Powell's style is somewhat unusual for a military leader. He believes in listening, not just to superiors, but to the people who serve under him; he pushes people to ask hard questions and to approach problems in creative ways; he is solution-oriented and wants answers to problems to be original, not simply tried-and-true methods. Among many valuable leadership principles in Powell’s career and life, the following techniques are particularly interesting: how to deal with authority and how to deal with subordinates.
Powell likes to challenge authority and promote a clash of ideas. Challenging the "pros", who are simply the ones with authority and status, is never easy. There are two types of pros: the ones who have achieved their authority because of outstanding achievement or the "phoney" ones who just happened to kiss up to the right people. It takes guts to challenge the pros and when you do so, you need to make sure you do it right, so that you don't hurt anyone. Make sure you are patient while emphasizing Dignity, Respect, and Honor. You should challenge the pros to get better solutions and build a setting where everyone feels free to speak out.
When it comes to subordinates, Powell maintains an open-door policy because he believes that the higher one goes up the hierarchy, the more important it is to stay in touch with real people and real data. Many corporations have a specific procedure on how to send a message to somebody having a higher rank. Talking to somebody higher in authority than your boss is nearly impossible without having your message be screened by someone else. One technique Powell employed was creating "Noisy System". In this system Powell clearly states to everyone that anyone is free to come to him at any time with any ideas or concerns that they might have. He encourages them to participate in the information flow and knock down any barrier that might hinder accessibility. However he doesn't only let people come to him, he comes to you. He constantly goes directly to the lower rank employees to hear what they have to say.
The other leadership secrets of Colin Powell include:
· Powell on Communication: "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them."
· Powell on Integrity: "Untidy truth is better than smooth lies."
· Powell on Perseverance: "You cannot slay the dragon every day. Some days the dragon wins."
· Powell on Leadership: "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand."
· Powell on Responsibility: "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off."
Most leaders don’t know how to effectively lead when they start, but anybody who reads this book will be prepared for taking a leadership role. You will literally feel prepared after reading this book because many different scenarios were described on how Powell reacts.