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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln’s Will

Fourth 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.

Trying to unify a nation torn by war and strong cultural differences took not only resolve but also a steel will, which was exemplified by Lincoln. Many times during his term, Lincoln made unpopular decisions in service to his sense of duty and his strong will. Here are a few principles from this section of the book:

1. Be decisive: Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, which allowed military arrests without warrants. While I personally have great difficulty with this decision, as did many Americans at the time, Lincoln used this tactic to restore order. He also issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which also had little constitutional foundation at the time, nevertheless leading to the freedom of slaves. Bottom Line: Call the hard shot, even if it’s unpopular.

2. Delegate: The author makes a point that like all great leaders, Lincoln knew how to delegate. What’s more he gave credit to others for success but took the blame himself when things went wrong. Consider how hard you’d work for a guy like that, as opposed to the kind of leader who does the reverse, which regrettably is all too common. Bottom Line: Give credit to others and take the heat yourself.

3. Set Goals: The author tells about Lincoln’s law partner describing him like the little engine that could. Lincoln set his goals high and never let up despite many defeats along the way. Perseverance, the author notes, became Lincoln’s hallmark. Lincoln set personal goals for himself, his generals, and the country, and he was relentless in doing so. For example, he fired about a dozen generals until he finally reached his goal: Finding an aggressive general who would end the war. He did this by finding Ulysses S. Grant. Bottom Line: Set goals and stick to them.

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