Issue 72

A Unique Publication for Leaders     Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor
To receive a complimentary subscription, send an email to and type “Subscribe.” If you enjoy TAD, pass it along to your friends.  If you move to a different email address, please let us know. TAD is scanned with AVG Anti-Virus.

At the Carter Library and Museum.  The performance is free with an admission ticket to the Carter Center.  Tell your friends in the Atlanta area.  This is the third straight year at the Carter Center.  Time:1:00 PM; directions and further information.  404-865-7131

“You can be too ambitious, you can be too courageous, but you cannot be too mindful.    –Buddha (560-480 BC)

“Get the job done. If you can’t spell kittens, write ‘young cats.’”   –Paddy Donnelly (A contemporary designer and blogger)

“In the negotiations which led to the agreement in Northern Ireland, we had 700 days of failure and one day of success.”—George Mitchell  (former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and famed negotiator, 1933–)

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.”   –Robert Frost, poet 1874-1963.  (This quote is the title of one of his poems.)

“Other people’s weaknesses can destroy you just as much as their strength can.  Weak people are not harmless.”  –Philip Roth. Indignation  (American novelist, 1933-)

“All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.”Federico Fellini (Italian filmmaker 1920—1993)

“Think where your habits will lead you before you begin to form them.”  -–Gene Griessman, 99 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Day

“When I was a child, every night I prayed, ‘If I should die before I wake.’  I should have prayed: ‘If I should die before I live.’”
–Gene Griessman, 99 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Day

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”  –Earl Nightingale (famed American syndicated radio commentator and motivational speaker 1921-1989)

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”   –George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans, English writer 1818-1880)

Abraham Lincoln never wrote a better letter than the one he wrote to General Joe Hooker, the third of his commanding generals, which is reprinted in full below.

Washington, January 26, 1863
I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you.

I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside’s command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer.

I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.

The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.
Yours, very truly, A. Lincoln

Did the letter have its desired effect?  Yes and No.

Hooker accepted the letter with grace, and looked upon it as a treasure.  Lincoln’s close friend Anson G. Henry, to whom Hooker showed the letter, thought it “ought to be printed in letters of gold.”

But Lincoln’s admonition did not save Hooker from a colossal defeat at Chancellorsville.  He had to be replaced by General George Mead, who took command of the army just three days before Gettysburg.

Hooker did manage to redeem himself somewhat, and played an important role as a corps commander.  But he eventually quarreled with General Sherman.  Hooker asked to be relieved of his command, and spent the remainder of the war as Commander of the Northern Division, headquartered in Cincinnati.

(As a footnote to this letter, Hooker was a dashing, charismatic figure known for his boldness, his hard drinking, and his amorous activity.  So many prostitutes followed his army that they became known as “Hooker’s Army.”  However, contrary to wide belief, this is not the origin of the word “hooker.” The word was used as a synonym for a prostitute as early as 1845, almost two decades before the Civil War.)

For a leader, there is much to learn from this masterpiece of a letter.

One, Lincoln understood that honest, sincere compliments always help medicine-like criticism to go down.  But there is nothing falsely flattering about Lincoln’s words.  They are measured and honest.

Two, Lincoln was self-assured.  One of Lincoln’s salient traits was his willingness to command.  He reveals that he knows what is going on, and shows courage in the face of any attempted coup.  (Several Union generals are known to have discussed seizing Washington and installing another leader in Lincoln’s place.)

Three.  Lincoln is friendly and kind.  Lincoln wants to help his hard-to-get-along-with general.   He believed that it is essential to convince others that you are their sincere friend before attempting to correct their behavior.

Four.  Lincoln had already learned that all are not capable of dealing with honest criticism.  He took a chance on being forthright with Hooker.  Earlier Lincoln had written a carefully worded letter to his egotistical, peevish general-in-chief Henry W. Halleck.  Halleck threatened to resign.  Lincoln refused to accept his resignation, but used him more sparingly thereafter.

Even though Lincoln’s letter did not break Hooker’s well-formed habits nor change his character—Hooker did backslide more than once –Hooker accepted the admonition, and managed to salvage his career.

A Biblical proverb puts it this way: “Rebuke a fool and he will hate you.  Rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”

Answer:  Make the most of down-time by shifting to Plan B.

A public relations director who attended one of my seminars told the group that he keeps a stack of reading materials beside his phone that he scans when he’s put on hold.  Another takes a paperback with him to read when he’s standing in a queue.

No matter how efficient you try to be, people will keep you waiting: you’ll be put on hold, you’ll miss busses and planes and subways, you’ll have unexpected layovers.   You may have planned everything as carefully as possible, but there you are in an airport with four unexpected hours to make use of.  I read newspapers and downloaded books on my iPhone.

Here’s what the high achievers do.   I’ve heard it again and again:  “I read.  I check my emails.  I do some writing.  I edit a report.  I make my calls.”

Down-time and in-between time can be gifts, if you learn to think of it that way.

(Adapted from Time Tactics of Very Successful People, pp. 36,37)

In leadership seminars, I demonstrate that we can make practical use of history in much the same way that business school students make use of case studies.  Any well-researched biography contains a number of case studies, if you know what to look for.

History is for more than the recitation of dates and battles and big names.  History is the story of opportunities and dangers that people confront, the choices that they make, and the outcomes.

No two events are exactly the same, but there always are similarities that can be studied with great benefit to anyone who takes time to observe them.

Lincoln believed this, and said as much in a speech that he gave in 1864.

“Human nature will not change.  In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and as good.  Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.”

“I adopted this system many years ago.  When I come up with great stories, quotes, Bible verses, etc., I have them typed on both sides of 3 X 5 cards.  Then I laminate the cards, and carry them with me when I’m traveling, jogging, or waiting in line.  Thanks to that habit, all of these nuggets are tucked away somewhere in the back of my mind, ready to be called up whenever I speak to a group.  It’s a wonderful practice for being ready at a moment’s notice anytime you need a story or illustration to help you make a point.  I recommend it.”  –Pat Williams (excerpt from Gene Griessman and Pat Williams with Peggy Matthews Rose, LINCOLN SPEAKS TO LEADERS: 20 Powerful Lessons for Today’s Leaders from America’s 16th President, 2009, p. 58)

“What an amazing treat it was for all of us to have you at Oglethorpe!   Thank you so very much.  It was a spectacular conclusion to our semester.”  –Lawrence Schall, JD, Ed.D, President, Oglethorpe University

“Awesome!”   Ken Thrasher, co-chairman and co-founder, Bennett Thrasher CPA

“Very captivating and engaging—great techniques.  Compelling! ” –Jennifer Dotson, owner,

“There was great wisdom weaved throughout the entire presentation.  –Scott Oak

“’The Language of Leadership’ was very helpful, insightful. –William Henkel

“I greatly enjoy your TAD; it is written with care, attention and love to details, a very inspiring digest.”  –Constantino Badra

“What a wonderful newsletter!  Head and shoulders above most of what I see on the Net.  It’s much more intelligent.” –David Ryback author of ConnectAbility: 8 Keys to Building Strong Partnerships with Your Colleagues and Your Customers.