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Colin PowellColin Powell

Imperfect Patriot

Jeffrey J. Matthews

Narrated by Jim Woods


Book published by University of Notre Dame Press


For the past three decades, Colin Powell has been among America’s most trusted and admired leaders. This biography demonstrates that Powell’s decades-long development as an exemplary subordinate is crucial to understanding his astonishing rise from a working-class immigrant neighborhood to the highest echelons of military and political power.

Once an aimless, ambitionless teenager who barely graduated from college, Powell became an extraordinarily effective and staunchly loyal subordinate to many powerful superiors who, in turn, helped to advance his career. By the time Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had developed into the consummate follower—motivated, competent, composed, honorable, and independent. The quality of Powell's followership faltered at times, however, while in Vietnam, during the Iran-Contra scandal, and after he became George W. Bush's secretary of state. Powell proved a fallible patriot, and in the course of a long and distinguished career he made some grave and consequential errors in judgment. While those blunders do not erase the significance of his commendable achievements amid decades of public service, they are failures nonetheless.

Colin Powell: Imperfect Patriot is the fascinating story of Powell’s professional life, and of what we can learn from both his good and bad followership. The book is written for a broad readership, and will be of special interest to readers of military history, political biography, and leadership.

Jeffrey J. Matthews is the George F. Jewett Distinguished Professor at the University of Puget Sound. He has published three other books including Blacksheep Leadership, Alanson B. Houghton: Ambassador of the New Era, and The Art of Command.

REVIEWS:

“This is an important contribution to the academic community's knowledge of political and military decision making. It examines an important figure in American military and political history from an engrossing focus. The followership/leadership relationship to good and flawed decisions in the area of national security is a fairly new methodology in the social sciences and business, and the author employs it masterfully in his analysis of Colin Powell. The book's organization is quite appropriate because only in such a chronological story can the reader see the maturation of Powell's persona from an aimless college freshman to, five decades later, a highly respected though very fallible human being.”

—Howard Ball, professor emeritus of political science, University of Vermont

“This work ... covers the lofty career of Powell who eventually became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. The author highlights both the successes and failures of his subject, revealing a human being navigating the complexities of leadership and power at the highest levels. It showcases the difficulties and consequences of decision making at the strategic level.”

Military Heritage

“The book demonstrates that Powell’s decades-long development as an exemplary subordinate is crucial to understanding his astonishing rise from a working-class immigrant neighborhood to the highest echelons of military and political power. It’s written for a broad audience and will be of special interest to readers of military history and political biography.”

University of Kentucky Happenings

“A captivating and balanced story of Powell’s remarkable career, and of what we can learn from both his good and bad followership.... The book is of special interest to readers of military history, political biography, and leadership.”

Northern Kentucky Tribune

“Jeffrey Matthews's excellent biography rightly praises Colin Powell's distinguished service over the past half-century, while also delineating how Powell faltered at crucial moments while serving as George W. Bush's secretary of state. This is a comprehensive and compelling analysis.”

—Walter LaFeber, the Andrew and James Tisch University Professor Emeritus, Cornell University

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jeff Matthews's book. It is extremely thorough, nicely grounded in appropriate research, and is very well written. I can't think of a biographical work that focuses on aspects of leadership and followership in such consistent and illuminating detail. It's a page-turner.”

—George R. Goethals, E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

“The consummate general, national security advisor, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State and Patriot is profiled and on full display in Matthews’ work. Well-researched and full of rich detail, the book seems to be a balanced, albeit critical, review of Powell’s 40+ years of service.... Matthews makes note of Powell’s followership as an ‘assistant’ and ‘deputy’ in many of his duties throughout his career, contributing to why he was a great leader. Yet ultimately, even the best leaders make mistakes and are fallible, and we can all learn from that.”

—Brigadier General Chad Manske, Commandant of the National War College

“This is no hagiography. Consisting of equal parts admiration and critical scrutiny, it is a tough and insightful portrayal of a commanding personality who was capable of both towering professional achievements and astonishing failures of judgment and ethics. Beyond pure biography, Matthews has produced a fascinating case study of the human elements of public service and leadership.”

—Malcolm Byrne, deputy director, National Security Archiv

“Colin Powell was a good soldier all his life. Trustworthy, loyal, he obeyed orders while exercising a measure of judgment and initiative within the scope of his authority.... Powell’s judgment and initiative went only so far, Jeffrey Matthews writes in his biography.... Matthews examines Powell’s formative experience and finds the key to his success as well as his limitations.”

Shepherd Express





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