Remembering General Colin Powell

Remembering General Colin Powell

By Steve Smith

Colin Powell, a retired four-star general, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, died earlier last week at the age of 84, leaving an important legacy of leadership.

Several years ago, I had a chance to hear him speak at the annual Global Leadership Summit I attended with a few AMC colleagues. He had just written the book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.

I’ve kept a journal of notes and observations through the years and wondered if I might have jotted down anything from the session. I did and was able to locate my notes.

Here’s what I captured:

August 12, 2013
Session speaker: Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell.

  • He was raised in a loving immigrant family.
  • A community has nothing more important to do than to educate its next generation.
  • Leaders inspire people to reach beyond themselves.
  • Always show and tell people they are important.
  • It’s never as bad as you think. It will be better in the morning.
  • Get mad, then get over it.
  • Share credit.
  • Remain calm. Be kind.
  • Have a vision. Defend it.
  • Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
  • Soldiers want to talk about their experience. They’re not looking for sympathy. They want their service recognized and respected.
  • People look to leaders for optimism and expect confidence.
  • If you’re not helping to solve problems, people stop bringing you problems. That’s when you should begin to worry.
  • Create an environment where people feel safe telling you when and where there is trouble.
  • Respond to challenges. We get challenged every day of our life. Challenges are part of life.

Valuable advice and insights from an iconic leader and patriot that are as relevant today as they were nearly a decade ago. May he rest in peace.

Steve Smith is CEO of AMC

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