General Colin Powell

I served in the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea when Colin Powell was a battalion commander and the division was commanded by Henry “Gunfighter” Emerson. It was good, hard duty, a long way from home, and I enjoyed it.

“I entered ROTC in the fall of 1954. Here I am in my first uniform. I had found something that I loved and that I did well.”

My combat engineer company crossed his battalion across the Imjin River several times during maneuvers when we war gamed attacking north into North Korea. He would speak to the engineer bridge officer when his men crossed. I was the bridge officer several times.

I later spent time with him — including me and him on a long private flight after he was in politics — and always admired him. He was a dedicated soldier and a pragmatic leader.

I didn’t agree with some of his politics, but today is not about politics. He was a good soldier and a better man. He had the timber to be a good President.

I recall his 13 Rules of Leadership:

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done.
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

What made his rules of leadership resonate with troop commanders like me was they were not fancy, were completely pragmatic, and practical.

Rest in peace, General. Fair winds, following seas — we have the watch. Thank you for your service.