Issue 67

A Unique Publication for Leaders     Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor
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“The struggle of today is not altogether for today—it is for a vast future also.”
–Abraham Lincoln, first annual message to Congress; December 1861

“I repeat to you it will neither be done nor attempted unless you watch it every day, and hour, and force it.”
–Abraham Lincoln’s wired instructions to General U.S. Grant, who was laying siege to General Robert E. Lee’s army at Petersburg, VA, August, 1864.

“You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.”  –Stephen W. Comiskey

“If something unexpected comes up, I don’t hesitate to change it; but by and large, I operate on the basis of priorities.”
–Admiral Thomas Moorer, Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

“Time management is life management.   Everybody manages time.   Some people just do it better than others.”

“Do not spend time.  Invest it.  You spend time sleeping.  Investing time requires conscious effort.” “The main purpose of saving time is to invest it doing something worth doing.”

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”  –John Kenneth Galbraith

“The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.”—Robert Frost

“Speech is conveniently located midway between thought and action, where it often substitutes for both.”  –John Andrew Holmes

Check out LINCOLN SPEAKS TO LEADERS: 20 POWERFUL LESSONS FOR TODAY’S LEADERS FROM AMERICA’S 16TH PRESIDENT by Gene Griessman and Pat Williams with Peggy Matthews Rose.   This brand-new book combines Lincoln’s wisdom written by Gene Griessman with practical advice for life and career by legendary sports executive Pat Williams.  At bookstores everywhere,, Barnes &,, and at  Quantity discounts available—404-256-5927

To celebrate Lincoln’s bicentennial, a number of new Lincoln titles have been published.  Some of them are very good, and in the next few issues, we will discuss several of the best ones.

If you’ve never read a book about Lincoln, a good one to start with is THE LINCOLNS: A SCRAPBOOK LOOK AT ABRAHAM AND MARY by Candace Fleming (NY: Schwartz & Wade, 2009).

Candace Fleming’s book is brimful of wonderful old photographs and graphics; the writing is lively; and it’s just plain fun to read.  It’s accurate, too.  Dr. John Sellers, the Lincoln curator at the Library of Congress, who was very helpful to me when I wrote The Words Lincoln Lived By, was one of Fleming’s consultants, and shared some as-yet-uncataloged documents with her.  Fleming’s book is a fine way to learn about Lincoln, and to show and tell what you’ve learned with family and friends.

One of my favorite new books, and one that has not gotten the attention it deserves, is William Lee Miller’s PRESIDENT LINCOLN: THE DUTY OF A STATESMAN.  NY: Vintage Books, 2009)

Miller’s book should not be your first read.  But if you already know a bit about Lincoln, and perhaps have already read TEAM OF RIVALS, this book will provide in-depth analysis about how Lincoln made and executed decisions.  Miller is a graceful writer, witty and deeply informed.   Here are a few quotes from his newest book:

  • “He (Lincoln) was not accustomed to ordering people about.  He did not insist on deference and did not receive much.”
  • “He did not continually invoke absolute moral claims or his own stern duty, as many moral reformers and abolitionists would do, without regard to consequences.  But he was also one who recognized a point at which compromise was no longer morally permissible; he had shown already in the previous winter that he could draw the line….”
  • (The origin of presidential pardons) “In his famous Commentaries on the Laws of England, in 1769, Blackstone was quite explicit that pardoning power belonged to kings. ‘This is indeed one of the great advantages of monarchy in general, above any other form of government; that there is a magistrate, who has it in his power to extend mercy, whenever he thinks it is deserved; holding a court of equity in his own breast, to soften the rigour of the general law.’”

“When Blackstone wrote of ‘holding a court of equity in his own breast,’ he was thinking of a royal breast, hedged with divinity, not the untutored breast of some total commoner of dubious family from a remote province, tossed up by an accident of popular election.”

Don’t feel the need to finish every book that you begin.

Most of us were trained to finish what we started, and it’s not much of a stretch to apply that to the books we read.  However, reading discerningly is one of the keys to getting more out of every day.

It is OK to acknowledge that every part of every chapter in a book cannot be equally interesting or important.  Even the best-edited, skillfully-written book contains material that is not useful for every reader.

Remember that your time is worth more than the money you spent on the book.   The same advice holds for movies, videos, plays, and TV.  Why should you ever invest time hoping a program or play or book will improve?  If it doesn’t mean anything to you, put the book aside, get up, push the stop button, switch channels or shut it off.  Consider what your time is worth. –adapted from chapter 27 of 99 WAYS TO GET MORE OUT OF EVERY DAY by Gene Griessman


As incredible as it may seem, there is talk in some states again about seceding from the Union.  Here are Lincoln’s words on this subject:  “I consider the central idea pervading this struggle (the Civil War) is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity.  We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government if they choose.”  Lincoln’s words recorded in the diary of John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries on May 7, 1861.

Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became a great champion of abolition and racial equality, stated in a speech two decades after Lincoln’s death, acknowledged Lincoln’ contribution to the abolition of slavery by putting Lincoln in context:  “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”  (Quoted in William Lee Miller, 2009: 307)


If you’re a mature leader, nobody needs to tell you how important it is to make good decisions.  You can be charismatic and smart and talented, but if you make stupid decisions, you soon will be in serious trouble.

One powerful way to make good decisions is to play (the) devil’s advocate.  The concept comes from an ancient procedure used by the Roman Catholic Church.  Whenever someone is proposed for sainthood, church authorities appoint a lawyer to argue against canonization of the candidate.  The advocatus diaboli looks for defects of character and flaws in the evidence.

In common parlance, you play devil’s advocate by putting forward objections to an idea that you may actually favor in order to test the soundness of the idea.  I personally play devil’s advocate with the participants in my executive coaching program whenever they must make consequential decisions.  It is an invaluable technique to help someone anticipate risks and objections, and most importantly, make good decisions.

We know that Lincoln played devil’s advocate on more than one occasion.   Once, when a delegation called on him and urged him to issue an emancipation proclamation immediately, Lincoln—to their consternation—gave a number of reasons for not doing what they proposed.  Lincoln had already decided that he was going to issue the emancipation proclamation.  However, he was not being perverse.  He wanted to hear every possible reason for doing so, and every possible answer to the risks that he faced.

Lincoln also used this tactic during what became known as the Trent Affair.  At the time passions reached the boiling point, coming close to causing a war with Great Britain during the Civil War.  Without going into all the details, marines from an American ship boarded a British ship—the Trent—on the high seas and seized two prominent Confederate diplomats who were on their way to England to seek recognition for the Confederacy.  The Confederates were taken as prisoners by Union marines and taken aboard a Union vessel to Fort Monroe.

The British were irate, demanded a formal apology, and prompt release of the prisoners.  In the U.S., hotheads clamored for war with Great Britain.

Lincoln realized it would be foolhardy to fight two wars at a time, and knew it would be disastrous if Great Britain recognized the Confederacy as a nation.

Lincoln convened his cabinet for long, grueling sessions, and actually proposed drafting a devil’s advocate paper arguing against one of the options.

The incident had a happy ending.  War was averted, the prisoners were released, no apology was offered, and Great Britain never recognized the Confederacy.

RECENT AND UPCOMING EVENTS:  I particularly enjoy making presentations at places that have a strong connection with the Lincoln story.  On May 5th, I performed for the Wichita Bar Association.  In Lincoln’s time, a huge controversy over whether Kansas and Nebraska would enter the Union as slave or free states became the catalyst for the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and propelled Lincoln into national prominence.

On May 21, I gave a seminar for mid-level managers for the U.S. Courts on How To Communicate Like Lincoln at the newly opened Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home in Washington, DC.  We are planning to do a new and different Lincoln program at the Lincoln Cottage for senior managers of the U.S. Courts this August.

After the seminar “The Vocabulary of Leadership:  How To Communication Like Lincoln and Other Great Leaders”
“The most concentrated set of useful improvement suggestions I have ever heard.”—Alan Link, U.S. Courts

“Each and every vocabulary bullet for leadership will help me overcome my fright over presentation skills and ‘stepping out’ and feeling good about it.  Now I know the secrets.”   –Sharon Spaulding, U.S. Courts

After “Lincoln the CEO” seminar
“I enjoyed the phrases backed up with strategies and reasoning.  Practical advice reflecting great insights.  –A Pigott, Kilbride Partners

After “Lincoln Live”
“The inspirational comments were wonderful.  The special effects were phenomenal.  I cried as you told about Lincoln’s death.”
–Patricia Schickler, teacher

“Entertaining format, linking business concepts with identifiable figures of importance.”  –Unsigned evaluation

“Dr. Griessman’s portrayal of Lincoln was funny, charming, humbling, insightful, touching relevant, and powerful.  It was especially relevant to our current times and increasing diversity.”  –Richard Grayton, DPM

“The ‘in character’ portion of the talk was riveting.   Gene Griessman is Abraham Lincoln.  It was a very moving experience.”
–Peter Buchanan, chairman, TEC Canada, Toronto