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Lincoln's Leadership Strategies

In: Business and Management

Submitted By bvdpgreg
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Book Review of
Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times
Authored By Donald T. Phillips

This report has been completed by Karie Jeisel and Gregory Heintschel DDS
For Management 6013, October 2009

Book Overview
Author, Donald T. Phillips, wrote Lincoln on Leadership after realizing that many strategies on effective leadership being taught to business leaders today are those which Abraham Lincoln so eloquently employed during his presidency. Phillip’s book points out fifteen different leadership principles that stand the test of time and can be taught and used to improve business strategic planning techniques, models for changing organizations and leadership performance and effectiveness.
Abe Lincoln cultivated a deep understanding of the human nature of people. Through this concept, he practiced several principles that led him to meet his goals and his larger vision for the nation to remain united. By spending most of his time with people to understand their nature and motives, Lincoln used the knowledge he gained and his keen ability to persuade in a positive manner rather than using coercive power. His basic philosophy of persuasion, support and delegation was exactly the style of leadership needed to pull the country back to together during the Civil War. Abe appealed to his subordinates’ sense of self-efficacy. He knew the value of making requests and empowering others as opposed to issuing orders.
Everyone today can improve his or her leadership and organizational effectiveness by practicing Abraham Lincoln’s honesty, integrity and consistency. The success of the United States government at the time can partly be attributed to the strong shared values of its people which were consistently instilled by its president. Lincoln drew people together by continually professing and exemplifying his beliefs in “the pursuit of happiness” and “equality”.
Learning how to communicate in various ways was a keystone of Lincoln’s success and critical for leaders today. Lincoln on Leadership promotes developing one’s public speaking ability by revealing how Abe thoroughly prepared with days of research and writing out speeches. He would even practice them out loud to perfect his message. One of his trademarks as a leader was to convey his principles and wishes using anecdotes. This storytelling appealed to all types of people and is still a persuasive way to communicate.
After reading Donald Phillip’s book, it is clear that Abraham Lincoln followed the Action-Observation-Reflection Model of leadership. His extraordinary tenacity to extract lessons from interactions with people in various situations, and his implementation of what he had learned accelerated his development as one of the most highly respected leaders in history.

Book Value
It is of value to note that while the formal study of leadership is a fairly recent intellectual pursuit, Lincoln applied many of the strategies, and held many of the attributes that are a part of today’s curriculum. From a general standpoint this book will help leaders understand the practical applications of one’s formal and informal studies in the area of leadership. Specifically three concepts discussed in the book have practical implications in today’s environment. Those are; being amongst the people you lead, endeavor and persistence with the tasks and people you lead, and finally mastering the art of communication. Utilizing these talents Lincolns was able to lead our country though it’s darkest and most challenging time.
Leading by being amongst your people is a facet of Lincoln’s style that today is known as Management by Walking Around (MBWA). This was an important attribute in that Lincoln needed timely first-hand information that was unfiltered by subordinates for timely and accurate decisions. He also was able to keep the confidence of the men near him by being visible and accessible. Again in today’s world we would call this an Open Door policy. He was often accessible, even to the lowest troop, as the responsibilities of the job permitted. Furthermore this style allowed him to influence, guide, teach, and direct in a manner that would not have been possible from the isolation of his office. This was also his opportunity to learn from others. He was able to acquire new skills obtained from his followers. In effect, Lincoln was learning while on the job. It is direct result of utilizing these skills that he was able to hold the union together.
This style has direct and practical application in my work environment. Like Lincoln’s world, our organization has offices and employees scattered throughout the state of Michigan. It would be impossible to be an effective leader for the organization without practicing this attribute. It truly does promote timely information gathering, confidence among the facilities and its people, and builds stronger alliances.
A second valued concept that this book expanded on was that of perseverance or endeavor. “Lincoln understood that executive decision making is not simply a string of individual orders. Rather it is more of a continuous, uninterrupted process that is similar to the beating of a heart that sends blood throughout a body. Without it here there is no life” (Lincoln, 1992, p.97). In this manner he was most effective implying or suggesting to others rather than direct orders. An extension of this philosophy was in his ability to put parties at odds together and have resolution come from them. He often did not insert himself in these differences he simply got everybody together to talk it out. Through these actions he retained his responsibility for his subordinates. He always gave credit where credit was due, and, conversely accepted the responsibility when something went wrong. This type of leadership is especially effective today. It allows you to create a safe environment for your team. They have the freedom to act, to make decisions, to make mistakes, and to learn and grow from them. In today’s changing world this is absolutely essential. An example in my current organization would be the endeavor required to fulfill our mission of providing access to entail healthcare for the poor of Michigan despite significant state expenditure cut back is this area.
Finally the third concept of great value discussed in the book was that of effective communication. It is declared that every leader must come to realize that the power to motivate followers is directly proportional to the ability to communicate effectively. Lincoln utilized three key attributes to help him become one of the greatest communicators in our nation. The first attribute is that of mastering the art of public speaking. Lincoln was widely known as a powerful public speaker and achieved this through; extensive research of his subject, catering to emotions (Emotional Intelligence), writing first what he wanted to say, and then final many hours of practice.
His secondly widely used attribute of conversation was that of influencing through storytelling and common conversation. Lincoln had a terrific sense of humor and had repertoire of stories that he used to convey his message. His stories attracted people, kept their attentions, and endeared people to him. Lincoln had the understanding that all leadership is show business.
The final attribute of his effective communication style was in his ability to share a vision and continually reaffirm it. He had a simple vision, preached it often, and catered it to the common man.

Conclusion Greg’s Perspective
This book provided an excellent historical perspective on leadership and its effectiveness. This book does show us that attributes of an effective leader don’t really change over time. Phillips points out that Lincoln displayed a classic decision making process that are in use today. His decisions and leadership were based upon understanding all the facts involved. Much of this information was first hand. He would consider a variety of possible solutions and the consequences of each. He would make sure that action was consistent with his policies and objectives. Finally leading to communicating and implementing his decisions.
If there were to be any critique of this text it would be in its historical perspective. Much of Lincoln’s positive leadership attributes are referenced to his time in office. As a result many historical figures and civil war battles are continually referenced. Readers with little knowledge or interest in this era might find themselves getting lost in the minutia and miss the bigger points of Lincoln’s competencies.
Overall this was an excellent manuscript that has been utilized and referenced by leaders such as President Clinton and General Colin Powell.

Conclusion Karie’s Perspective
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to those seeking to improve their leadership skills and to all high school level students. Imagine if younger developing minds embraced some or all of the principles Lincoln practiced. Our world would be a better place. What struck me as a key attribute of Abraham Lincoln, and useful if one can master it, was his ability to take the emotion out of decision making. From a young age, he listened and learned before he acted. Rarely is there mention that he “reacted” immediately upon hearing information. Perhaps that is why he appeared so stately and without grand expression. Lincoln’s deep fundamental belief that everyone should have basic human rights was a driving force in his genuine listening ability, an extremely useful skill to cultivate. He respected all people (enemies included) without regard to their social status or position on issues. When reading this book, at times I found it hard to believe a man like Lincoln existed because the book did not point out any of his weaknesses (understandably so as it was not the author’s focus). Overall, I am already changing as a leader and follower after reading this book.

Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times
Presented by Karie Jeisel and Gregory Heintschel
This text examines the leadership characteristics of one of our nation’s most accomplished presidents. Long before leadership was a formal discipline of study, Lincoln had developed a firm grasp and mastery of those principles. This book examines the principles of leadership as we understand them today in the historical context of his presidency.

Major Points
No leader can isolate himself while at the same time having knowledge and control over what is happening in the organization. * Getting out of the office and circulating among your staff helps gives you the benefit of timely and first hand information. * Being among the staff and employees helps build support among staff and creates alliances. * Treat people the way you want to be treated and in the way you know they want to be treated.
Being a great leader involves being fair, trustworthy, sincere, straightforward, of sound moral principle, and truthful. * Once you lose the confidence of you staff it is nearly impossible to repair the lost respect and esteem. * Your character should be seamless and congruent between your business and personal life. * Always keep in mind that once a subordinate is demoralized he ceases to contribute to the organization.
When making decisions first understand all the facts involve, obtaining firsthand knowledge where appropriate. Consider a variety of possible solutions and consequences for each potential decision. Make sure that the decision and action are consistent with your business and personal policy objectives. * Lead by being led. Shoulder responsibility when things go wrong and always give credit where due. * Set goals and work towards results * Encourage innovation, by creating an environment where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities.
Your vision, mission, and directives are useless unless you have an effective ways of communicating. * Work towards mastering public speaking. * Influence people through speaking at their level with common conversation and storytelling. * Share your vision, but don’t forget to continually reaffirm is among the organization Conclusions
Lincoln serves as a historical reference for integration of sound contemporary leadership principles. Lincoln’s integration of these principles can serve as a practical example of incorporating these attributes in one’s business and professional life.

Opinion of the Book
This is an outstanding text regarding success utilizing contemporary leadership attributes. It is presented through the historical context of Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War. This may turn some readers away, but it shows the effectiveness of these principles even in our nation’s darkest days.

Phillips, Donald T., (1992). Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times. Business Plus, New York…...

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