Lincoln on Leadership is one of the most powerful books on leadership that I have read. The most interesting part to me was that Lincoln was a true leader as President and not just an individual who sat back and let others do all the necessary work while he made the pubic appearances. In my studies of history, I have never analyzed any president as a real leader, probably because before this class I assumed that they all were leaders. Now I know they are not. Every point that is made in the book to support Lincoln as a real leader is something that either we discussed in class or something that is covered in our text. The best part about this book, though, was its readability. Once you got past the introduction, it was hard to put it down. It is unfortunate that the simple things that Lincoln did which made him so great are too much for some mangers today. For example, creating relationships with your employees.
The first part of Lincoln on Leadership deals with the people, the employees. In Lincolns case, the employees were the troops who were preparing for and engaging in civil war battles. The title of the first chapter is, Get Out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops. Without even reading one word after the title, I immediately thought of the class discussion on Tom Peters and his concept of managing by walking around. In class we talked about how real leaders will get to know their employees and create open, trusting relationships with them. If there is trust between a leader and the employees, the employees will feel very comfortable in everyday situations as well as situations of crisis. The importance of just knowing about the individuals who work for you is so great, yet many people in todays work force give little attention to the personal side of work. Early on in chapter one, Tom Peters was mentioned and the MBWA (managing by wandering around) was explained in great detail as it applied to Lincoln. For example, Phillips says, For Lincoln, casual contact with his subordinates was as important as formal gatherings, if not more so, and todays leaders should take note of this style. He preferred whenever possible, to interact with people when they were in a more relaxed, less pressure-packed environment (16). This enabled Lincoln to accomplish many things, especially obtaining knowledge first hand.
The importance of obtaining information first hand is very important for a leader. We saw the example in class with the telephone chain game. By the time the fourth person heard the story, it was so distorted that it didnt make ant sense at all. This holds true for any information that a leader may obtain. The best method is to get all the information you can from the source in order to eliminate discrepancies. Lincoln did this and was able to do so by being around his people. Lincoln made himself very available and visible to the troops. Lincoln made it a point to personally inspect every state regiment of volunteers that passed through Washington, D.C., on their way to the front; and early in the war, they all passed through Washington (Phillips 19). It is very rare these days, at least in my experiences, to see the CEO of a major company walking around getting to know the people who are working way down at the bottom of the ladder. In class, you called them worker ants, what we will most likely begin as when we graduate. However, worker ants are very important. They are necessary for the company because they are producing the goods or services that the company needs to survive, and therefore they benefit the CEO. It seems to make sense then that the CEO would want to acknowledge these people, but they dont. Lincoln, however, did see the advantage. This type of personal contact helped Lincoln show the troops that the government appreciated their efforts (Phillips 19). It really isnt so hard, because in the long run the entire organization will benefit from personal contact between leaders and workers.
Part I also talked about building strong