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How a thriller mastermind does it

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Tom Clancy, best-selling author of military thrillers, proved that you don’t have to sneak around to glean intelligence.

When in 1988 he first met Colin Powell, then national security advisor to President Reagan, Clancy had only recently written The Hunt for Red October. Powell was fascinated with how this insurance agent had shot to the top of the best-sellers’ list on his first try. As their friendship grew, Powell was able to discern what made Clancy a leader:

He was always learning. Clancy immersed himself in his subject. He studied and talked to experts. “He wasn’t sneaking into classified facilities,” Powell writes. “He gained this extraordinary knowledge by reading, studying and talking to folks.”

He did not suffer fools. “He spoke his mind clearly,” Powell says, “and sometimes was quite outspoken.”

He sweated the details. Clancy’s books were “incredibly accurate,” ­Powell says. “He didn’t invent impossible schemes. He invented what could happen.”

— Adapted from “Tom Clancy: Master of the military thriller,” Colin Powell, Time.

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