What are your rules of leadership?
Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Learn more about General Colin Powells rules of leadership and how you can create your own today!
I was saddened to learn of the passing of General Colin Powell yesterday morning. Although I remember his time as the Secretary of State, he had a very long career and is being remembered by people of all political affiliations as a great leader. One commentator brought up General Powell’s 13 rules of leadership. They are:
It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
Get mad, then get over it.
Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it
It can be done!
Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
Check small things.
Remain calm. Be kind.
Have a vision. Be demanding.
Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
This is an impressive list gathered over an even more impressive career. I could probably write a blog post about each one of these. But what I want to highlight is the existence of this list in the first place. How many leaders can you think of, that have taken their experiences and compiled their own rules for leadership? Are you a leader at work? On a team? Have you gathered your own list? We can all learn an important lesson from this, it’s important to take the time to reflect on your own leadership.
Taking Time to Reflect
Not enough leaders take the time to reflect on what they’ve learned and compile a list of rules for them to live by and to share with others. You don’t actually have to be a leader in the traditional sense to come up with such a list. We learn lessons about good leadership every day from our own professional interactions and from watching and learning from the leaders in our lives.
I learned early on in my career that this learning can also occur with a non-so-great-leader. It is unfortunately common to have an experience working with someone who hasn’t been the best representation of a leader, but innately we can learn from that. I worked for a project manager who refused to have team meetings. This lack of communication was very frustrating for me and meant that the team never understood the big picture or the long-term plans for the project. From that example, I learned that:
Communicate constantly- people want to know the big picture.
Learning lessons from great leaders can be even easier! Think back to your favorite leaders and think about what made them great in your eyes? Note what they did and think about whether that could be added to your own rules of leadership. For instance, I was very impressed with one particular leader that I observed. She started a new job within an organization and was efficient and empathetic. She immediately scheduled time with each new direct report and spent time building a relationship with them. This seemed to help several of the employees with the transition to her style of leadership. The lesson learned here?
You can’t work well with people you haven’t taken time to know as a person.
If you’ve had the chance to be a leader in your personal or professional life, what have you learned from those experiences? What has worked well (such as acknowledging people’s efforts) or things that haven’t worked so well (such as not creating opportunities to hear from everyone)? Another example,
Create ways to ensure everyone is heard, some people need to be asked or given a non-public way to contribute.
As you can see from these quick examples, it won’t take you too long to come up with your own list of rules.
Post Your List Where You Can See It
The next step is to write down your list. As my teenage daughter said to me, writing things down helps us remember. Just creating a list and keeping it in your head won’t be as powerful as writing it down.
In addition to writing your rules down, you need to also keep them where you can see them. Put a copy on a sticky note on your computer so you’ll see it each day. Consider whether you are following your own rules. And you might even have an opportunity to share your rules of leadership with others just as General Powell did.
* Actionable Success Steps
Use these Actionable Success Steps to create your own rules of leadership.
1. Read more about General Powell’s 13 Rules of Leadership in the Inc. Article
Why Emotionally Intelligent People Still Follow Colin Powell’s 13 Rules for Leaders
2. Compile your own rules of leadership by reflecting upon your own experiences and examples set by others
3. Commit to posting your own rules of leadership where you will see them each day
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