by a true leader. A person is supposed to have relevant characteristics and staff who want to follow their chief. Detecting essential features of a good chief, Colin Powell states that a decent manager must be fair and firm; “the commander in the field is always right, and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise” (Powell, 2013). Powell claims that CEO’s attempts to be nice to everybody lead to the opposite outcome since the most creative and gifted team members deny such approach.

What is more, a leader fails to manage an organization the same moment when their associates stop delivering their problems. It happens because people are either unsure in their chief’s capacity to solve the issues or think that they are not concerned with the company’s performance. In order to avoid such negative outcomes, a nice manager should solve potential issue before they create bigger problems, which presumes that the person is detail-oriented. Apart from undivided attention towards present and potential problems, the leader must set clear expectations towards the staff. It is essential to develop a transparent policy and set the goals that correspond with company’s aspirations.

Furthermore, according to Colin Powell, a good chief is supposed to be highly adaptive. There is no need to follow stereotypes and chase the latest management fads because it begets team’s confusion. A leader is a sample of behavioral patterns for every employee and, thus, must be a positive thinker, who maintains optimistic approach towards working process. Intelligent owners accept the critics and principles of large businesses with accurate perception but without blind adherence. Moreover, they are not reckless, but if there is no unambiguous prohibition, good leaders are ready for action. Colin Powell advises that the right time for action is when a manager is from 40 to 70 percent positive about the success of certain affairs. However, the author warns that there is no need to wait till there is a 100% guarantee since the delay lessens company’s competitive strengths.

A decent leader starts to form a work team on the stage of recruiting because attracting the best people is viable endeavor. It is very important to remember that what a potential employee is capable of doing today and willing to do tomorrow is much more important that what he used to do yesterday. Powell accentuates that long resumes and explicit titles of potential candidates are beneficial, but they should never be crucial for getting a certain occupation. To demonstrate an example of successful leadership, Colin Powell quotes Xerox’s Barry Rand, claiming that “if you have a yes-man working for, one of you is redundant. Good leadership encourages everyone’s evolution” (Powell, 2013).

In addition, managers are supposed to challenge the order of working process, and Colin Powell claims that CEO’s duty is not to be an organizer, but rather to become a disorganizer. What is more, since a leader is an example to follow, a significant capacity is to enjoy work performance and keep the balance between the job and private life. Moreover, a wise chief is supposed to encourage other employees to develop similar life position. However, Powell cautions future commanders that even if they manage to beget informal and friendly corporate policy, they will always stay lonely.

Considering that leadership contains numerous aspects, a lot of pieces of advice can be added to Powell’s list; however, the most important is to organize relations with team members according to the right level of leadership. For instance, relations with an employee who recognizes and respects current leadership as well as follows the chief because of their personal and professional qualities, and a relationship a newcomer would be on different levels of managing. Thus, a good leader should remember this rule and constantly monitor the development of relations with team members, asking themselves the question considering the level they are in with the person. Finally, a good leader should work on the elimination of self-doubts and endeavor to increase the level of their emotional intelligence.


Powell, C. (2013). General Colin Powell: A leadership primer. Retrieved from