I’ve long been a fan of Colin Powell’s leadership style, as I consider it to be both human-centric while holding those same people accountable, and data driven while understanding that decisionmakers will never have all possible data. This aligns with the oft-forgotten "respect for people" aspects of lean manufacturing that I’m passionate about, as well as the requirement for knowledge and courage in leadership.
Recently the Champions Club of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence held a meeting at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. AME’s Pat Carguello has done a fantastic job with the Club, which is comprised of wide variety of high level manufacturing executives. They meet several times throughout the year to discuss manufacturing leadership, often at locations with a depth of leadership history such as the Naval Academy. If you’re interested, I’d strongly recommend you check it out.
Discussing that last Champions Club meeting with several people made me think, again, about Colin Powell’s "18 Lessons in Leadership" which have already been widely distributed. I’ll list them as bullet points below, but he has added a paragraph of discussion on each one, generally with a link to business-oriented examples, which you can read here.
Lesson 1 "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off."
Now at first some of you might think that this conflicts with "respect for people." It doesn’t. You have to have the guts to get rid of the bad apples before they poison an organization undergoing a transformation. You have to have the courage to confront conventional wisdom, even when your bosses hold that supposed wisdom. You know what? There’s no way I can appropriately comment on these lessons, as I don’t pretend to be in the same league as General Powell. So I’ll let the rest stand on their own.
Lesson 2 "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them."
Lesson 3 "Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elite’s."
Lesson 4 "Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard."
Lesson 5 "Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”
Lesson 6 "You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”
Lesson 7 "Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so (just) because you might not like what you find.”
Lesson 8 "Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”
Lesson 9 "Organization charts are frozen, anachronistic photos."
Lesson 10 "Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.”
Lesson 11 "Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.”
Lesson 12 "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
Lesson 13 "Powell’s Rules for Picking People. Look for intelligence and judgment and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done.”
Lesson 14 "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
Lesson 15 "Laws of Instinct" Part I "Use the formula P@ 40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired." Part II "Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut."
Lesson 16 "The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.”
Lesson 17 "Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it. Spend time with your families.”
Lesson 18 "Command is lonely.”
Read Powell’s commentary on those lessons here. What a great way to start off a new week!