Ronald Reagan used to hide nuts in the rose garden outside the Oval Office and wait for the White House squirrels to come and find them. Betcha didn’t know that about the Gipper, did ya? How do I know this? General Colin Powell told me today, well, me and 75K+ others. He was one of many great speakers invited to share their thought on what makes a great leader at the 2013 Global Leadership Summit.
The GLS is a worldwide leadership summit hosted by Willow Creek Association and broadcast by satellite in hundreds of churches across America. So far today we have heard from WCAs Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, who is amazing, General Colin Powell, as well as a hilarious man by the name of Patrick Lencioni (who pretty much summed up my exact reasoning for leaving my last employer).
Back in the late 80s, General Powell worked for President Reagan as his National Security Advisor. During his speech at the summit, General Powell shared a story that had everyone laughing. One day, he walked from his office in the West Wing into the Oval Office and told the President that he had a problem he needed to talk to him about. So, Ronnie sits down in the chair across from Powell, that happens to be facing the rose garden outside his office. Powell proceeds to tell his President about his problem and soon realizes the President is pretty much ignoring him. Instead of being attentive to the General, the President is staring past him out the window.
A little annoyed, General Powell begins to talk fast and louder, thinking the President was busy to listen, so he needed to hurry up and get his point across. Still, the President continues to ignore his friend and national security advisor and continues to stare out the window looking into the rose garden. Just then, President Reagan stands up and says, “Colin, look! The squirrels have found the nuts I put out there this morning!”
“Ok, Mr. President. Whatever you say,” said a confused and discouraged Colin Powell.
The general gets up and walks back to his office thinking: 1) the president has lost his mind, and 2) doesn’t care about his problem at all.
What the General will later learn is that the president was listening, but was also trying to teach his friend a valuable lesson as well. While Colin went into his bosses office for some words of advice, what he got instead was our nations leader forcing his national security advisor to think things through for himself, instead of asking his boss what he should do.
While there was so much more to Colin’s speech, he did a great job of capturing the attention of everyone in the “room”, as well as teaching a valuable lesson on what it takes to make a great leader.
I left the summit this afternoon feeling empowered both personally and professional. Day two is tomorrow, and I can’t wait to hear more!