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Lincoln on Leadership

Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips

This is a gem of a little book! I think there’s more wisdom on leadership in it’s 173 pages than in any other book on leadership that I’ve read. The author, Donald T. Phillips, has done a good job of capturing the leadership abilities of Abraham Lincoln. This concise book is very readable, even if you’re not interested in history. For history buffs like me, it reaffirms why Lincoln is consistently ranked as our best president.

The book is organized into four parts:

  • People
  • Character
  • Endeavor
  • Communication

The beauty of the book’s organization is found in the principles—at the end of each chapter is a section entitled Lincoln Principles, a summary of what is in the preceding chapter. I especially like this as I was driving last week to Kentucky and listening to this book. I’m not a great audio learner, so to have the chapter summarized in bullet points was a real help to me.

I’ve read this book before and it’s been languishing on my book shelf for years, just waiting to be re-read. I took advantage of my 6+ hour drive last Monday and again on Tuesday & Wednesday to listen to this book—to re-read it in a manner of speaking. I wasn’t disappointed.

Lincoln, the modern executive

Lincoln, the modern executive

Too many of our books on leadership are very theoretical in their approach. This book is different. Like Lincoln, this book is practical and full of common sense. Not many of us have generals as subordinates and a lot of this book is about Lincoln’s relationship with his generals. Nevertheless, the principles can be applied to everyone and every situation.

Some may be put off by the author referring to everyone (bosses, subordinates) as male—this book is a bit outdated in that sense. But the principles are not; they are timeless.

Anyone going into a new situation would do well to read this book. I hope to be able to apply these principles in a new endeavor soon—in fact, I can’t wait.

This would be a good book for a team to read and discuss how to practically put the principles into action.