Research Paper on Book Title “Lincoln on Leadership”

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Abraham Lincoln, a widely recognized figure, is known for leading the country during a challenging period in its history, the Civil War. However, not many people are familiar with the specific strategies and approaches he used to guide the nation. Phillips became intrigued by Lincoln’s leadership techniques and skills, as he discovered that they continue to be taught in modern times. He authored this book because he could not find any other literature that extensively explored Lincoln’s leadership style.

Phillips recognized that there is still relevance in Lincoln’s approaches in today’s leadership arena and believed that examining Lincoln’s actions as president could provide valuable insights. According to Philips (1992, p.3), the essence of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style was his unwavering commitment to safeguarding individual rights. In this discourse, we will delve into Philips’ analysis of how Lincoln’s methods contributed to his exceptional leadership. One of the ways in which Lincoln exercised his leadership was by actively engaging with people. He understood that if a leader remained confined to their office, they would miss out on the real action. Hence, a leader’s availability to those who relied on them was imperative.

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Lincoln sought the latest information to make swift decisions and valued being among those actively working. He recognized the importance of expressing appreciation for their efforts. By staying connected with the people, he gained invaluable insights that might otherwise be missed. Rather than waiting for information to come to him, he proactively pursued it and even remained at the telegraph office to promptly respond to messages.

This philosophy was crucial for Lincoln during the war because he understood the importance of being knowledgeable about troop operations and staying on top of things. This concept has been referred to as “managing by wandering around” (Phillips, 1992, p. 14), and it involves stepping out of the office and engaging in personal interactions. By allowing followers to have access to the leader, it fosters a belief that the leader is genuinely interested in their well-being and dedicated to success. Lincoln also employed the strategy of forming strong alliances as a leadership approach.

By gaining the trust and respect of his subordinates, Lincoln was able to understand them better. He listened to his people, allowing him to build familiarity with them. This familiarity allowed him to predict their reactions and learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Lincoln’s goal was to achieve action and victory, so he strategically placed individuals with the appropriate qualities in positions where they were needed. By establishing relationships like this with subordinates, a leader can start to bridge personal differences and resolve any lingering animosity.

Lincoln employed persuasion rather than coercion as a strategy to achieve his goals. Phillips (1992) argues that when a leader resorts to coercion, they forsake true leadership and adopt a dictatorship approach (p. 38). Recognizing that he couldn’t accomplish everything alone, Lincoln relied on the trust he placed in his people to lead independently and understand and pursue his desires with fidelity.

Lincoln adopted a non-coercive approach, prioritizing the preservation of individuals’ rights. He employed openness, empowerment, and coaching to effectively lead his people. Instead of micromanaging, he aimed to collaborate with and support his team to achieve goals. Lincoln recognized that imposing orders would only create barriers and hinder progress. He acknowledged that leadership encompasses elements of parenting, as leaders guide and nurture their subordinates like parents do with children (1992, p. 47). Lincoln’s hope was that by offering suggestions and providing guidance, his team would act in accordance with what is right. Honesty and integrity were also integral aspects of Lincoln’s leadership style. He embraced the belief that honesty is the best policy and understood that being truthful is essential for leaders to do the right thing. A leader who is honest gains greater respect from subordinates and cultivates trust among them.

In order to establish a reputation for honesty, Lincoln recognized the importance of ensuring his words, actions, and deeds were beyond criticism. As a result, he deliberately avoided engaging with individuals of questionable integrity. Lincoln understood the significance of leading by example and recognized that any association with questionable individuals could undermine his objectives. He believed that honesty and integrity were crucial qualities for a leader to maintain the cohesion of an organization, drawing from his firsthand experience of striving to preserve the unity of our nation. Lincoln firmly believed that spite had no place in effective leadership.

As a leader, Lincoln considered it beneath him and a waste of time to indulge in spiteful emotions. He believed that people responded better to kindness and empathy. Lincoln aimed to increase support for himself and the union and did not want to make enemies. Consequently, he did not believe in executions during his time in office as he feared it could harm the nation. Making an example out of someone would only create enemies among others. By refraining from retaliation, Lincoln hoped to encourage subordinates to approach him without any concerns.

This will allow the leader to be more effective if they have a good relationship with their people.
“An organization takes on the personality of its top leader” (Phillips, 1992, p. 62), so it was wise for Lincoln to demonstrate the behavior he expected from others. Despite knowing that he couldn’t satisfy everyone’s needs, Lincoln faced significant criticism but generally chose to disregard personal attacks. As Lincoln lacked a proper response to criticism, he decided not to let certain things affect him.

He did defend himself when he deemed it significant or if his principles would be tarnished in the public’s eyes. Additionally, another method of handling criticism for him was jotting down letters without actually sending them, allowing him to express his emotions while ultimately moving on. Similar to Lincoln, a contemporary leader must possess confidence in their skills and their ethical compass, enabling them to persist in their chosen course of action regardless of any detracting criticism. Indeed, Lincoln embodied contradictory qualities.

Lincoln’s approach was unpredictable and constantly changing. He would make decisions based on what he believed was right for the situation, regardless of any previous choices. In one instance, he might make a quick decision, while in another, he would take more time to consider his options. He did not confine himself to any set policies, always prepared to make necessary changes. Despite his flexibility, Lincoln remained steadfast and consistent in matters that held significance.

Regardless of a person’s background, he treated everyone equally, assigning tasks based on the same criteria and managing the government consistently. This unwavering approach made him reliable in the eyes of the nation, fostering their trust in his abilities. Lincoln possessed the skill to leverage his strengths and acknowledge his weaknesses, enabling him to defy expectations as a leader. Additionally, he demonstrated strength and decisiveness, recognizing the necessity for a firm hand in preserving the unity of the country amidst its challenging circumstances.

Lincoln exemplified the ability to seize opportunities and utilize all available resources, a crucial trait of effective leadership. In his role as president, he displayed firmness, resourcefulness, and innovation in decision-making to meet the demands of his position. Swift action was never a cause for hesitation for Lincoln, as long as it aligned with his personal and administrative principles. He firmly believed in acknowledging and acknowledging those who deserved credit while also taking responsibility for any shortcomings.

Encouraging individuals to take risks without fear of blame was a leadership approach adopted by Lincoln. When his subordinates’ ideas aligned with his own, Lincoln granted them the freedom to pursue those ideas as if they were entirely their own. This empowered others to feel a sense of leadership themselves. However, when their ideas did not align, Lincoln subtly guided them back to his way of thinking by implying, hinting, or suggesting certain things. By employing praise and encouragement, leaders can effectively steer their subordinates.

Eventually, leader and follower will have similar ideas and the leader can relax and let the subordinates do more of the work. Lincoln desired to continuously work towards his goals. To achieve success, he set firm goals and sought acceptance from his subordinates. This is crucial as goals create a sense of unity among individuals. An individual’s work becomes more meaningful when they are motivated to channel their talents and energy towards achieving a goal. Lincoln had ambition in attaining his goals but understood that success required taking gradual steps.

This is why he desired the military to concentrate on one battle at a time. Intense concentration on each step enables undivided attention and the optimal result at that moment. Even if a step towards the objectives fails, there is something to be gained from it and it is never a complete failure. Perseverance greatly contributes to the eventual achievement of a leader’s goals. A prosperous leader such as Lincoln must have a subordinate leader who is ready to assume responsibility, take risks, and effectively make things occur.

Lincoln was in need of a proactive leader. He had tried multiple generals but only found success with Grant. The previous generals were content to wait for battles to come, which Lincoln understood was not an effective approach to winning the war. When they failed to organize the army or execute a strategy that aligned with Lincoln’s vision of invading the south, he promptly sought out a replacement. Initially, Lincoln would reduce some of the individual’s responsibilities in the hopes that they would perform better under less pressure.

When the tactic of trying to raise a person’s performance did not work, Lincoln would proceed to remove them from the decision making process. In doing so, he aimed at preserving the person’s dignity while providing them with an opportunity to improve and regain their previous position. Lincoln, as a leader, recognized that mistakes are inevitable and that not taking any risks is worse, as evidenced by the behavior of most of his generals prior to Grant. Lincoln sought someone like Grant because he did not require constant guidance and was willing to take risks that ultimately proved successful.

By remaining active in the process, a leader can simultaneously address other crucial matters. Lincoln recognized that there were multiple approaches to solving a problem (Phillips, 1992, p. 137) and valued learning from the triumphs, blunders, and disappointments of others. Consequently, he understood the significance of embracing change. Lincoln encouraged innovation as a means of effectuating change. He personally attended demonstrations showcasing new firearms, refusing to settle for the limitations of existing weaponry. Recognizing the value of modern guns for his troops, he aimed to implement any novel technology for the northern soldiers before the adversary had the opportunity.

Innovation increases an organization’s likelihood of outlasting its rivals. Lincoln utilized public speaking as a means to strengthen the endurance of the United States government and to enhance his persuasive and influential skills. By discerning when to speak assertively and when to remain silent, Lincoln effectively conveyed his messages. He prioritized delivering speeches with substantial significance instead of indulging in self-expression. Lincoln recognized the importance of preparation in order to prevent misinterpretation or misquotation of his messages.

He would extensively research his topic and would not consider himself fully prepared for a speech until he delivered it. By writing out his speeches beforehand, he had the opportunity to carefully consider his words and ensure they conveyed his intended meaning. Being well-prepared is important as it helps maintain a positive image and prevents the risk of alienating an audience by appearing uninformed. Additionally, Lincoln effectively used conversation and storytelling as another means of influencing others.

Effective communication was a natural talent for him as he effortlessly engaged in conversations with anyone. He skillfully incorporated stories and anecdotes into his discussions, displaying impeccable timing by sharing the perfect tale or joke to suit any situation. By engaging in informal conversations with individuals, Lincoln had the opportunity to truly understand their thoughts and emotions. Utilizing stories as motivational tools, he successfully fostered loyalty, commitment, and enthusiasm towards achieving the organization’s goals. Periodically, Lincoln would visit the troops in order to both reinforce his vision and inspire them. It was crucial for him to ensure that his vision remained embraced by all.

When the troop understands that their actions are valued and impactful, their acceptance is highly likely. The vision’s acceptance will maintain motivation and drive towards achieving the goals. To foster energy and ensure success for the vision, individuals need periodic reminders of the direction and purpose. A thorough analysis of Donald T. Phillips’ book on Lincoln’s leadership skills reveals numerous effective techniques that remain relevant today. Exceptional leadership is timeless, and Phillips provides practical strategies that can be adopted by everyone.

Phillips observed that Lincoln employed a variety of leadership strategies, which included engaging with the people, forming alliances, persuading others, practicing honesty, avoiding spitefulness, adapting to criticism, embodying paradoxes, making decisive decisions, leading by being led, setting goals and working towards outcomes, finding a reliable deputy leader, fostering innovation, utilizing public speaking, influencing through conversations, and consistently discussing the vision. These methods can be successfully employed through timing and diligent effort. Recognizing the effectiveness of these approaches can assist individuals in enhancing their leadership skills.

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Research Paper on Book Title “Lincoln on Leadership”. (2017, Mar 18). Retrieved from

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