Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review: The Powell Principles: 24 Lessons from Colin Powell

The Powell Principles: 24 Lessons from Colin Powell, the Legendary Leader was written by Oren Harari in 2003 and published through McGraw-Hill.  Oren Harari claims that the 24 lessons contained in the book are “lessons in leadership” that “Powell has practiced throughout his career”.   According to Amazon, Oren Harari is a professor of management at the McLaren Graduate School of Business at the University of San Francisco.  He has written two other books that include lessons based on studying CEO Jack Welch and football coach Vince Lombardi.

Oren Harari claims that the 24 leadership principles contained in the book are based upon studying Colin Powell and his philosophy and practices of leadership that include metal maps, decision making habits, and “other behaviors that characterize effective leadership”.   The book does not provide a time frame when Harari studied Colin Powell or whether or not Colin Powell would affirm the lessons presented. 

These principles are presented in short chapters that can be read in five or ten minutes.  The content of the chapters invite contemplation and thought.  Each chapter begins with a short context followed by an explanation of the principle.  The author follows the explanation with two or three suggestions in the form of a statement or question.  The chapters end with a quote from Colin Powell that illustrates the principle. The simplicity of the chapter is not representative of the depth of the principle being presented.  Consequently while reading the chapter is relatively short; contemplation of the principle requires more time.  

What is missing is an illustration or example of the practical application of the leadership lesson.  This can be considered both a strength and weakness.  The inclusion of an application may dampen ones contemplation of the principles.  On the other hand, the lack of an illustration may lead the reader to contemplate the application of the principle in more robust ways. 

For someone looking for a book to prompt reflection about his or her leadership style and beliefs, The Powell Principles will satisfy that need.  The book is appropriate for individuals who are already in leadership positions as they can draw on their experiences when considering the appropriateness or application of the leadership principles.  For individuals new to leadership the book can provide a framework from which to develop a personal philosophy about leadership. 

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