AIA 2013: Top Ten Lessons of Leadership by General Colin Powell

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“It’s not where you start in life, it’s where you end up and all the places you went in between.” – United States General

For the closing keynote speaker of the stimulating, three-day “Building Leaders” convention in Colorado, the American Institute of Architects () selected one of America’s most admired public figures to share wisdom and insight to becoming a great leader.

General Colin L. Powell, a first-generation American born from Jamaican immigrants in 1937, is the epitome of the American dream. Starting life in the South Bronx, Powell paved his way to becoming a highly respected, four-star general in the United States Army and the first African American to serve as Secretary of State. A natural storyteller, Powell effortlessly captivated the audience of architects with a series of experiences and lessons he had learned throughout his lifetime of service.

General Colin Powell’s top ten lessons of leadership after the break…

As we learned from yesterday’s keynote speech by Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair, architects have the value to see potential. Whether you are envisioning a transformative design that can positively impact a community or identifying the individual strengths of your team in order to get that project done, you are leader. As an architect, you have the potential to build a better world through design; and to do this, you must know how to lead.

Below are the top ten lessons of leadership for architects that we have gathered from General Colin Powell’s keynote speech and his newly released book It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership.

“Everyone has value. [...] You have great people underneath you and you have to empower them.”

“The role of the leader is to put their followers in the best environment, as they are the ones who get it done.”

“When people are doing something good, recognize it. [...] A human connection is more important than anything else you can give them.”

“Share credit. [...] Let all employees believe they were the ones who did it. They were.”

“Be tough. Retrain those who are not doing the job or fire them.”

“Be selfless, never selfish.”

“Remain calm. Be kind. [...] Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will reciprocate and care for you.”

“Have a vision. Be demanding. Followers need to know where their leaders are taking them and for what purpose.”

“Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier.”

“Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” [...] The decision is not about you or your ego; it is about gathering all the information, analyzing it, and trying to get the right answer.”

Prior to General Colin Powell’s speech, Thom Mayne was honored with the 2013 AIA Gold Medal. Upon receiving his award, Mayne stated: “Architecture itself is a collective act.” This is an inescapable fact that we all must understand and respect about our profession.

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "AIA 2013: Top Ten Lessons of Leadership by General Colin Powell" 23 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=392879>

3 comments

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    “essentially an evil thing…to initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” – International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Post WWII

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    When you understand the personality type of the people you lead, their future and your own is far more successful and productive.

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