418 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268105105 | January 2023
Hardcover | 9780268105099 | March 2019
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268105129 | March 2019
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268105112 | March 2019
This fascinating biography of the late Colin Powell brings to light his towering achievements and errors in judgment during a lifetime devoted to public service.
Until he passed away in 2021, Colin Powell was revered as one of 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, including his roles as the country’s first Black national security advisor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state.
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, we can learn much from his good and bad leadership.
Jeffrey J. Matthews is the George Frederick Jewett Distinguished Professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He teaches American history and leadership and has written or edited three previous books, including Blacksheep Leadership and The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell.
“This work should be read by all national security professionals, uniformed service members, or any other governmental agency including the department of state and the intelligence community.” —The Strategy Bridge
"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 Archive
"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
"At its base is a very well-written story about Colin Powell as fallible everyman. It is an almost existential portrait of the human condition. We all make choices every day; some are good, but some are grave errors in judgment that can have disastrous consequences for a family or for a nation. In my opinion, this book is the most important of the publications focusing on this turbulent period of American political and military history." —Howard Ball, author of Bush, the Detainees, and the Constitution
"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
"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
"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
"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 . . . offers a well-constructed, well-written . . . biography of Colin Powell, who was born in 1937 and remained a popular public figure long after his retirement from government in 2005. . . . Powell comes alive in these pages.” —Law and Liberty
“Jeffrey Matthews’ Colin Powell: Imperfect Patriot is a thorough biography of Powell. . . . Relying on government documents and first-hand accounts, including a four-hour interview with Powell, Matthews presents a chronological appraisal of Powell’s life that is comprehensively researched and readable.” —The VVAA Veteran