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The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell

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The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Apply the Powell Doctrine to your organization.

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Perhaps no political leader in the United States is more widely respected than Colin Powell, decorated soldier, architect of the 1991 U.S. victory over Iraq, former presidential contender and current Secretary of State. Using anecdotes and quotations from Powell’s life, management professor Oren Harari distills leadership philosophies and methods that can be applied to business. The book is written in a short, pithy style, reflecting Powell’s own direct approach. While the principles Harari uncovers are not innovative, they are comprehensive and practical. Charged with maintaining an international coalition in the ongoing war on terrorism, Powell has been thrust into one of the world’s most important leadership roles. For this reason alone, recommends Harari’s book for its insight into the man’s leadership philosophies, which have had a profound influence on U.S. military and government organizations.


Birth of a Leader

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Colin Powell emerged as one of the key leaders guiding the U.S. response. Prior to the attacks, Powell had been criticized in the media for being out of step with the Bush administration, particularly in his multilateral approach. But as the new war on terrorism commenced, Bush called on him to help in building a worldwide coalition. The manner in which he approached this task - and indeed the fact that the job was assigned to him in the first place - illustrates Powell’s approach to leadership. Powell’s first commitment is to his own principles of standing up for what is right, embracing change and living with disagreement, and if this dedication sometimes puts him at odds with those around him, so be it.

Powell showed early signs of leadership. He was born in 1937 in Harlem, New York, to parents who had emigrated from Jamaica. He grew up in the Bronx, New York, graduated with a B.S. in geology from City College of New York in 1958, and while at City College, joined the ROTC. He became a company commander and rose to the rank of cadet colonel. After graduating, he received a commission as a second...

About the Author

Oren Harari, Ph.D is a professor of management at the Mclaren Graduate School of Business at the University of San Francisco. He is the author or co-author of six previous books, and has contributed to numerous professional publications, including the Harvard Business Review, California Management Review, Industrial Relations, and Small Business Reports.

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