Colin Powell, whose decades-long career repeatedly made history and who was for years one of the Republican Party's elder statesmen, often discussed his leadership philosophy, famously saying: "Leadership is solving problems."
At 84 years old, Powell died Monday of COVID-19 related complications. Most notably, he served as the first Black secretary of state and led America’s efforts in the second Iraq war.
Powell on leadership
In his memoir, “My American Journey,” Powell shared his detailed experiences in the Army.
“Leadership is solving problems,” Powell wrote. “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”
Powell shared one early example of having to flex his leadership capabilities in his memoir. He served as an executive officer for the 48th Infantry in Gelnhausen, a town about 25 miles from Frankfurt, Germany.
An eighteen-year-old volunteer had asked Powell for permission to marry a German girl whom he had gotten pregnant. At the time, Powell says that he had been instructed not to interfere with any romantic relationships, but he told the volunteer he would try to expedite the process for him.
But that was not all. The eighteen-year-old also told Powell he needed permission to get his soon-to-be mother-in-law into the U.S. because he had gotten her pregnant as well.
“I learned what it meant when soldiers brought you problems, even problems as perplexing as that of the eighteen-year-old dual lover,” Powell wrote.
From South Bronx to the center of power: Colin Powell, a man trusted by presidents and the public
Powell’s Thirteen Rules
In another Powell memoir, “It Worked For Me,” the former secretary of state outlines his Thirteen Rules, a collection of ideals that Powell says he collected or made up over the years.
Powell’s 13 rules were first published in Parade magazine on August 13, 1989, just three days before Powell was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I have learned from most of the people I’ve met, and I have tried to inspire the people I have led,” Powell wrote. “Life and leadership can’t be about me. They have to be about us.”
Since then, his Thirteen Rules have been shared with millions of people in many different forms.
Here are Powell’s Thirteen Rules:
1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done.
5. Be careful what you choose: You may get it.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: General Colin Powell's famous rules and quotes on leadership