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It Worked for Me

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It Worked for Me

In Life and Leadership


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Looking back on a lifetime of public service, Colin Powell offers lessons on leadership.

Editorial Rating



Colin Powell is an American icon. A former US secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this four-star general rose from modest beginnings as a child of immigrants to the heights of power as a military and civilian leader. In this autobiographical book of observations on leadership, Powell, collaborating with writer Tony Koltz, parses through his life and the opportunities he has had, distilling the valuable information he has learned into anecdotal teachings on management and leadership. Many of his conclusions are inspirational, though the book does bog down at times in diplomatic and military exploits. His treatment of his infamous 2003 UN presentation, when he asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, may leave some readers dissatisfied. However, getAbstract believes that Powell’s admirers and those who value business advice based on military wisdom will gain greatly from his hard-won successes.


Army Strong

Colin Powell grew up in the Bronx in New York City, the son of Jamaican immigrants. He spent his teenage summers and school vacations working at a local store and at a soft-drink bottling plant. By dint of his strong work ethic, he managed to rise from the all-black porters’ staff to become the first African-American on the plant’s bottling-machine team. He learned it was important to “always do your best, [because] someone is watching.”

Because of his race and less-than-stellar grades, Powell couldn’t aspire to any of the country’s elite military academies, but he did graduate from the City College of New York as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet. He then served as an officer in the US Army, coming up through the infantry and doing two tours in Vietnam. He was an honors graduate of the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Colin Powell’s 13 Rules

Powell was the first African-American to head a “four-star troop command” when he became the general in charge of all stateside Army forces at the Army’s Forces Command (FORSCOM). In August 1989, a popular US magazine published a cover story on him that spelled...

About the Authors

Colin Powell is the founder of America’s Promise Alliance. Writer Tony Koltz has collaborated on several military officers’ autobiographies.

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