Lincoln on Leadership By Donald Phillips
“A house divided against itself cannot stand…Our cause must be entrusted to, and, conducted by its own undoubted friends—who hands are free, whose hearts are in the works—who do care for the result.” – Abraham Lincoln, June 16, 1858
For over 20 years, I have recommended and gifted Lincoln on Leadership to aspiring leaders. This great read was one of the first leadership books I read when I started my Air Force career. Arguably, Lincoln was the most tested President in American history, from the civil war to civil rights. He opened the door and his cabinet to his most vocal critics to ensure he had the best advice to make the most challenging decisions. During the Civil War, he was committed to finding the right leader for the right time and keep searching until he found his “Grant.” This book captures the seminal events in Lincoln’s personal life and political career, highlighting the monumental decisions he faced and the lessons borne from them. Everything from people, character, endeavor, communication is covered. Despite the fact all these events occurred over 160 years ago, the principles are timeless even to include innovation. Lincoln was a leader before his time. Good leadership is fundamental, like basic blocking and tackling. Once you master that, you can build upon it and develop your unique playbook to lead those entrusted to you.
In today’s world, leadership is even more complicated with access to unlimited data, extreme competition, and a continually changing landscape. Nevertheless, the lessons learned more than a century and a half ago could inform how you chose to lead and ultimately succeed. At the beginning of this review, the quote is as relevant today as it was in Lincoln’s day. Life is a team sport, and if you can find common ground with those that differ from you, then anything is possible, inside and outside of your organization. That is a powerful realization, and that is real leadership.
President Truman said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I encourage you to build your leadership playbook. I look forward to sharing books, podcasts, and articles highlighting ideas, new and old, and challenging our common misconceptions as we embark on this leadership journey together.