Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said something along the lines of, “Everyone calls me a liberal, but I’m a moderate. I was appointed a moderate, but the court shifted conservative, so looks like I’m a liberal. I haven’t changed, the court did.”
This is true for many great leaders. They stay their course. The prevailing winds may shift, popularity may move, but they stay strong in their convictions and become great leaders.
Colin Luther Powell (April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021) was one such great leader. He served under four Presidents in three national positions. The Presidents were three (old school) Republicans and a Democrat. All his positions were appointed, not elected. Until President Obama took office in 2008, he was the first highest ranking African American in the U.S. The office of Secretary of State is fourth in line for President.
As the Republican party shifted right, Powell endorsed Democratic Presidential candidates, which greatly upset many Republicans. Powell didn’t change, the party did. He still believed in the same things he always did. Many thought it’s strange that a military man would be so anti-war, and he was called undeserved slurs for not supporting wars. However, you can’t argue with his unwavering logic. “All wars are bad,” he would say. “I’ve lost friends and colleagues in wars. No one should want to go to war.”
His other steadfast convictions were based on his 13 rules of life, as stated in his 1996 biography, My American Journey. You’ve probably already seen them, but they bare repeating.
Colin Powell’s 13 Rules of Life
- It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
- Get mad, and then get over it.
- Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
- It can be done!
- Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
- Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
- You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
- Check small things.
- Share credit.
- Remain calm. Be kind.
- Have a vision. Be demanding.
- Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.