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"Lincoln on Leadership...Executive Strategies for Tough Times" by Donald T. Phillips

People, Character, Endeavor and Communication

Part 1: People

Chapter 1: Get Out of the office and Circulate Among the Troops

"His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, & allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with."

Lincoln's reason for relieving Gen. John C. Fremont from his command in Missouri (September 9, 1861)

Lincoln Principles

Explain yourself in writing and offer advice on how to solve problems.

It is important that the people know you come among them without fear.

Seek casual contact with your subordinates. It is as meaningful as a formal gathering, if not more so.

Don't often decline to see people who call on you.

Take public opinion baths.

Be the very embodiment of good temper and affability.

Remember, everyone likes a compliment.

If your subordinates can stand it, so can you. Set a good example.

You must seek and require access to reliable and up-to-date information.


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Chapter 2: Build Strong Alliances

"A house divided against itself cannot stand…our cause must be entrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends - whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work - who do care for the result."

Lincoln's remarks from "A House divided" speech, in which he accepted the nomination for US senator at the Republican State convention in Springfield, Illinois (June 16, 1858)

Lincoln Principles

Wage only one war at a time.

Spend time letting your followers learn that you are firm, resolute, and committed in the daily performance of your duty. Doing so will gain their respect and trust.

Etiquette and personal dignity are sometimes wisely set aside.

Invest time and money in better understanding the ins and outs of human nature.

Remember, human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed.

Showing your compassionate and caring nature will aid you in forging successful relationships.

when you extinguish hope, you create desperation.

You must remember that people who have not even been suspected of disloyalty are very adverse to taking an oath of any sort as a condition of exercising an ordinary right of citizenship.


Chapter 3: Persuade Rather Than Coerce

"With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions."

Lincoln's remarks in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate when examining the influence Stephen A. Douglas was having on the public (August 21, 1858)

Lincoln Principles

Discourage formal grievances. Persuade your subordinates to compromise whenever you can.

Use force only as a last resort.

Remember that your followers generally want to believe that what they do is their own idea and, more importantly, that it genuinely makes a difference.

If you would win a subordinate to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

Seek the consent of your followers for you to lead them.

If you practice dictatorial leadership, you prepare yourself to be dictated to.

Delegate responsibility and authority by empowering people to act on their own.

On issues that affect your entire organization, conduct full and frequent consultations with the heads of your various departments.

A good leader avoids issuing orders, preferring to request, imply, or make suggestions.


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Part II: Character

Chapter 4: Honesty and Integrity Are the Best Policies

"I am compelled to take a more impartial and unprejudiced view of things. Without claiming to be your superior, which I do not, my position enables me to understand my duty in all these matters better than you possible can, and I hope you do not yet doubt my integrity."

Lincoln's closing comments in a letter of support for General-in-Chief Henry Halleck to a close friend who urged his dismissal (May 26, 1863)

Lincoln Principles

Give your subordinates a fair chance with equal freedom and opportunity for success.

when you make it to the top, turn and reach down for the person behind you.

You must set, and respond to , fundamental goals and values that move your followers.

You must be consistently fair and decent, in both the business and the personal side of life.

Stand with anybody who stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Never add the weight of your character to a charge against a person without knowing it to be true.

It is your duty to advance the aims of the organization and also to help those who serve it.

If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.


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Chapter 5: Never Act Out of Vengeance or Spite

"I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing."

Lincoln's comments in a letter about the readmission of Louisiana to the Union (July 28, 1862)

Lincoln Principles

Never crush a man out, thereby making him and his friends permanent enemies of your organization.

No purpose is served by punishing merely for punishment's sake.

always keep in mind that once a subordinate is destroyed he ceases to contribute to the organization.

People will be more willing to seek an audience with you if you have a good reputation.

It would not hurt you much if, once in a while, you could manage to let things slip, unbeknownst-like.

Remember: Your organization will take on the personality of its top leader.

You should be very unwilling for young people to be ruined for slight causes.

Have malice toward none and charity for all.

Touch people with the better angels of your nature.


Chapter 6: Have the Courage to Handle Unjust Criticism

"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it."

The closing statement of Lincoln's Cooper Institute Address, in which he encouraged party members to hold fast to their beliefs (February 27, 1860)

Lincoln Principles

Refrain from reading attacks upon yourself so you won't be provoked.

Don't be terrified by an excited populace and hindered from speaking your honest sentiments.

It's not entirely safe to allow a misrepresentation to go uncontradicted.

Remember that truth is generally the best vindication against slander.

do the very best you know how - the very best you can - and keep doing so until the end.

If you yield to even one false charge, you may open yourself up to other unjust attacks.

If both factions or neither shall harass you, you will probably be about right. Beware of being assailed by one and praised by the other.

The probability that you may fall in the struggle ought not to deter you from the support of a cause you believe to be just.


Chapter 7: Be a Master of Paradox

"Take time and think well upon this subject.….Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time…. Delay is ruining us…. Time is everything…. Please act in view of this…. Make haste slowly."

Lincoln giving seemingly contradictory advice to different followers in different situations (March 1861 - July 1862)

Lincoln Principles

Make consistency one of the main cogs in the machinery of your corporation.

Remember that it is not best to swap horses when crossing streams.

Don't surrender the game leaving any available card unplayed.

Do less whenever you believe what you are doing hurts the cause, and do more whenever you believe doing more will help the cause. Try to correct errors when they are shown to be errors; and adopt new views so fast as they appear to be true views.

You must come to grips with the paradox of providing employee security while also encouraging an environment for risk-taking.

When you are in deep distress and cannot restrain some expression of it, sit down and write out a harsh letter venting your anger. But don't send it.

Making no explanation to your enemies. What they want is a squabble and a fuss; and that they can have if you explain, and they can not have if you don't.

Avoid major conflict in the form of quarrels and arguments. You simply don't have time for it.


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Part III: Endeavor

Chapter 8: Exercise a Strong Hand - Be Decisive

"Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything…"

Part of Lincoln's firm stance regarding new elections in the State of Arkansas (February 17, 1864)

Lincoln Principles

An entire organization is never wisely sacrificed to avoid losing one or two small parts.

Take advantage of confusion, desperation, and urgency to exercise strong leadership.

Seize the initiative and never relinquish it.

Don't give up all your key points of strength or the competition may "beat out your brains."

never let your immediate subordinate take action upon your responsibility without consulting you first.

If you have a subordinate who has a presidential chin-fly biting him, don't knock it off.

When making a decision, understand the facts, consider various solutions and their consequences, make sure that the decision is consistent with your objectives, and effectively communicate your judgment.

Remember that compromise does not mean cowardice.

Try ballots first; when ballots don't work, use bullets.


Chapter 9: Lead by Being Led

"Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours; for I believe non of us went farther than to acquiesce… But what next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide."

Part of Lincoln's response to General Sherman for his "Christmas gift" - the capture of Savannah (December 26, 1864)

Lincoln Principles

If you are a good leader, when your work is done, your aim fulfilled, your people will say, "we did this ourselves."

Try not to feel insecure or threatened by your followers.

Let disputing parties work out their differences by bringing them together and guiding their dialogue.

Always let your subordinates know that the honor will be all theirs if they succeed and the blame will be yours if they fail.

Write letters to your subordinates making the personal acknowledgment that they were right and you were wrong.

When your subordinates come up with good ideas, let them go ahead and try. But monitor their progress.

If your commanders in the field can't be successful, neither can you or your executive staff.

Never forget that your organization does not depend on the life of any one individual.

The greatest credit should be given to those in your organization who render the hardest work.


Chapter 10: Set Goals and Be Results-Oriented

"I think Lee's army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point…Fight him when opportunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him."

Lincoln's response to General Joe Hooker, who'd asked for permission to advance on the Confederate capitol rather than engage the enemy in combat (June 10, 1863)

Lincoln Principles

Unite your followers with a "corporate mission."

Set specific short-term goals that can be focused on with intent and immediacy by subordinates.

those leaders who achieve something at the head of one group will eclipse those who do nothing at the head of a hundred.

sometimes it is better to plough around obstacles rather than to waste time going through them.

Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.

your war will not be won by strategy alone, but more by hard, desperate fighting.

Your task will neither be done nor attempted unless you watch it every day and hour, and force it.

Remember that half-finished work generally proves to be labor lost.


Chapter 11: Keep Searching Until You Find Your "Grant"

"I can't spare this man. He fights."

Lincoln's response to critics who urged the dismissal of General Grant after the battle of Shiloh, where Grant had been rumored to be drunk (April 1862)

Lincoln Principles

Choose as your chief subordinates those people who crave responsibility and take risks.

Go out into the field with your leaders, and stand or fall with the battle.

If employees gripe about one of your chief supervisors, and the complaints are true, do not be afraid to remove him.

Give your followers all the support you can, and act on the presumption that they will do the best they can with what you give them.

Provide your managers a three-to five month grace period to see if they will take action and perform adequately.

If they don't perform adequately, ease them out of power gradually, always giving them ample time to turn it around.

Beware of subordinates who keep piling up information without ever really accomplishing anything.

Coach and counsel a new executive so that he or she may get off on the right foot. Remember, you want him to succeed.

Do not forget that aggressive leaders tend to choose employees in their own image.

Let the thing be pressed.


Chapter 12: Encourage Innovation

"Still the question recurs 'can we do better?' The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."

Lincoln, in his Annual message to congress, exhorting its members to join him in a united venture to be conducted by the executive and legislative branches of government (December 1, 1862)

Lincoln Principles

When the occasion is piled high with difficulty, rise with it. Think anew and act anew.

Don't lose confidence in your people when they fail.

Let your subordinates know that you are always glad to have their suggestions.

If you never try, you'll never succeed.

Except in matters of broad policy, encourage subordinates to take action on their own initiative, without waiting for orders.

Remember that the best leaders never stop learning.

Surround yourself with people who really know their business, and avoid "yes" men.

Be quick and decisive at employing new advances and make every attempt at getting new weapons into your soldiers' hands immediately.


Part IV: Communication

Chapter 13: Master the Art of Public Speaking

"Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated. It is the lawyer's avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech."

From Lincoln's notes for a law lecture intended to advise younger lawyers how best to succeed (July 1, 1850)

Lincoln Principles

Be your organization's best stump-speaker, with droll ways and dry jokes.

Extemporaneous speaking is your avenue to the public.

Use a variety of body language when you speak.

Prepare yourself thoroughly for your public speaking engagements.

Never consider anything your write to be finished until published or, if a speech, until you deliver it.

Remember that there will be times when you should simply not speak. Say to your listeners: "kindly let me be silent."

Try not to make mistakes when you speak publicly. Everything you say is intently heard. If you make a mistake it doesn't merely affect you but the organization as well.

You should often couple written documents with verbal discussions, thereby catching the idea with two senses rather than just one. Both you and your subordinates will remember it better, even if you do not understand it better.


Chapter 14: Influence People Through Conversation and Storytelling

"They say I tell a great many stories. I reckon I do; but I have learned from long experience that plain people, take them as they run, are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way…"

Lincoln explaining to a friend why he often related stories in the course of normal conversation.

Lincoln Principles

When you meet with an individual, try not to part with any unpleasant impression on either side.

Speak in simple and familiar strains with people, without any pretension of superiority. Leave people with the feeling that they've known you all their lives.

Don't forget that humor is a major component of your ability to persuade people.

A good laugh is good for both the mental and physical digestion.

Remember that people are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way.

You will often avoid a long and useless discussion by others or a laborious explanation on your own part by a short story that illustrates your point of view.

The sharpness of a refusal or the edge of a rebuke may be blunted by an appropriate story, so as to save wounded feelings and yet serve the purpose.

Loyalty is more often won through private conversation than in any other way.


Chapter 15: Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm It

"All honor to Jefferson - who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce…an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."

Part of a Lincoln's praise for Thomas Jefferson, one of his early heroes, to a Boston group that requested he speak there on Jefferson's birthday. (April 6, 1859)

Lincoln Principles

Provide a clear, concise statement of the direction of your organization, and justify the actions you take.

Everywhere you go, at every conceivable opportunity, reaffirm, reassert, and remind everyone of the basic principles upon which your organization was founded.

Effective visions can't be forced on the masses. Rather, you must set them in motion by means of persuasion.

Harness your vision through implementation of your own personal roving leadership style.

When you preach your vision, don't shoot too high. Aim lower and the common people will understand you. They are the ones you want to reach - at least they are the ones you ought to reach.

When effecting renewal, call on the past, relate it to the present, and then use them both to provide a link to the future.

You must realize that the process of renewal releases the critical human talent and energy necessary to insure success.


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