“Leadership is all about people. It is not about organizations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centered.”
So there I was…
A freshly promoted first lieutenant responsible for the lives of 26 men in my platoon, we conducted route clearance patrols (IED hunting) up and down various highways, secondary streets and rural market streets throughout central Baghdad in 2005. Our mission was essentially the same day in and day out – temporarily securing routes for follow-on missions. However, the focus would vary from ensuring clearance for logistics coming in and out of Baghdad along main supply routes to deploying teams of snipers into overwatch positions on IED heavy intersections. We also gave clearance and reconnaissance force minutes before a Navy Seal team attacked a suspected high-value target in a rural neighborhood in Baghdad.
The missions that scare you the most are in the middle of the night. You can’t see as well, it’s a little colder, a little more uncomfortable and somehow, we are a little more susceptible to blowing our fears out of proportion – the childlike thoughts of monsters under our bed or in our closet can take hold. Every time I would (or I could sense our platoon would) start to feel this way, I would say over the radio, “Everything will be better in the morning, boys.” And it was. My favorite memories of Baghdad are us rolling back into the gate of our FOB after a night-long mission and seeing the sunrise.
To this day, when I wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts of to-do lists or not done lists, business worries or family concerns, I say to myself, “It ain’t as bad as you think. Everything will be better in the morning.”
My parents probably told me this truism as a kid, but I first heard it as a “leader” from Colin Powell. My dad gave me Colin Powell’s 13 Rules For Leaders when I went to West Point. So, in honor of the General’s passing, I wanted to highlight his straightforward but nonetheless sage advice to leaders:
1. It ain’t as bad as you think! It will look better in the morning.
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. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Colin Powell’s career of public service is a strong reminder and model of perseverance, principles and public ownership of leadership decisions.
Rest in Peace, sir.
BJ Kraemer, President