Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed a packed audience Monday at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. Powell spoke at the opening session of the Alltech REBELation, an international conference exploring innovation, inspiration and world-changing ideas.
The conference is in keeping with Alltech’s mission to improve the health and performance of people, animals and plants through natural nutrition and scientific innovation. Nearly 3,000 attendees from 63 countries were in attendance at the annual conference. Alltech president and founder Dr. Pearse Lyons introduced Powell as “America’s favorite rebel. Lyons challenged the crowd to "be a rebel like Gen. Powell. That’s what you’re here for,” He encouraged attendees to “do things differently,” a fundamental to both leadership and innovation.


A four-star general who served four U.S. presidents, Powell shared his insights on leadership. He said, “The best leaders convey purpose to everyone in their organization.” He added that you know you're a good leader “if your troops follow you, even if only out of curiosity.” Powell never once voiced the military cliché: “That’s an order!”
“Make sure you take care of the troops” translates in the business realm, said Powell. “Make sure you are giving your people everything they need to get the job done.”
As Lyons observed, “The number one thing missing from agriculture and business today is leadership. And when I think of leadership, General Powell comes to mind. He is decisive, courageous and a force multiplier of perpetual optimism. For inspirational leadership, we need not look any further than General Powell, and, for this reason, he is the ideal recipient of our 2015 Medal of Excellence.”
The Medal of Excellence is Alltech’s highest distinction, awarded annually to someone of great achievement and character. Previous honorees include agricultural leaders such as Norman Borlaug, the “father of the Green Revolution.”
REBELation’s all-star line-up featured more than 110 speakers including Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, and John Calipari, University of Kentucky's head basketball coach, who received the Alltech Humanitarian Award.