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Colin Powell's 13 Rules of Leadership

August 27, 2012

In my last posting (August 6, 2012), I summarized the Case Foundation's mantra to "be fearless." This posting generated some (private) comments that were skeptical that nonprofit organizations – and especially the foundations that fund them – can ever really be truly transparent about their processes, their successes and their failures.

This commentary made me think of Colin Powell's 13 Rules of Leadership. You can find them – as well as real life stories and lessons to back them up -- in General Powell's new book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.

Here they are:

  • It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning!
  • Get mad and 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 whom you choose!
  • Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision!
  • You can't make someone else's decisions. You shouldn't let someone else make yours!
  • Check small things!
  • Share credit!
  • Remain calm. Be kind!
  • Have a vision. Be demanding!
  • Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers!
  • Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier!


In other words, effective leaders are optimistic, confident, realistic, selective, decisive, transparent, sharing, calm, demanding and visionary. Following these simple rules will help focus your efforts and energies, and make for a more inclusive and mission-driven organization.

If you have a comment or question, please share it here.

P.S. Did you know that General Powell has helped establish the
Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service at City College in New York City? The mission of the Center is to prepare a new generation of publicly engaged leaders, to build a strong culture of civic engagement at City College, and to mobilize campus resources to serve the public good.


Yma B. Gordon-Reid
These are great rules to live and to work by! Particularly in philanthropy, egoless and servant leadership can make such a greater impact, it's important to remind ourselves to be the type of leaders described here. Great post.
Tim Mohin
Great book and a great set of leadership tips. Thanks for sharing in the context of CSR.
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