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Collaborative Leadership; Colin Powell

Early Development

Colin Powell was born on April 5th, 1937, in New York (Harlem). He was a son of a Jamaican immigrant. The family provided solid bases for the development of his leadership qualities. Significantly, it influenced the development of his morals, values, character, and beliefs. In his early life, Colin learned the benefits of persistence in achieving goals, setting goals, and self-sufficiency (Armstrong III, 2010). At his early stage of life, he demonstrated leadership attributes that helped him develop conceptual skills and values. These skills and values helped him serve the different positions he acquired in the nation.

School Development

Luther Powell, Colin Powell’s father, remained a dominant figure in his son’s school life. His school life played a significant role in building Powell’s leadership skills. He was a confident man who treated people fairly and was driven by success. In elementary school, Powell was a slow learner but a great leader. In high school, he met the required standards to join an institution of higher learning, allowing him to grow his leadership skills. In 1954, he joined the City College of New York, earning an average of ‘B’ in the first semester (Brown & Wagner, 2009). Once in college, his interest in joining army officers was fulfilled. Towards the end of 1954, he signed as a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). He felt that the uniform gave him a sense of belonging. While in ROTC, his leadership capacities blossomed.

Powell excelled exemplary in the ROTC classes, which motivated him. He later joined the Pershing Rifles drill team in addition to ROTC classes. He was later promoted to become the commander of the team. As a commander, he learned decision-making and consensus building. He realized his ability to influence outcomes motivated him to make decisions (Kinder & McConnaughy, 2006). Colin knew that unpleasant conditions needed decisions from the leaders to improve them. Powell’s biography appreciates that City College gave him deep secrets about the democratic system. The educational foundation made him succeed as a leader in the USA.

Powell’s Leadership Competencies

Colin Powell became one of the most potent immigrants who held senior positions in the US administration. He was famous because of his competency in performing any role. His past experiences in ROTC gave him outstanding abilities as an army officer. He made more painful decisions, cooperated well with peers, and was able to deal with stress, complexity, and ambiguity (McMaster, 2017). Powell understood that consequences are a result of human actions. He knew that leaders should lead by example to adopt appropriate change.

Supervisors could identify his potential in his early assignments and assign him the most senior positions. He learned to assimilate information, communicate persuasively and intelligibly, and think initially. His commanders described Powell as tough and optimistic. He also knew the importance of proper treatment for his colleagues, which earned him a lot. He was able to effectively deal with individuals across all ranks. Due to his continued efforts, he was promoted to Captain on June 1st, 1962 (McAleer, 2003). After two months as a captain, he was ordered to Vietnam. His mission was to build unit and leadership cohesion with the Vietnamese. His supervisors identified him as very prepared despite being a junior captain (Rayburn et al., 2019). He would spend most of his time on patrols in swamps, jungles, and climbing mountains. Months later, he was made an advisor of the general staff in the Vietnam army. He flawlessly performed his roles and enhanced the readiness of the Army.

On his return to the USA, he began to serve on the American Army Infantry Board. He then attended an advanced course as an Infantry officer for nine months. He was a hardworking man who was much interested in his success. Throughout the course, he was also attentive and an active listener, which inspired confidence in his classmates. Later, he was promoted to a major when teaching in the Infantry School (Kinder & McConnaughy, 2006). After another study, he was assigned a role of a Battalion Executive officer. He gained a lot of reputation as a well-qualified officer with unique potential. He was rewarded for his ability to seek information, analyze it, and make significant decisions.

In the first ten years of his career, Colin gained much fame for his potential in executing tasks. In the early stages, he could cooperate with the higher leaders to deal with crises. He dealt with his assignments with ambiguity and uncertainty (DeYoung, 2007). In the early years, he was defined and set him for more operations later in life. He exhibited a strong work ethic with confidence in executing tasks. He was a skilled negotiator, a great communicator, and a master at creating consensus with his staff.

In his medium years, Colin Powell attended George Washington University, served twelve years as a battalion commander, had a short-term visit to the Pentagon, worked in the White House, served as a Brigade commander, and attended the National War College. His leadership competencies were continuously identified in all platforms he did. His workings were witnessed with the massive enactment of social programs. In 1979, he was promoted to Brigadier General, making him the youngest general in the Army in USA history (Gamkrelidze, 2021). He served with determination to enhance general development in the Army.

In his final years in Leadership, Powell grew immensely with tremendous academic growth and military experience. He distinguished himself by being one of the most impactful leaders in the USA. He worked closely with the presidents for the benefit of the nation. During his term as a Charmian in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he established robust strategies which led to victory in the Gulf War. When he was the secretary of state, he profoundly influenced foreign policy. He heavily embraced cultural diversity, which impacted his success. In addition, he was a man who could explore all options. One of the critical tenets of his doctrine was ”exhaust all means,’’ whether political, economic, or diplomatic, before deciding to enter into a war (DeYoung, 2007). Lastly, Powell avoided ideological rigidity by establishing solid connections with those around him regardless of their philosophical or political leanings. He was able to fight many critics during the Bush administration. All leaders should, therefore, adopt these strategies to ensure that they succeed in their leadership.

Collaborative Leadership

Collaborative leadership is a straightforward way of leading where managers or other senior staff work in partnership with all teams and departments. In this type of leadership, information is shared across all the members considering each other’s opinions. Leaders today expand their skills with a new mindset to succeed in the current highly competitive, chaotic, and more fast-paced business environment (Reynolds et al., 2017). Moreover, managers think strategically following the global changes, articulate, inspiring ideas across diverse cultures, and make well-informed choices amid uncertainty and complexity. Besides, leaders build dynamic networks, lead international teams and grow the capability of their institutions to compete across the globe. Consequently, this calls for adopting collaborative leadership to bring expertise to all stakeholders and harness knowledge to enhance innovations, partnership, competition, and success (Takeuchi, 2019). This research will evaluate the leadership competencies of Colin Luther Powell as a leader and identify the main techniques of collaborative leadership and significant leadership competencies. It further focuses on his strategic ways of solving and preventing conflicts and curbing organizational barriers.

Strategies for implementing collaborative leadership in organizations

Collaborative leadership requires leaders to adopt specific strategies. Without an appropriate plan, an organization will likely fail or have difficulties implementing necessary changes. Creating a collaborative culture in organizations can be difficult with a lack of follow-through, unclear expectations, and a lack of desire or skills by the employees to collaborate (DiBello, 2019). Therefore, five significant steps are involved, including; Clarifying the purpose, opening up lines of communication, partnership development with the team, implementing collaborative tools, and reinforcing the laid strategies.

The first strategy in creating a culture of collaboration in the organization is to communicate a clear vision to the team members. Collaboration systems differ from organization to organization; thus, it is crucial to establish the desired attributes and behaviours (DiBello, 2019). The purpose of clarification is to help members understand how the organization will look after the culture is implemented. It also helps the employees understand the desired change’s goal, enhancing their commitment.

Opening up communication lines within the organization is essential in building a collaboration culture. The success in implementing collaborative Leadership hinges on this strategy. The most crucial step in opening up communication lines is encouraging speaking up across the organization. Communication helps create a conducive environment for feedback within the organization (Takeuchi, 2019). Besides, communication motivates employees to share ideas deemed relevant in the organization’s culture. Moreover, organizations benefit from the employees’ diversity in innovation and efficiency. Each organization should have active communication lines such as social media platforms or the human affairs department.

Once the leaders adopt strategic communication lines, they should develop a partnership with all members. Stakeholders’ involvement significantly eliminates all barriers between leadership and their teams. Partnership development is essential for any organization willing to adopt collaborative leadership since workers can express their concerns. Through this technique, managers identify their subordinates’ abilities (Reynolds et al., 2017). The partnership is also achieved by team-building exercises where members bring their diverse skills and ideas to benefit the organization. To achieve this, leaders adopt more of a participatory role than a directive role. In a nutshell, collaboration is more accessible when the members are incorporated in every decision-making process.

The following strategy is implementing the right collaborative tools. The choice of collaborative tools depends mainly on the nature of the organization. These tools help the employers appropriately collaborate with the team members at the right time. In the modern world, technology has effectively shaped the way individuals collaborate (Takeuchi, 2019). Almost all organizations worldwide use technology not only to be updated on contemporary issues but also to keep in touch and monitor their stakeholders. Essentially, collaboration tools enhance teamwork and break barriers across the organization.

After ensuring that all strategies are in place, the organization must reinforce and revisit the measures. Creating a culture of collaboration cannot happen overnight; therefore, it requires strict implementation and follow-up (Takeuchi, 2019). Continuous reinforcement and monitoring enhance the sustenance of the necessary behaviour. Employees are not tempted to fall back to their old ways. Reinforcement activities include adopting essential collaboration tools and procedural and monitored leadership, which ensure the plan is appropriately implemented.

Key practices of collaborative leadership

The achievement of collaborative leadership requires organizations to adopt certain practices. Firstly, it entails having an inclusive and open culture that ensures that ideas and information are shared across all the members. Collaborative leadership also involves incorporating an empowered workforce to ensure that they unleash their potential. Thirdly, leadership is based on collaboration rather than commanding members to feel appreciated and valued (DiBello, 2019). Lastly, for a conducive working environment and effective operations, organizations collaboratively achieve a sustainable conclusion when a conflict arises. Performing these key activities ensures that strategies of collaborative leadership are achieved.

Common Barriers

Leaders in all positions face barriers in their day-to-day activities. When leaders are weak in overcoming these barriers, they may end up disrupting their operations. Powell’s common obstacles during his administration include communication, cultural, and psychological barriers. Communication is the key to success in any organization. Studies reveal that the common barrier to success in organizations is a lack of frequent and clear communication. Communication is essential in the organization’s project planning, implementation, and execution (Reynolds et al., 2017). As a military leader, Powell had to communicate to ensure that instructions were appropriately executed effectively. Secondly, Colin faced the challenge of cultural diversity with the USA having people from different cultures. He had to ensure that his decisions were acceptable to people from all cultures. He was also curbed with psychological barriers, with most of his senior members feeling he was not worth commanding. Those with psychological barriers also had problems adapting to the numerous changes that Colin invented.

Colin Powell, in his administration, faced various barriers during and especially during the Bush administration. He received pressure from the Republicans and opposition from the democrats. He had problems balancing the needs of the Americans and solving the conflicts of the time. He disagreed with the president on many issues but tried his best to have them translated. At the start, Bush lacked diplomatic experienced, and therefore, Powell had a great job of ensuring everything was planned accordingly (Lenderman, 2006). Since he was a black American, he faced challenges as some people related blacks with bad things. He broke many barriers within the military with respect, honesty, and dignity. Powell refused to accept that race would limit his dreams.

Types of Conflicts

Conflicts are inevitable whenever two people interact within any platform. Conflicts were common throughout the period Colin led various positions in the USA. It could occur between Colin and a group, two or more groups, and among two or more individuals. There are about four significant conflicts that Powell faced: goal conflict, behavioural conflict, relationship conflict, and cognitive conflict. Goal conflict involves a clash over the desired goals. It occurred from the different desires of Colin and the politicians. The behavioral conflict resulted from unacceptable behaviors among Colin and his colleagues (Cohen, 1995). Some of Colin’s colleagues could misbehave, which could, in turn, arise disputes within the administration. Relationship conflict resulted from a misunderstanding between Colin and his colleagues due to different opinions, perspectives, beliefs, and personalities. Colin Powell faced this type of conflict mostly in his administration. His disputes led to the invasion of Iraq, which was a significant failure. There were mixed reactions on whether to invade Iraq, which led to clashes. Cognitive conflict results when an individual or group holds ideas inconsistent with the others. Powell faced this type of conflict during debates on the policies that should be adopted. He was a wise man who challenged the ideas of others which sometimes led to misunderstandings and conflicts (Zarefsky, 2007). In addition to the types of disputes, affective conflict arises from the incompatibility of feelings or emotions among individuals in the workplace.

Conflicting Styles

Conflicts are best understood by carefully examining the consequences of their behavior when it arises. The behavior born by a conflict is categorized in terms of conflicting styles. Each style is geared towards meeting everyone’s needs which impacts the organization differently (Chilcoat, 1999). They are used to discover solutions to problems affecting the organization. It is challenging to come up with a solution favorable to all parties. Therefore, leaders should be able to apply the best conflicting style to suppress the conflict. The common conflicting techniques Powell used were compromising and collaborating.

The collaboration style considers everyone’s needs and ensures that a win-win solution is discovered. Though time-consuming, it is known for impacting long-time positive results. Powell used the collaborative style in handling many crises during his leadership. His power doctrines stated that the ego should not get close to his position (Draper, 2020). He appreciated everyone’s worth in decision-making. For example, the collaborative nature between Colin and his allies led to great success in the Gulf war. This created a collaborative nature which led to success in his leadership. Colin also used the compromising conflicting style to reach solutions. In this style, he ensured that he convinced his colleagues to give up some of their ideas to achieve the best conclusion. One of his leadership principles was that facts should not prevent arriving at the best decisions. He believed that leaders should make difficult decisions that may cost them much in terms of relationships with others (Zarefsky, 2007). He was ready to let his friends go to ensure he made the right decisions. Colin allowed good results to prove his results right.

Failures of Powell Leadership

Despite the advanced competencies a leader possesses, they must make mistakes in some decisions. No one is perfect at keeping everything on the right track. The biggest failure of the Colin administration was that he failed to oversee the consequences of the Iraq invasion. He termed the mistake an intelligence failure. He made this mistake during his term as the secretary of state (2002-2005). He provided misleading intelligence that resulted in the US invasion of Iraq (Xue, 2021). The failure is attributed to the continued disagreements between Powell and the Bush administration. Though Powell tried to stop the invasion, the president was reluctant (Nadel, 2020). He reluctantly agreed to the president’s decision to enter the war, which was not the best.

Party’s Reaction

The Iraq invasion received significant opposition before and during the war not only in the USA but also across the world. Many people felt that war was not the best decision to handle the crisis. They said that the USA would have chosen other peaceful methods of solving the conflict between the two countries. Powell regretted it after the war claiming that his instincts misled him. He felt he had failed to oversee the consequences of the war (O’Sullivan, 2009). In addition, he felt that he entered the war unprepared, leading to intelligence failure. He said that he had given the best analysis of the war. Democrats remained relatively consistent in their views on the attack, while the Republicans said it was the best decision.

Problem Solving Techniques

Problem-solving techniques provide a guided way of solving problems within the organization. Powell instilled five primary methods for solving problems. Colin could first define a problem by Clearly investigating it. He allowed all parties to specify the underlying causes and differentiate facts from opinions. The second technique he used was to get multiple solutions to solve the problem and attach value to each. After that, Powell could give the parties time to evaluate the proposed solutions to agree on the best solution (Rayburn et al., 2019). Once the parties selected the best solution, he implemented and followed it as stated. The last important technique was evaluating the success of the suggested solution to ensure that it is effective. In his leadership philosophy, Powell says that leaders must be ready to acknowledge their problems and try to solve them (Powell, 2001). He says that a leader should aim to be in the right place by arriving at the best decisions to problems. Powell explains that there is no magic to solutions, and leaders must be ready to apply the best techniques for success.

Preventing Future Problems

The Powell administration’s major failure yields three essential leadership lessons: understanding the consequences of decisions, the ultimate benefit of peaceful reconciliation, and the essence of communication. These are three significant ways of ensuring leaders prevent problems in their organization. Human beings need to realize that war is a failure by itself. Entering into war is the first sign of failure (McAleer, 2003). It puts many lives and properties at risk of destruction. Communication is also critical in enhancing peace in the organization. It ensures that decisions are made in the most appropriate way possible. People should decide with a significant focus on the future. Leaders should make decisions that yield positive outcomes.

Additional Pertinent Issues to the Issue

Powell also faced challenges that were related to the Iraq invasion. He faced three significant challenges in his administration: keeping peace in the Balkans during the Bush administration, problems in the state department security, and the question of building a Missile Defense System. The president criticized the former administration for using troops in nation-building and peacekeeping. This made Powell face challenges in addressing peace in the Balkans. Secondly, the State Department of Security faced challenges in this period with many spies from foreigners. Powell faced difficulties dealing with this insecurity issue (Sepp, 2007). Finally, the question of whether to build a Missile Defense System pressed Colin since it received enormous friction from Democrats and Republicans in Congress and foreign countries such as Russia and China.

In conclusion, Colin Powell remains in many Americans’ minds because of his leadership competencies. He will forever be remembered for his ability to communicate and work with individuals from all walks of life. He is among the best strategic leaders ever in this generation. He is known for setting a unique leadership style in every position. Powell was full of focus, vision, and inspiration. He teaches that a successful leader can define their mission, convey it to the juniors and incorporate the right tools into his work (McAleer, 2003). Best leaders communicate to their subordinates to know their ideas and aspirations. They should be ready to fight for what the junior employees need for the organization’s success. Leaders should therefore imitate the collaborative leadership skills exhibited by Colin and learn from his mistakes.


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