Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was a most
effective leader during a tumultuous time in U.S. history. His presidency is a
study in the successful use of The 21
Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by J. Maxwell, particularly during all that
occurred with the passing of the 13th Amendment. In the following
essay I will identify and discuss 5 of Maxwell’s Laws that demonstrate how this
is true, using specific examples from the article by Nancy Koehn, “Lincoln’s School of Management: Resilience
and Careful Listening, as learned in 1862”.
The Law of Navigation: according to Maxwell, “Anyone Can Steer the Ship,
but It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course”; this Law is about staying on the
path, even through difficult times. A leader will hear what others around them
have to say, gathering information, listening to team members, not just
themselves. They learn from their
mistakes, using perspective when thinking. They have faith that they can reach
their goal, while being realistic along the way.
example of this Law in Koehn’s (2005) article: “Yet despite all of his mental
suffering, Lincoln never gave way to his darkest fears. His resilience and
commitment to preserve the Union helped sustain him. The ability to experience negative emotions
without falling through the floorboards is vital to entrepreneurs and business
leaders”. Despite all the trials and
tribulations Lincoln had to deal with: multiple battles and solders lost, loss
of support around him and the death of his own young son, Lincoln stayed the
course and saw the United States through it’s darkest time; through to the surrender
of General Lee and the end of the Civil War; and posthumously, the passing of
the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The Law of Connection: according to Maxwell, “Leaders Touch a Heart
Before They Ask for a Hand”; this Law is about having an emotional attachment
to the vision; caring for and valuing those around you. If you value your people,
you will connect to them and they will follow you more readily; but you must go
to them, focus on and believe in them. It’s up to the leader to make this
connection with their people.
example of this Law from Koehn’s (2005) article: “Lincoln often traveled to the
battlefields to visit Union troops, and he held open ‘office’ hours in the
White House to receive interested citizens – and their countless
requests.” Lincoln took time to walk
among the people actually fighting the civil war, demonstrating to them how
much he valued their sacrifice. It’s
hard to believe, but he also met with the average citizen, hearing their
complaints and appeals; unheard of today!
The Law of Sacrifice: according to Maxwell, “A Leader Must Give Up to Go
Up”; this Law is about the sacrifice that must be made to be a good
leader. Sacrifice is constantly being
made in leadership. Leaders must sacrifice, more than their people sacrifice
and it does not stop, in fact it becomes greater and greater.
of this Law from Koehn’s (2005) article are: “Faced with these and other
setbacks, Lincoln grew more depressed, but his commitment to the proclamation
did not waver.” Lincoln suffered from
depression and yet somehow he set it aside to be a strong leader, sacrificing
his mental well-being for the good of the country. “And personally, the death of his 11-year-old
son, Willie, five months earlier still weighed heavily on both the president
and his wife.” Lincoln also suffered the death of his son during this time, a
great emotional suffering, yet he sacrificed his morning and continued to be a
leader for the US.
The Law of Timing: according to Maxwell, “When to Lead Is As Important As
What to Do and Where to Go”; this Law is about how key it is to know when to do
something, as much as to know what to do.
example from Koehn’s (2005) article demonstrating Lincoln’s understanding and
use of The Law of Timing was when he held his letter to General Meade, writing
on the envelope: “To Gen. Meade, never sent or signed.” Lincoln was rightfully upset with General
Meade’s lack of action after the Battle of Gettysburg, and he wrote a letter pouring
out his anger and frustration with the general for not chasing Lee, and perhaps
being able to end the Civil War. But
Lincoln never sent it, he seemed to understand that it was not the right time
to dress down Meade and express he feelings.
Koehn goes on to say that,
“…Lincoln realized, the first action that comes to mind is not always
example in the article of Lincoln utilizing The Law of Timing, was how he
waited to deliver his Emancipation Proclamation after a battle victory,
listening to his Secretary of State William H. Seward, who suggested it be
delivered after a Union victory, “lest it seem ‘the last measure of an
exhausted government, a cry for help,'”
The Law of Legacy: according to Maxwell, “A Leader’s Lasting Value Is
Measured by Succession”; this Law is about how the most important contributions
a leader makes are those that survive their rule. What do you leave after your reign?
who has studied US history knows that Lincoln left a tremendous legacy. In Koehn’s (2005) article, his legacy was the
13th Amendment, which was passed after his death. “On April 9, 1865,
at Appomattox, VA., Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, head of the Union
forces. Six days later, Lincoln was dead. And the Emancipation Proclamation,
which took effect two years earlier, would become part of a broader process of
emancipation that culminated in ratification of the 13th Amendment
in December 1865.”
a leader during a turbulent time in US history, left an amazing legacy that
continues to impact people today and one that is studied closely by both
historians and leadership experts.