Colin Powell, a former secretary of state, national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is no stranger to leadership. Powell, 73, is now working on projects at home and abroad, including helping to build a new educational system in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He shared his advice on leadership this week at the American Wind Energy Association Fall Symposium in Phoenix.
Powell said that his idea of what it is to be a leader evolved as he moved through various positions in public service. Among his key points:
- Leaders exist to give followers what they need to get their job done. It is the followers who go into battle and accomplish the tasks assigned.
- The most important part of leadership is instilling trust in those you command. If you have their trust, they will follow you anywhere. “Every human endeavor has leaders and followers, and your job as a leader is to inspire,” he said.
- Leadership begins with goals. When the followers know what the goals are, everyone understands the importance of their own role for the common purpose.
- People want to know that you are serving a greater purpose than just your own. “Increasingly, our people want to see leaders who are respected, leaders who are selfless,” Powell said.
- Express appreciation. Make sure that those under your command understand that you appreciate what they are doing, Powell said. While serving as secretary of state, Powell said, he let people know he appreciated their work through personal visits and thank-you cards.
- Solve problems. A leader also needs to recognize when someone is not performing well. It is a leader’s job to identify the source of the problem, and fix it. “Leadership is problem-solving, and you are expected as leaders to know what’s going on throughout your organization,” he said.