Leadership in Two Minutes: The Gettysburg Address

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln in about two minutes delivered a speech that still today provides insight and inspiration for the world. Wearing his black suit, Lincoln described his vision for “a new birth of freedom” for America. In just 272 words, he reminds us of the hard work of our forefathers, and challenges us to live that dream.

Leadership is not so much what you say; it’s the way you say it.

Listen to Lincoln’s two-minute talk; it’s one of the greatest examples of leadership of all time.


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Source: From the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler. The text above is from the so-called “Bliss Copy,” one of several versions which Lincoln wrote, and believed to be the final version. For additional versions, you may search The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln through the courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Association.

Do your leaders deliver simple, but direct goals for your organization? As a leader, how do you influence others to focus on just a few priorities, and get them right?

Adaptable Lincoln

Each of us is confronted by experiences in life. But each of those experiences really have no meaning. It is how we interpret those experiences that give them meaning. Your interpretations of your experiences determines your perceptions. It will determine your personal beliefs and how you live your life; whether positive and moving forward or negative and in the dumps.

One great example of a person who experienced much pain and failure was Abraham Lincoln, considered to be one of our greatest presidents in the U.S. As a young man, he was mocked and ridiculed by his school classmates because he was awkward and his clothes didn’t fit properly. He failed several times at business and getting elected to the state legislature. His heart was broken by a woman he loved, causing him to have a nervous breakdown, then he married a woman who was later found to be mentally unstable. He was finally elected to Congress but was later once again defeated. He was elected as president and inherited a broken nation that was at war with itself.

How did Lincoln do it? How did he keep going in the constant face of defeat? He did one simple thing, he learned to expect difficulties and to interpret them as a natural course of events. He didn’t choose his experiences, but he chose how to respond to them. Lincoln’s life is proof that perception is reality, and when you cannot change the situation, you must be adaptable and change yourself.

How do you adapt to difficult situations? Does humility play a role in adaptable leadership?

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