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Lincoln Inspired Leadership

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

Recently, I had the opportunity to once again visit our nation’s capital, this time as a chaperone for my daughter’s fifth grade school field trip. Compacting visits to all the monuments and historical sites over the course of two and a half days, the trip provided a great refresher on the ideals of our founding fathers and our national heroes.

A visit to Ford’s theatre where president Abraham Lincoln was shot and to the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership where a 34-feet or three and a half stories tower of books memorializes President Lincoln’s importance, provided my most indelible memory of this field trip.

According to Paul Tetreault, director of the Ford Theatre, of the 15,000 books written about Lincoln, which is more than any other person other than Jesus Christ, 7,000 books are contained in the tower of books. One such book written by Donald T. Phillips, is Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times. Although written approximately a century and half after his death, the book captures the leadership strategies that Lincoln used to carry him through very difficult times which threatened to tear our country apart. These leadership strategies are still very relevant today and can be used to confront similar challenges facing organizational leaders globally or nationally. A global study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, revealed that 763 middle and executive-level leaders working in 11 organizations from China/Hong Kong, Egypt, India, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, and Spain, leaders consistently encountered similar challenges including: developing managerial effectiveness, inspiring others, developing employees, leading a team, managing internal stakeholders, and guiding change.

Nationally, a 2017 Becker’s Hospital Review and a 2017 Managed Healthcare Executive’s State of the Industry Survey highlighted challenges facing healthcare leaders. Some of these challenges pertained to rising healthcare cost, healthcare regulations / governmental requirements and mandates, medicinal and technological advancement, training and education, and ethical issues.

These leadership challenges can be undertaking by using strategies that leaders like President Lincoln have tested and tried during tough times. Phillips (1992) detailed Lincoln’s strategies on people, character, endeavor, and communication. Lauded as the last great leader before the industrial change, Lincoln’s leadership style as described by Phillips (1992) was one of honesty, integrity, compassion, innovation, patience, persistence, consistency and persuasion, with a focused commitment to the individual’s rights with empathy for the common man. His leadership style and strategies enabled him to keep the country together even though he inherited the presidency with states seceding from the government and led the government to work tenaciously in winning the Civil War in a short time-frame.

As a leader, Lincoln believed in building strong alliances and getting out and circulating among his troops. For instance, he regularly visited the War Department’s telegraph office to access key information readily. He met with generals and cabinet members in their offices, homes, or in the field and gained firsthand knowledge that he needed to make informed, accurate decisions without depending on second hand information, or relying on others. Lincoln gained the trust and respect of his subordinates by circulating among them.

Believing in persuading rather than coercing, Lincoln worked with and through people.

Highly driven, Lincoln regularly set goals and focused on results. Lincoln brought about change by being extremely decisive and fostered a sense of innovation where he encouraged suggestions and rarely berated his generals for a loss in battle. He had the courage to handle unjust criticism. President Lincoln effectively communicated a concise vision of the direction of the country through his speeches and writings during the Civil War and provided justification for forcing the Civil War.

He provided leadership at the grassroots level everywhere he went and reminded everyone about the principles on which this country was founded. The sentiment of providing liberty to all the people within this country and giving hope to the world was of great importance to Lincoln.

Drawing from the life of leaders such as Abraham Lincoln can assist individuals in fortifying areas such as developing managerial effectiveness, inspiring others, developing employees, leading a team, managing internal stakeholders, and guiding change as they tackle organizational challenges.

President Lincoln has faced the tough times, made the mistakes, has weathered the storm, and accomplished his goals. His legacy lives on. Much can be attained from his leadership strategies in meeting the challenges for organizations today!


Phillips, D. T. (1992). Lincoln on leadership. Grand Central Publishing: New York

Center for Creative Leadership. The Top 6 Leadership Challenges Around the World. Retrieved from 6-leadership-challenges

1 Comment

I am struggling with this article. While I agree with what was shared about Lincoln and there isn't anything inaccurate in the article, there were things Lincoln did to achieve his goals which some would believe was wrong and even bring his character into question. I have also studied Lincoln and I am a health care leader with over 25 years of experience. If we really want to help our leaders I would suggest we share and discuss the good, bad, and the ugly of every leader so we can learn from the choices they made throughout their career. I find it helpful to study why they did what they did, what other options did they had at the t…

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