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Colin Powell's Secret of Leadership? Stay Yourself

In a new memoir, the four-star general opens up about Iraq, getting older — and how he met Elvis

AARP Interview wtih Colin Powell

Former U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell shares "Thirteen Rules" that have shaped his career. — Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

General Colin Powell's latest book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, published in May, made news with its revelation that there was never any considered debate in the Bush administration about the war in Iraq. But the book has more to offer in the vivid experiences and lessons learned that have shaped the legendary public service career of the four-star general and former secretary of state. At its heart are Powell's "Thirteen Rules" — notes he gathered over the years and that now form the basis of his leadership presentations given throughout the world. Among them: "Get mad, then get over it" and "Share credit." The general answered a few questions for AARP.

Q: In your new book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, you present 13 rules. One is, "Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it." This could also apply to someone who takes his physical attributes too seriously.

A: Don't I know it. When I look in the mirror, I see a 75-year-old guy with a back problem. But I have worked hard not to change much, because it gives people a sense of constancy and stability. I still email with college friends from almost 60 years ago. They ground me, and remind me of who I was and still am.

Q: What's your advice to younger men about aging well?

A: Work hard, but live a balanced life. Family is very important to take you out of your elevated position and make you just another guy. And have outside interests. My hobby for many years was working on old Volvos. I could think more clearly putting on an alternator than sitting in my office grinding out paper.

Q: What makes a person attractive?

A: There's a physical component to it. People are attractive who look attractive. But I think the old expression "skin deep" is still pretty accurate. I have met a lot of people in my time who on first impression seem very, very physically attractive, both men and women. But I never rested only on that. I want to see what the person is really like. So attractiveness has to be physical attractiveness, emotional attractiveness and attraction that comes from in-depth knowledge of the person.

Next: Powell's impressions on meeting the King of Rock 'n' Roll. »

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