REALITY #19: Successful leaders keep their eye on the prize!

It was going to be tough and he knew it.  If he did it and did it well, an experiment in self-government that began in 1789 would continue.  If he didn’t, it wouldn’t.

In his first inaugural address, Lincoln stated his goal clearly and succinctly. “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’”

With those simple statements, the newly inaugurated 16th President of the United States clearly defined his goal.  Over the next four years, he remained steadfastly focused on that objective.  At both the strategic and tactical levels, that mission was at the very driving force of his administration and his leadership team.

When notified in June of 1864 that he had been renominated by his party to run for a second term, Lincoln held no delusions of his personal or political merit.  In response to that renomination Lincoln said, “I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded . . . of an old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that ‘it was not best to swap horses when crossing a stream.’”

In his humble manner, Lincoln plainly shared that a leader with a clear and demonstrable focus on a goal or a mission is a powerful leadership force.  Such a person’s potential to continue leading, particularly in difficult times, is worthy of careful consideration.  The unifying force of goal-driven leaders is all but immeasurable.  Their vision of organizational priorities initiates, drives, and maintains the organization’s best efforts.

The ability to discern, prioritize, and maintain attention on organizational goals is an essential skillset for leaders, particularly those called to lead in challenging times.

2 thoughts on “REALITY #19: Successful leaders keep their eye on the prize!

  1. Mike,

    A common goal is important for every organization. I think Lincoln understood this so well that he was comfortable bringing in people who had different strengths, talents, ambitions, and opinions into his cabinet. We can take this lesson from him and learn that it isn’t always as important to have people who have similar personal tastes, but people who you can count on to follow the mission. It is the leader’s job to keep the mission/common goal as the focus and to make sure others were working to achieve the same goal. In our schools, we should be looking for people who share the same goal before we let them become part of the culture. It is better to not have anyone filling that empty position than someone who is going to be detrimental to the overall cause.

    1. Thanks for your comments Joe. I could not agree more. Diversity of opinion and thought are essential in the life and function of an organization. They give a group’s deliberations, planning, and actions significantly more depth, breadth and power.

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