Hard work, straight talk, respect for others, and thoughtful analysis—except during the Iraq War—worked for the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to this plainspoken memoir–cum–leadership manifesto. Powell (My American Journey) distills aphoristic principles—“Get mad, then get over it”—out of anecdotes from adolescent summer jobs, military commands, diplomatic furors, and celebrity encounters. Shamelessly targeting the business audiences he entertains in public-speaking gigs—“I can pitch my speech at whatever level of sophistication the client wants,” he assures readers—his executive’s-eye view of leadership includes tips on hiring and firing subordinates, and soldierly metaphors for corporate strategizing. Unfortunately, leadership insights desert Powell in his substantial but inadequate account of the Iraq War. Though he frankly admits the war was based on false intelligence of Iraqi WMDs that he unwittingly deployed in his infamous U.N. speech justifying the invasion (a “blot” on his career), he offers “no answers” to questions surrounding Bush administration policy making. There’s much inspirational sense drawn from Powell’s matchless range of managerial and political experiences—but also a frustrating reticence on the great leadership crisis of his time. Agent: Martin Josephson. (May 22)
“An entertaining read from a charming, accomplished man. . . . A delightful book.”
When he was secretary of state, Colin Powell took a walk through the parking garage of his building and asked the garage attendants how they determined whose cars were parked farthest back (and which drivers therefore had to wait the longest for their cars to be retrieved). The answer: the rudest drivers who ignored the attendants. This kind of unexpected anecdote makes Powell's memoir-cum-leadership manual a pleasant departure from the usual gossip and fluff found in most celebrity-penned books. The majority of his advice is found in Part 1, where he explains his 13 Rules for personal conduct and leadership, gathered over his military career and experience in four presidential administrations. In the remaining five sections, Powell offers short chapters on the subjects of personal integrity, motivating others, keeping up with the digital times, as well as personal reflections. Even those who don't agree with all of the advice here will appreciate the humility and humor with which it is offered. VERDICT Powell remains popular with readers (this book made the New York Times best-sellers list), and there's plenty here to justify his appeal. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/11.]—Sarah Cords, The Reader's Advisor Online, Middleton, WI
With the collaboration of Koltz (co-author: Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom, 2009, etc.), Powell picks up the thread of his life story. The author rose in the military to become "the first black Army officer to have a four-star troop command." He was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Iraq war and served as secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. The release of his first book, My American Journey (2003), fueled a groundswell campaign to nominate him for president in the upcoming election. However, he recognized that he was not cut out for the job despite his proven leadership strengths. He describes how, as he advanced in rank, his military training also prepared him for his role in government. He learned the importance of always focusing on the mission, being resolute in the face of danger and setbacks, not being governed by ego and maintaining a can-do spirit (with the proviso, "I try to be optimistic, but I try not to be stupid"). A good leader, he writes, accepts responsibility for the failure of those in his command, but makes sure to reward them for their successful missions. Unlike the corporate world, the Army recruits from within its ranks, which makes recognizing potential and providing continuing education a primary concern. Powell reviews his profound disagreements with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney on the handling of the war in Iraq, while taking full responsibility for mistakes made on his watch--e.g., his "infamous speech at the U.N. in 2003" claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. An inspiring and useful memoir from a significant figure in 21st-century American politics.