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Monday, February 9, 2009

Lincoln: Relating to People

Second in a series on Lincoln’s leadership: Leading in tough times, based on a review of Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips.

Here’s the first line of the book: “During his four years as president, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his time among the troops.” Later in the book, the author presents a graph of the number of days he was “among the troops,” and it’s astonishing. Lincoln truly was the commander-in -chief of the Civil War. He visited generals in the field along with the troops, went to funerals, and walked to the War Department nearly every day for progress reports. He, in essence, invented “management by walking around”-- later coined by Tom Peters. Just a few principles from this section of the book:

1. Get out of the office and walk around. Lincoln did this better than any president. He showed up in people’s offices, at hospitals, and in battlefields. Bottom Line: Get out among the troops.
2. Build strong alliances: Lincoln spent a lot of time getting to know his generals and his cabinet members like Seward, Stanton, and Chase. All this relationship-building helped them get through the toughest of times. Bottom Line: Learn to understand the people around you.
3. Persuasion works better than coercion: Lincoln worked through people to reach compromise. In fact, in his legal practice, prior to coming to the presidency, he used to always discouraged litigation in favor of compromise. What a concept!

Bottom Line: Always seek compromise over divisive conflict.

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