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4 leadership tips from Colin Powell

This year marks the third time Colin Powell, former secretary of state, national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has delivered the keynote address at this year’s NRA Show. Powell took the stage Sunday afternoon to answer questions, share anecdotes of his life outside the government and share management tips with the restaurant industry.

Powell said he continues to use the same management principles he learned as a 21-year-old in the Army. Leadership is all about followers, Powell said. You need to put your followers — or in the case of restaurants, your staff — in the best position to get things done. Give them a sense of mission in addition to goals, and make sure you communicate to them your belief.

Powell’s top tips for being a great leader:

  1. Take care of your troops. Give them resources, technology and training.
  2. Be infectious. Why would anyone follow you otherwise? Good leaders not only motivate but also inspire. “People are searching for this kind of passion in every organization,” said Powell.
  3. Recognize performance. Promotions and financial benefits work, but the best recognition is more personal. Tell someone, “You’re doing a great job,” or “I couldn’t do my job without you.” Let people know you see them as essential to the team, no matter their job.
  4. It’s not all about the soft stuff. When people are not performing well, you have to let them know. Your good employees always know who isn’t carrying his fair share, and they want the leader to do something about it. If you don’t, you lose their respect. Also, don’t reorganize around a problem. Either retrain someone or fire him.

At the end of his speech, Powell took questions from the crowd, one of which was, “What makes you a loyal customer?” Powell said he always wants to be treated with respect and courtesy. When someone in retail or restaurants pays immediate attention to him and seems genuinely interested, that means a lot. That courtesy inspires him to become a loyal customer.