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“Lincoln on Leadership” the Book by Donald T. Phillips Report

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Updated: Oct 16th, 2021


This solid and quite engaging book written by Donald T. Phillips has been a good masterpiece in various fields as a subject matter of critical analysis of both history and character. The book has been of importance in several fields including general leadership like in the case of politics, sports and business. The book is broken up into key lessons, each of which is a representation of a facet or a feature of President Abraham Lincoln’s style of leadership.

These aspects of his leadership styles are those expressly brought out through his actions as well as through his words. This beautifully organized and intimate history is a real show of Lincoln in action. The debate clearly discloses how the same principles used by Lincoln can be appropriate for any leader in areas of communication, people relation, character and endeavor. Therefore the book becomes an immensely vital companion for any individual who has interest in Lincoln as a leader, in general history and in leadership.

Main body

In this short report, the summary will shade light on (as brought out in the book) how one can become an inspirational leader by adopting Lincoln’s principles of leadership and what principles to adopt. The book Lincoln on Leadership also reveals why one should be very cautious when choosing fights but still act resolutely on any decision made. By reading the book one also becomes acquainted with the reason why good commu8nincation skills are fundamental to any leader wishing to succeed in leadership.

Several factors contribute to Donald Phillips carrying out an insight analysis of personality characteristics of President Lincoln’s leadership that made him succeed as a charismatic leader to that extent. President Lincoln was faced with great challenges as a leader in his days, challenges that would definitely be complex to the present leader. Just ten days to his taking of the oath of office, the Confederate States of America formally withdrew from the federation and took all the arsenals, federal agencies and forts within their territory.

That was in 1861. By the fact that President Lincoln was elected by a minority of the popular vote and he had no training in relation to military skills, he was direly spurned by many people, even his own advisers. In addition, Lincoln did not have much managerial or political expertise, and he had limited financial experience. Amid all these, he was here faced with the challenging task of saving the nation from tearing apart. The book reveals further that the critical leadership skills taught today were actually used by leaders like President Lincoln in the past days of history.

Lincoln on Leadership gives an unparalleled view into the leadership style applied by Lincoln and which made him triumph despite the highlighted challenges. The book uniquely infuses Lincoln’s outstanding traits in a contextual sense of today’s leadership styles. In analyzing the people skills and management techniques used by Lincoln to counter the eminent leadership challenges and achieve the impossible, Phillips discovers a number of vital lessons for the managers of modern days.

These lessons are wrapped up in the chapters of the book. For example: “rather than just sitting in the office, he should get out and Mingle out with the Troops……. Should be a Leader who leads by being led…..Persuade instead of Coercing….” among other lessons. The author summarizes the distinctive leadership principles through specific illustrative examples at the close of each lesson. The following is an enumeration of a few lessons that can be learned by today’s leader:

  • The leader should only wage one war at a time
  • When a chance comes, he should seize that initiative and never give up or relinquish it
  • The leader should be in a position to provide job security despite encouraging risk-taking
  • Rather than issuing orders, the leader should make suggestions or use implications

Phillips recounts intensely how President Lincoln must have had a thorough understanding of the concepts that relate to leadership. Sound management principles are well addressed in the book in a well organized manner with an easy-to-follow evaluation of Abraham Lincoln’s guidelines on leadership with today’s leadership skills. He relates that most present day’s precepts of leadership are in most cases expressed in an abstract fashion, while in reality, there is need for solid illustrations which are simple to be understood.

He therefore believes that if a today’s manager or leader studies Abraham Lincoln, he will be able to get solid examples from this leader of great renown. These examples can help a modern day manager to improve on the kind leadership they deliver thereby greatly enhancing their knowledge on leadership in general, (pp 23-35).

The book is organized into four parts which give the reader clear perception on how deal with people, how to build character, putting effort towards accomplishing one’s goals, mastering communication and promoting creativity and innovation. Each chapter wraps up giving a summarized list of what Phillips has titled “Lincoln Principles”, which recapitulate the main points in each chapter and act as an encouragement to the reader to put them into practice.

Maintaining a Personal Touch

Part I, labeled “People,” illustrates Lincoln’s practical individual approach. He habitually came out of the White House in order to pay a visit to the troops and the rest of the people availing himself to the people as much as he could achieve. In recognition of the fact that the modern manager may want to grumble that there is not enough or sufficient time to expend with his juniors the way Lincoln did, the author poses a challenge that Lincoln was attempting to win a war in order to unite the nation.

Exhibiting an Exemplary Character

The attributes of sincerity and integrity, not at all acting out of reprisal or malice and having the audacity to deal with undue criticism, and being the master of paradox are dealt with in this Part II, titled “Character.” Here, Lincoln’s ability to be counted as a leader of high integrity, one who can be counted on as fair, honest, trustworthy and of sound moral standards is well illustrated. The author recounts that subordinates are strongly inspired by the integrity and honesty of their leaders. He adds that the modern leader should learn to pardon mistakes rather than chew subordinates.

Taking Charge by Letting Go

This part, “Endeavor,” illustrates Lincoln’s leadership personality in decision making. It also describes his capability as a leader who led by being led and therefore the author suggests that the reader must put accountability into consideration whenever making decisions.

Communicating Simply and Directly

“Communication” is the fourth part of the book and it brings out the importance of a leader having skills in public speaking, storytelling and developing power in influencing people.

Fitting Lessons from the Past to Today’s World

The leader is encouraged here to learn great lessons from the past and apply the lessons learned to the present day set-up. As a matter of recalling the past, the modern leader should be aware that Abraham Lincoln accomplishment a great feat at a time when he was faced with such a challenge and yet he emerged victorious by uniting the nation.


In conclusion, this book is a great resource for any modern leader who would wish to take a glimpse of one of the America’s greatest and strongest presidents.

Works Cited

Phillips, D.T. Lincoln on Leadership by: Warner Books, Inc. 1993.

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