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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

Oren Harari's Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell very insightful

By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Dec 12, 2011 in Lifestyle
With the economic recession on everyone's minds and so much of the uncertainty a drain on morale, I decided to check out "Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell" by Oren Harari. The local library has an immense amount of books that can help people, that is why I like to blog about various titles and subjects. The library as a resource can be very vital and economical, rather than running out to buy a book or attend a fancy workshop or seminar. Just take some time to browse through the stacks, I think it is a good use of one's time.
Regarding "Leadership Secrets" I was sad to learned through the web that Harari passed away last year (2010).
But I think his insights into Powell as a leader and decision maker are very on the mark. Even in the first chapter, Harari dives right in and gets the rough-edged gems of info. "You can't please everyone" and a good leader knows when to get people upset. At least what I understand is that Harari is talking about change. Change always upsets people. Yet a good leader understands that change is inevitable and how to adapt to change is part of survival.
Harry K. Jones of AchieveMax gives Harari's book lots of praise and to me the reasons are obvious. Jones is a motivational speaker. Yet, he admits the book surprised him.
Another surprise for me was that Harari wrote that Powell encouraged a "noisy system" in the chain of command. That it is a leader's duty to listen to those he or she leads and at the appropriate times encourage dialogue. Wow! All my life, with all the talk about democracy, I have never encountered leadership that actually welcomed honest dialogue.
Most of the time though, I am wary of that because it is an easy way for a leader to get information about those under command and to then toss what they worked up the courage to say, out the window. Yet, I disagree with Jones about the book not being of a military mind-set. While the basic principles can be applied to just about any setting, not everything in life is in a "battlefield mode." Some of the military references leave me with the impression that leadership must be at that level or else.
Harari also notes that for Powell ideas are important. Yeah, so "ideas matter" but what about the process of ideas? Ha! Idealistic people love ideas but those who try to put new ideas into practice often face the complexity of implementing a new idea or concept that is really difficult. As the old saying goes, "it all looks good on paper," sounds good in conversation but try getting it out there and making it fly, ha! This is why I think a military type of approach would not really go over too well with many of today's social circles.
Yet, I have to say that in Harari's book, he does mention that Powell sees these times as very unique because of the flow and expansion of information that has become available to everyone via Internet connections. My immediate response to this is "Yes, I agree we are in a very interesting and unique time because of information technology, but is it all being utilized properly?
Look at how much information is trivial or incomplete on the Web. Also, I see so much of the technological advances being misused by people who are merely entranced by the stimulation it brings rather than the ability it can have to establish engagements. I am thinking about all the text messages people sent out even to people within their own office. What happened to meeting in person?
This of course is the concern of journalists today. They worry that as more technology makes things "easier" the ability to seriously analyze and critique information will be lost to blogs and sensationalized web sites.
I like to see the web (Internet) used for the great good it can do. Yet unfortunately I see a lot within people that the Internet brings out the bad or weak in people. Try posting decent content with a genuine open discussion approach on line. There are dozens of sites that encourage or allow content from viewers. So much of what people respond in posting is silly or an out right waste of time. Yet, as I perceive it some of it is because people are responding not with thought and sincerity but with impulse.
Which then leads into another aspect of this book, I have to mention. Keeping an open and clear line of communication (in leadership) is not easy. As a leader becomes more powerful and in someways critical, that person must not only discern many things but be mindful of their own personal safety. Gone are the days when people could simply walk up to any leader or authority figure and say "Hi" and chat. Now, security measures in place really must screen everything and every person that seeks to approach a leader.
What I see today with regards to leadership, authority figures and the people is a breakdown in understandings. So many people, especially the younger generations have no real bond with anyone and so their acceptance of any authority figure is strained.
I wonder what Powell thinks of all the upheaval with the "Occupy Movement?" According to the NY Times, he has written a new book which is due out this coming spring.

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