from Colin Powell

“Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything either. Theories of management don’t matter much. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds. In a brain-based economy, your best assets are people. We’ve heard this expression so often that it’s become trite. But how many leaders really “Walk the talk” with this stuff? Too often people are assumed to be empty chess pieces to be moved around by grand viziers, which may explain why so many top managers immerse their calendar time in deal making, restructuring and the latest management fad. How many immerse themselves in the goal of creating an environment where the best, the brightest, the most creative are attracted, retained and most importantly unleashed? When hiring employees look for intelligence and judgment, and most critically a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy, a balanced ego, and the drive to get things done. How often do our recruitment and hiring processes tap into these attributes? More often than not, we ignore them in favor of length of resume, degrees and prior titles. A stream of job descriptions a recruit held yesterday seem to be more important than who they are today, what they can contribute tomorrow, or how well their values mesh with those of the organization. You can train a bright willing novice in the fundamentals of your business fairly readily, but it is harder to train someone to have integrity, judgment, energy, balance, and drive to get things done. Good managers stack the deck in their favor right in the recruitment process.”

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off. Good management involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nice” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.”

“Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world. Small companies don’t have the time for experts and elites, the president answers the phone and drives the truck when necessary; everyone on the payroll visibly produces and contributes to the bottom line results or they’re history. But as companies get bigger, they often forget who “brought them to the dance”: Things like all hands involvement, egalitarianism, informality, market intimacy, daring, risk, speed, and agility get replaced with policies and systems; policies that emanate from ivory towers often have an adverse impact on the people out in the field who are fighting the wars or bringing in the revenue. Real leaders are vigilant, and combative in the face of these trends.”

“Leadership is the art of accomplishing what the science of management says is impossible.”

Wyman’s note: How do you stack up to Colin Powell’s definition of a leader? How does the organization that you work for or lead stack up? Is Colin Powell missing anything with his definition? I think the only thing I would add is something about the importance of knowing your customers and employee’s on a personal level; forming a connection with them so you are in tune with what they need and how to better lead and serve them.