As I thought might happen, I’m ditching (for the time being) my attempt to focus on just one thing from each talk. So, here are my notes from Colin Powell’s message and then his Q&A with Bill Hybels.
Leadership is getting more out of people than the science of management says you can. You lead by having a vision. By believing in yourself, having courage in your convictions, inspiring people to reach beyond themselves.
“Even though I’m the leader, I’m not the one getting the work done. It’s the followers who get the work done.”
Purpose is “what are we doing this for? How are we making a contribution to society by what we’re doing?”
“I couldn’t achieve my purpose as secretary of state if she didn’t achieve her purpose of cleaning the room.”
You have to constantly show people that they are important. The best organizations I’ve been in are those that not only cast a vision, but also how everybody in the organization has an individual purpose. It is the collectivization of those purposes that give you the momentum to accomplish the vision.
You have to invest in people and give them what they need to get the job done.
Mentors: family, community, the church he grew up in as a kid.
Reagan’s point: “I trust people to do things without bringing everything to me.”
Always empower people. Empowering people means taking risks.
You have to empower people so they feel important. When treated like tools who cannot make judgments and take initiative, people feel demeaned. You have to empower subordinates and trust them. And you have to gain their trust.
What makes a great leader is a vision and a sense of purpose. Simple themes, constantly repeated, that people understand. That’s what leaders do.
“If you want to be a great leader, take care of your troops. If you want to make sure to keep moving forward, always have a destination.” It’s not just planning, it’s execution. Execute and review how you are doing.
Soldiers aren’t looking for sympathy, but for their service to be respected. They want to talk about and share about their experience. “Never say sorry.” Obviously devastated that they’ve been injured, but you say “I know it had to be tough.”
“You have an obligation to reach back, reach down, reach across to help someone out.” Colin Powell
You might have had a terrible day, and things look so bleak at night. It will look better in the morning. “You know why it’s going to be better? We’re going to make it better.”
Successful leaders are really those who infect their people with optimism.
“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” In the military, you always look for ways to make your force more powerful. As a leader, one of the most significant ways of doing this is through optimism.
People look to the leader for confidence, to solve problems.
“People think generals go around saying “that’s an order.” I never said that in my whole life. The reason is, American people and soldiers don’t respond to that. You have to show people it is in their interest to share the organizational interest, and not order them around. And they will do anything needed.”
“Get mad, then get over it.” “Mad is a bad attitude.” “Mad is a human emotion, but I don’t find that if you act while you are mad, you are at your best. So get mad if you have to, then get over it.” You can’t stay mad, or the whole organization is contaminated.
How do you know when to fire somebody, and when to give that same person a second chance? “I’ve always tried to adapt to the personality of my subordinates. No two human beings are identical. It was my job to find the strengths and weaknesses of my subordinates, building on their strengths, working with them on their weaknesses. But the thing you can’t do is get someone to believe in the vision if they just don’t want to. People are often waiting for the leader to have the guts to do something about the culture killers. Leaders are people who solve problems; if you don’t solve these kind of problems, you lose the trust of your subordinates.”
The worst effect of not being a problem solver is that people think you don’t care.
What’s a red flag for an emerging leader? Ego. Many who are incredibly talented, but somewhere along the way nobody taught them humility. They start to think they turned the sun on that morning. I just can’t work with them.
Many are perfect at the level they are at, but they shouldn’t go higher. “You promote people on the basis of their potential, not past performance.”
You’ve been a church attender your whole life. What challenge would you give to pastors and preachers? “We come to church to learn more about our faith and more about the Bible, and we also want it made relevant to the world in which we are living. So tell us how to apply. Tell us how our faith and the Bible makes us relevant to the world we are living in and how to apply it.”