Thursday, August 8, 2013

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Gen. Colin Powell

It Worked For Me--

Colin says he was raised in a loving immigrant family--went to public schools in NYC--just a kid trying to make it.  As he visited other countries people would ask him when he graduated from West Point.  (He never went to a military school) He went to City College of New York.   He never had a dream of what he would become.

Leadership is getting more out of people than the science of management says you can.  You do this by having a purpose and inspiring people to reach beyond themselves.    Started to learn this as a brand new second lieutenant.  It was drilled into him then--even though I'm the leader it's the followers who get it done.  You get nowhere without followers who want to follow you.

You need to focus your efforts on the followers.  Give them a sense of purpose. Purpose is--what are we doing this for?  How are we making a contribution?   Every night when I left my office I would always talk to the person who came in to clean it.  I wanted her to know she had a purpose.  I wanted her to know I couldn't achieve my purpose as Secretary of State unless she achieved her purpose of cleaning the room.

There is no such thing as an unimportant person in an organization.  You have to constantly show people their purpose.  Every person's individual purpose gives you the means to achieve the grand purpose.

Leadership is always about followership.

The early shaping he got made him who he is.  Tells a story about Ronald Reagan.  One morning Gen. Powell went into the Oval Office to talk with him and told him about a problem and Reagan is paying no attention but is looking out at the Rose Garden--Reagan is still paying no attention.  Reagan then exclaims, "Look!  The squirrels came and got the nuts I put out this morning."  Powell left and went back to his office to reflect on this.  Felt he was really saying, "Colin, I love you, and I'll sit here and listen to you tell me about your problem.  But until you tell me it's MY problem, I'm going to watch the squirrels."

The point is that you need to trust the people under you to take care of their problems and make their decisions.  Empower them.

Give subordinates a zone in which they can make decisions.  You have to trust them.  You need to make sure you are acting in a way that allows them to trust you.

In 1988 the Japanese were buying 'everything'--Rockefeller Center, Pebble Beach, etc.  President Reagan listened to the problem, then looked back at his staff who were all upset and said, "Well, you know, I'm glad they think America is a good investment."

Good leaders have visions and themes and constantly repeat them.

If you want to be a good leader, take care of your troops.
Have a destination and plan and execute to get there.
People say "Failure is not an option," but it always is and good leaders know that.

Continuing in an interview with Bill Hybels--

Bill tells of being at Vietnam War Memorial with Colin Powell where he greeted wounded vets and said, "Were you a good soldier?"

Colin:  It was a rhetorical question.  I know they were good.  They don't want pity, they want their service respected.  I want to thank them for their service and hear them tell me their story.  I never say "sorry" but I say "I know it had to be tough.  Thank you for your service."

Bill:  There is a lurking issue of racism in our country.  Do you feel you were a victim of racism and had to overcome minority status?

Coin:  Yes, when I entered the Army in 1954 there was still much segregation.  In 1958 the military was one of the most progressive social organizations in the country.   in mid-70s selected be a commander and some said he was selected because of affirmative action.  Colin said it was up to him to prove his worth as a leader.  He says there is still need for us to work on racism in this country.  Each of us has the responsibility to help someone else move on up.

Bill:  You do a lot of leadership by proverbs or axioms.  I'll say one and you respond.  First is "It'll look different in the morning."

Colin:  It may not, and a day can go very bad but I go to bed with hope that it will be better in the morning.  It's a hope; an attitude; an aspiration.  We're gonna make it better.  Always come in prepared to do your best the next day.

Bill:  "perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

Colin:  You always look for a way to make your force more powerful and perpetual optimism will do that.  His staff says he never gets too down but never too up.  People look to the leader for confidence and reassurance.  You don't want a leader who will suddenly have a tantrum.  You have to persuade people that it is in their interest to share the corporate interest and not order them around.

Bill:  "Get mad but get over it."

Colin:  Everyone gets mad; it's a human emotion;  If you act while you're mad you're not at your best.  My staff knew I would get mad and they would leave me alone.  You can't stay mad or the whole organization is contaminated.

Bill:  How do you know when to fire someone or give them a second chance?

Coin:  I try to adapt to the personalities of my subordinates.  I have to find out their strengths and weaknesses.  Where there is a weakness I work with them.  On a few occasions the person would not work with me and I've had to let them go.  You have good followers and they don't like bad followers getting it over them.  If you don't have the guts to remove them, there's a cloud over the organization.  Leaders solve problems and if you don't solve problems people will lose confidence in you.  Makes people think you don't care.

Bill:  When you see an aspiring leader, what characteristic do they manifest that's a red flag to you?

Colin:  Ego.  I've seen people who could get the job done but they've never learned humility.  I can't work with them.

Bill:  Have you ever had to tell someone they're not cut out to be a leader:

Colin:  Yes, a number of officers are perfect where they are but should not go higher.  You should promote people on the basis of their potential not their performance.   Some people need to get off the train and sometimes you need to throw them.

Bill:  What leader on the world stage did you have respect for:

Colin:  I won't single out one because that's a disservice.  I'm a product of everyone who's ever intersected my life.  You mentioned Nelson Mandela--when he came out of prison he was asked if he wanted to get even and Nelson said, "If I felt that way I'd still be in prison."

Bill:  "Tell me early."

Colin:  I want to know about the problem early.  Don't work on it before you tell me about it.  I want to have time to study it.  You have to create an environment where people are willing to tell you when there's trouble.

Bill:  What has God taught you about Himself in the past 5 years.

Coin:  I was baptized and attend St. John's Episcopalian Church.  I've decided to serve young people.  I adopted a school in Northwest DC and the youth at the church are serving with them.

Bill:  What challenge would you give to pastors and preachers?

Colin:  We come to church to learn more about our faith and we also want it made relevant to the world in which we're living.  Tell us how to apply what we learn with relevancy.  You have to be challenged.  You have to challenge people or they just sit and watch.

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