Episode 41: Letters From Lincoln
We sometimes encounter challenging or difficult personalities in our professional or personal lives. Our 16th President was no exception. Abraham Lincoln had lots on his plate and was masterful at working through all kinds on people to meet the challenges of his day. How do we tap into and apply an individual’s strengths while navigating their weaknesses? What are the best ways to handle an emotionally upset person? How best to offer constructive criticism without it being perceived as persecution? When should we be willing to apologize? How to address poor judgment and maintain a solid leadership reputation? What to do with the “loose cannon” type personality? If your organization or team is looking for sound, practical management tips and tools that can be applied immediately, you won’t want to miss this VoltCast Letters from Lincoln - (George Meade & Joe Hooker) hosted by Voltage Principal Consultant Lee Hubert with Special Guest Steve K. Rogstad.
Steve Rogstad is an author, speaker, instructor and lifelong student of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Rogstad taught college courses on Lincoln, and has served as editor for the Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin and the Lincoln Herald journal of Lincoln Memorial University. He wrote introductions to The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address by Frank L. Klement (1993) and The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War by Frank L. Klement (1998). He was co-editor for The Many Faces of Lincoln (1997) and edited/ introduced Lincoln’s Critics: The Copperheads of the North by Frank L. Klement (1999). He is the author of Companionship in Granite: Celebrating the Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln Monument (1998), and Racine’s Lincoln Legends: Laying Three Myths to Rest (2014). In April 2008 Mr. Rogstad was appointed by Governor James Doyle to the Wisconsin Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Phone: 262-412-2511 Email email@example.com
Lee: Good afternoon and welcome to Illuminating Leadership this is your VoltCast host, Lee Hubert sitting in for CEO, Jeff Smith who is on assignment. Actually we have some congratulations to go out today and we're so happy that you joined us. Jeff Smith and his co-authors are celebrating the launch of a new book and we're hoping that you will visit us at VoltageLeadership.com so to take a look at that. It's an exciting time for Jeff and Jon Hagmaier and the other co-author they talked about aha lessons from unanticipated leadership.
Really today we're going to be talking about Lincoln part two. I'm really happy to have with me again today as my guest, my friend and colleague, Steve Rogstad who is a Lincoln scholar. I'll get to Stevie in just a second, but it's an important topic today or just to do some housekeeping things. If you want to join us you can. The number to call 866-472-5788.
You can reach Jeff Smith at Jeff@VoltageLeadership or you can reach myself at Lee@VoltageLeadership. Our website is VoltageLeadership.com. You can like us on Facebook at Jeff at Facebook at Voltage Leadership or you can connect with us on LinkedIn at Jeff at Voltage Leadership Consulting or at Lee Hubert at Voltage Leadership Consulting. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @VoltageLeaders. Today again I'm pleased to have Steve Rogstad with us. Say hello Stevie.
Steve: Hi there Lee, how are you?
Lee: Doing great how are things in southeastern Wisconsin today?
Steve: Well today it had reached a high of 96 so it has been very warm and a very welcomed warm.
Lee: It is a beautiful day here in southwest Virginia as well. We're into the season where it's supposed to be warm. It's summer. It's all good.
I wanted to share a special topic today that has to do with Abraham Lincoln. We started this conversation a couple of months back when I had Stevie on and we did lessons on leadership from Lincoln. If you are interested in that sort of thing go back to April 25th and take a look at the VoltCast from that date about lessons on leadership from Lincoln. Today we're going to be talking about letters from Lincoln and in particular two letters that are really classics in management practice. Those letters are to General George Meade and to General George Fighting Hooker.
Before we get into the content of that I wanted to tell you a little bit about our guest. I'm proud to call Stevie my friend and my friend of over 20 years. Stevie is an awesome platform presenter. He's truly a Lincoln scholar. He's sought after by a lot of academics as they write scholarly works about Abraham Lincoln.
He's a contributing author who writes his own forewords. He's the editor of many Lincoln journals. He's also been recognized over the last twenty-something years as an authority by various state governments in Wisconsin and in Illinois for all things Lincoln.
Steve: I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited to talk about these two letters because I think they are phenomenal examples of Lincoln as leader.
Lee: Well one of the things that we want to do is to have a special attention paid to the lessons that are going to come from these two particular works. We are going to have some specific management guidance. Just to set the stage just a little bit for you folks who may or may not be familiar with George Meade and Joe Hooker, Stevie why don't you just give us a few sentences about each of those individuals, who they were, why they were important, what role they had in Lincoln's government.
Steve: Well these two generals were in a myriad of generals that Lincoln was trying to find success with as he prosecuted the Civil War. He had a really tough time the first three years of the war trying to find a general that fit his mindset on fighting the enemy, being prepared, being aggressive, and just went through a series of generals and Meade and Hooker are in this rather lengthy line of generals that Lincoln went through. These two particular generals are significant for two different reasons. Meade battled at Gettysburg and he was very courageous at Gettysburg. He was in charge of the Union Army at Gettysburg and had an opportunity to win the war and failed to follow Lee up when he had the chance to end the war, which would have been two years earlier than when it ended.
Joseph Hooker was one of those subordinates that no superior really wants to have because he was one of those backstabbing subordinates that managers have in their organization and really took the morale out of the army and chose Lee. You know he was unable to infuse a lot of unrest in the Union ranks and he made it a point of making sure his superior looked bad and just took a lot of confidence out of his superior in the ranks of the Union Army. Both of them were somewhat I don't want to use the word failure, but they really hampered their abilities to succeed by either a lack of energy or a lack of camaraderie. In both cases Lincoln had to really deal with these issues in a very different way than what will be accustomed to the way we would deal with them today.
Lee: Well I tell you these are the questions that came to mind for me as we were getting ready to talk about these two individuals today and they really are excellent case studies. You know think about this, how do we tap into and apply an individual’s strengths and weakness while to your points Stevie navigating their weaknesses. I mean because we bump into this and in leadership and in management every day in our professional lives.
Another question is how best to offer constructive criticism without being perceived as somewhat of a persecutor and you know General Lee also had his version of that with some of the folks under his command. Then you just mentioned it you know how do you deal with the person who thinks it's all about them. They're a climber.
They're not really a team player, you know as you mentioned earlier. You know when they do something great acknowledge them and when should we apologize? Then how do you address poor judgment and maintain a solid leadership reputation. Some of these folks are kind of loose cannons and we're going to drill on all of these questions and you know dive into some of these answers. Let's talk a little bit about Meade first because I think he's probably the easier of the two. Give me your sense of some of the management issues that Lincoln experienced with Meade and let's talk about some of the practical take always that our listeners can learn from that experience.
Steve: Well first we have to understand that Meade was heroic during the three-day battle at Gettysburg, but what he failed to do was after the Battle of Gettysburg when Lee had been tremendously wounded Meade had an opportunity to more or less chase Lee and really put an end to the Confederate Army at that time. He failed to do that. He weighed—there was rain, there were physical topography issues, and Lee was escaping, and Meade was so lax in pursuing him that if you can imagine this the Confederate Army had a chance to build bridges to get them across the river to escape. You know this took days and so Meade’s issue here and Lincoln's anger with him is due to the fact that you know you had this golden opportunity to end the war and for some inexplicable reason neither you nor the other two generals that failed to get on to the field in time just he didn't do your job. Lincoln made some comments two people, which got back to Meade and Meade evidently threatened to resign he was very distraught over the fact that Lincoln's angry with him and he threatened to resign.
That was the thing that compelled Lincoln to write Meade this letter. He was not a bad soldier. He was a very brave soldier. He fought with distinction.
He was a career soldier. Lincoln put him in command and at that moment when he could have been like the general that we know today as US Grant. He could have been the US Grant of the moment, but he failed to act. Lincoln was just absolutely overwhelmed because of you could imagine being in a war for three years you have a chance to end it.
You have one guy that lets the enemy escape and so Lincoln writes Meade this letter that because Meade is rather upset that Lincoln is upset and threatens to resign. The letter is not written in terms of wanting to necessarily scold Meade or prosecute Meade or persecute Meade, but he's trying to explain his feelings, but at the same time not wanting me to resign.
Lee: Well I'll tell you what let me grab a hold of that a little bit. We're going to be coming up on a break in a couple of minutes, but that letter to Meade is a classic. You've seen the one that says I’m you know distressed immeasurably by it so I want to find out how Lincoln went about handling Meade’s supposed hurt feelings and you know be thinking about after the break you know some of the things, remember I asked a question about how are you dealing with people when they are emotionally upset or you know they're not exactly in that place where they're being receptive. You know and be thinking about how Lincoln balanced the feedback to Meade.
For you listeners in the radio audience I think this is a key point. You know you've heard different descriptions in management practice, the sandwich approach, the cookie approach that kind of thing. This is very much alive and well for Lincoln and you know Meade did have the chance to end the Civil War and he had the chance to save a lot of lives on both sides.
Can you imagine if you had a person in your command, in your team, in your organization whom, for whatever reason, is doing good things, meritorious work? They're good soldier right; however, when it came time for the rubber to meet the road and they have the talent and ability to do it, they didn't. That's kind of mind-blowing stuff so Stevie I want you to be thinking about those kinds of things. We're going to be coming up on a break in just about 30 seconds or so now.
The point I wanted to make is you know how do you handle somebody when they have messed up royally. You know how do you get them to still use their talent without getting resentful and shutting down. That's a tough one. I'll tell you what we're getting ready to go to break. We’ll see you in two minutes. This is Voltage Illuminating Leadership. This is your co-host Lee Hubert sitting in floor Jeff Smith. We'll see you in two.
Lee: Hello and welcome back to VoltCast Illuminating Leadership I’m your co-host sitting in for Jeff Smith today, Lee Hubert, the principal consultant at Voltage leadership. We're so happy that you could join us today. I'm very pleased to have as a guest today Mr. Steven K. Rogstad from southern Wisconsin, southeast Wisconsin in Racine, Milwaukee area. Say hello again Stevie.
Steve: How are you doing?
Lee: Doing great and we're having just a really interesting and robust discussion about how Lincoln handled two people in his command. We were having a good discussion before the break about how he was handling George Meade. I teed up the question about you know what do you do when somebody really blows it. How do you continue to use them and get their talent to come out in the face of that kind of circumstance? Steve what are your thoughts about that?
Steve: Well you know Lincoln is a master at handling people and in the Meade case what he does is he has heard that Meade because Lincoln is upset he's threatening to resign. Lincoln does not want that to happen so when he writes this letter to Meade he starts it by apologizing to Meade for being possibly an author of the slightest pain. Now and you rarely see that. You know you've got the commander in chief who is very angry for seeming ineptitude and yet Lincoln starts in a very humble position in this letter. He's hearing that Meade might resign and he says I quote, "I am very very grateful to you for the magnificent success you've given to the cause of the country at Gettysburg and I am sorry now to be the author of the slightest pain to you, but I was in such distress myself that I could not restrain some expression of it."
He starts apologizing from a rather humble position to his general to put him on ease that he’s not here to yell at him. You know he apologizes, he compliments Meade and then he says basically his view of the case and I won't read that. It's not a long letter, but I won't read it. He explains to Meade his view of this case, his view of what he thought should have happened. In the last paragraph of this letter of course that is the most famous in which Lincoln says, "Again my dear General I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within your easy grasp and you could have closed upon him if you would have in connection with our other life successes."
He says, "But as it is the war will be prolonged indefinitely." Then he said, "You know your golden opportunity is lost, is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it." Then he closes by saying, "I beg you will not consider this a prosecution or a persecution of yourself as you had learned that I was dissatisfied I thought it best to kindly tell you why.” Now in today's organizational behavior as you know Lee when things go wrong somebody's head has to be on the chopping block.
Somebody is going to be held accountable. Somebody is going to have to pay the price for a perceived failure or a failure or a breakdown or a sale that wasn’t made or a customer that was lost. Here Lincoln is fighting a war. You know these people who are dying. He starts by apologizing to the person who proceeding ineptitude does not want him to resign because he knows he has talent.
Yet feels he has to explain his case, but does not fire him nor does he want him to resign. That's very significant.
Lee: Well let's answer the question about you know he screwed up royally, how did he continue to use them?
Steve: Well you know you continue you to use them until you find another person and that you believe is going to be more aggressive and possibly more solid. Even after these generals came and went as the head of the army of the Potomac, which was the largest army fighting for the north in the Civil War. Once they were relieved command of the largest army then they were put in the positions of subordinate generals again. They never were like fired from the Army or discontinued military service. They just had lesser roles.
Lee: He apologized for causing Meade’s hurt feelings. You know he did some of the balance feedback by complementing his service at Gettysburg and he was anticipating this remember Lincoln didn't hear this directly from anybody this was all a bunch of hearsay right.
Steve: Well yes you know we have to understand this is you know long before the days of Twitter. There were no tweets about this. There were no Facebook pages about this. There were no emails about this. I mean this is at a time when Lincoln really had to have his people who were his eyes and ears glean information or hear things and bring those pieces of information back to him. He must have heard through several people that Meade was upset enough to contemplate resigning, which hurt Lincoln's feelings because he knew he was a very talented soldier, but on the other hand.
Lee: Stevie let me ask you why didn't he just go ahead and fire Meade?
Steve: Well then you have to think okay you know what you have right. If you're in an organization you know what you have and now you're going to go and possibly promote somebody else who's untested in battle and yet you're hoping the success is going to be better than what you just experienced. Do you retain a known commodity or do you go with yet another unknown commodity? In Lincoln's case it certainly seems to be the case that he says," I know what I have in Meade. If we can show him up, if we can rebuild his confidence, if I can somehow compel him to do the right thing, which is of course be very aggressive and go after the Confederate Army then at least you know I think I'm in a better position then firing Meade or demoting Meade and then say, "Well now who do we have in the ranks that we can promote?" That seemingly is Lincoln's formula.
Lee: Let's move this into the management realm. Let's go behind the manager's closed-door with a person like Meade. You know what would we say to Meade opening up the dialogue and what actually did Lincoln say to Meade and say you know look you blew it, opportunity is gone, I sent you the letter. You know and by the way did he send that letter to Meade or is this?
Steve: This is the great Lincoln secret of the letter. This letter was never sent to George Meade. It was found in Lincoln's papers after his death and Meade never received that letter and but here's what evidently the purpose of the letter was.
Lincoln needs to vent and Lincoln was a writer and so for Lincoln to vent you know he says, "I have to get this out." As he says in the letter you know, "You learned that I was dissatisfied, but I thought it best to kindly to tell you why." Well Lincoln did tell him why in the letter. He was able to vent in writing and put his thoughts and his reasons on paper and seemingly sort what get it out of a system, but then he evidently decides just sending that letter with the apology, with the compliments, but still calling Meade to task might have been too harsh and might have caused Meade to resign. He pockets the letter. He was able to get his emotions out and yet he retains his general. I think that there are volumes of managerial lessons to be learned in that.
Very often you want to scream at someone in private. Sometimes we want to scream at them in public. Sometimes you know we want to write some discipline. We want to call them to task. We want to demote them, transfer them whatever it is to assuage the way we're feeling at any moment in time. Lincoln does not do this. His feelings are very secondary to the greater cause that he's engaged in.
Lee: You know that's an important point. Let me add on to that and you know as we got ready for another break in a few minutes we're going to switch on over to Joe Hooker, but at Voltage we have a concept called we focus on being effective and for you folks in the radio audience listening maybe you want to drop this initials down it's F like Frank oh like Oscar, B like boy and E like elephant. F-O-B-E and that stands for focus on being effective. What I hear you saying, Stevie is that Lincoln focused on being effective.
It didn't matter what is personal feelings were. He had to find somebody that was the general’s general to you know prosecute the war or win the war. Meade had his liabilities somewhat of a diva. Had to apologize for hurting feelings that he didn't even hear directly.
The fact is Meade had talent and he needed to continue to use that Talent. In other words he had to focus on being effective rather than being upset. That's a management lesson that I think everybody in the radio audience can take away from this today. If you get to that place where you have somebody on your team, it could be a leader, it could be subordinate, it could be lateral whomever.
When you end up place where you just want to react don't there's wisdom there. Respond don't react and focus on being effective. Stevie we're coming up on a break in a couple of minutes, in two minutes. Here's what I'd like you to be thinking about for after the break.
Let's talk about Joe Hooker. He's got a colorful story as you know. I'd like you to share just a little bit about Joe Hookers story and let's talk about you know some of the questions we said at the outset. You know how do you deal with the person who's a little self-serving, the climber?
It seems to be about me all that sort of thing. Be thinking about that and we'll take a little deeper dive into the Joe Hooker. Again, for you folks listening this is VoltCast Illuminating Leadership. My name is Lee Hubert I’m the principal consultant at Voltage leadership.
I'm sitting in for Jeff Smith, our CEO, the regular host today. Jeff is attending a book launch party with him and his co-authors and we're just very proud of him and pleased of him. If you knew these folks like I do they're very busy and it's you know really an accomplishment to find the time and to do what they did and the quality of what they did and the authorship. That's really excellent stuff so our hats go off to them and I'll shout out goes off to them.
Stevie be thinking about Joe Hooker and we're going to drill down on Joe Hooker and his persona right after the break coming up in just a couple of seconds. We'll see you in two and we'll talk about Joe Hooker.
Lee: Hello and welcome back to VoltCast Illuminating Leadership. This is your special host today, Lee Hubert the principal consultant at Voltage leadership sitting in for our CEO Jeff Smith who's on assignment at his book launch with Jon Hagmaier. We're just so proud of them and what they're doing. I've got with me as my as my special guest today my friend and colleague, Steve Rogstad from Racine, Wisconsin, August Lincoln scholar, fabulous platform presenter.
I just wanted to make sure that people understood that. There are sometimes Steve and I do Lincoln leadership events, sometimes we're called into off sights to facilitate lessons for leadership from Lincoln. It's in Milwaukee, Chicago area, some it's in the southeast USA. If you’re interested at all in this topic and you want to have a deeper dive into how to implement and use the lessons that Lincoln employed for your organization don't be shy. Give us a shout. Reach out to me at Lee@VoltageLeadership.com or you can call our office in Virginia at area 540-798-1963 or if you wanted to get in touch with Steve Rogstad directly, Stevie what's the phone number for those folks to get a hold of you?
Steve: They can reach me at area code 262-412-2511 or at my email address, which is simply StevenRogstad@Yahoo.com. That's S-T-E-V-E-N, R as in Robert O-G-S-T-A-D@Yahoo.com.
Lee: Well before the break you know we were transitioning our discussion about how we take the letters from Lincoln and the principles for leaders inside those letters and how they apply to what people in their management practice. We were transitioning to the discussion over to I'll call him Fighting Joe Hooker. Stevie tell us just a little bit about Joe Hooker’s colorful background?
Steve: Well Joe Hooker once again a career military man, was one of those people who had great confidence in himself and when he looked around him he saw people passing him up in the organization and not being as himself not being selected for top positions. Of course with his name because he was somewhat of a dandy, somewhat good-looking and very charismatic in his own way, somewhat self-centered. The ladies of the evening we're very often found following his army and so today when we refer to the term Hookers it actually has its origin in the women who followed Union Army under Joe Hooker's command. He actually he has that particular little piece of history also attached to him, but he finally worked under Joseph Burnside who was a general during the early part of the Civil War.
Burnside did not do remarkably well. Hooker did not help his superior at all he tried to infuse his army with a loss of confidence in his superior, made himself look better then he was, always thought you could do a much better job than his superior. He really brought the average morale of the Union army down and so Burnside when he finally was relieved of command left with a rather poor degree of confidence by and his troops and that was in no small part due to Joseph Hooker.
Lee: Let me understand this what you were saying is that Hooker intentionally went out of his way to usurp the authority and the reputations of other people in his organization.
Steve: Absolutely had, you can just imagine today and we have them in organizations today. We have those people who are climbing the corporate ladder, wanting to get ahead, craving distinction, maybe regretting or perhaps harboring ill feelings that they did not receive the promotion that they thought they should have in the face of other people who maybe you know they thought was not as qualified or didn't have as much success. This is Joseph Hooker. This is the unhappy subordinate who decides now that I will just go and say whatever I want to say to bring my superior down and they can look bad.
Lee: Amazing, just amazing and when you think about, you know to have that kind of difficult person on your team I mean so let me understand how Lincoln dealt with this person. You know how did Lincoln deal with this person who's kind of all about me. I’m going to drag people around me down to you know elevate myself. I mean how did he deal with this?
Steve: Well Lincoln promoted him. You know he realized.
He promotes Hooker do the head of the Union Army after relieving Burnside of command, but in doing that Lincoln also realizes again as he did with Meade that Hooker is a very capable general. He's a very brave soldier. His nickname was fighting Joe and Lincoln is looking at him like okay you know here's another unknown commodity. I had Steve Burnside of command because of these losses that he experienced, but I’m putting Hooker in at the head even after he did all of this unfortunate work and taking the morale out of the army. Lincoln promotes him, but in promoting him Lincoln writes him this letter, which Lincoln in this case sent to Hooker upon giving him the command of the Union Army.
Lee: Well you know let's bring this under the workplace again. I can think of examples of people where remember earlier before the break we were talking about one of the principles called focus on being effective. You can modify that to you know focus on dealing with jerks sometimes. I mean it’s just a fact of life I think I mean.
I don't even like saying that, but you know statistically when you look at the workplace, you look at managerial issues, you are find maybe 10% to 20% of people that there's nothing that’s going to get inside their psyche and are they teachable, coachable, all of that kind of thing. Let's look at, let's drill in Hooker just a little bit. Lincoln had to deal with this tough customer and you know he's a climber so you know ambition sometimes causes poor judgment and you know if you go out there and malign somebody else it may be good for a season. It may be good for the short-term. It may be a feel-good, but in the long-term especially for your upward mobility that's what we would call a limiting behavior. What are your thoughts about that as it applies to Hooker?
Steve: Well he certainly believed that you know everything that we now know about Hooker Lincoln knew, but again Lincoln says I am willing to put a man even with an ego, even with some unfortunate habits at the head of the army if he will bring us the victories we need. You know in the case George McClellan, the very first general Lincoln worked with, he would say, “I will hold McClellan's hat if he brings us victory.” Now that's really putting yourself in a humble position. Here with Hooker, it’s almost like he writing a letter to his son and I should say that Lincoln hand-delivered this letter to Hooker.
He put it in Hookers hand and in writing this letter he starts up by saying I placed you at the head of the army of the Potomac. Of course I had done this upon what appeared to me to be sufficient reasons and yet I think it's best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. He proceeds to compliment Hooker like he did Meade.
Tell him he's a very brave and skillful soldier, which he of course Lincoln like. He says, "I believe you do not mix politics with your profession in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is valuable. If not an indispensable quality and you are ambitious within reasonable bounds as good rather than you know harmed."
Then he talks about this criticism that Hooker did with Burnside and he says, “You have taken counsel of your ambition and you thwarted him as much as you could, which is a great one to the country and you did it to a meritorious and honorable, brother officer." He says I've heard things that in such a way to believe at that you know that in saying that the army and the government needed a dictator. You imagine this saying that you know I just believed the Amy doesn't need Abraham Lincoln as president with this country needs is a dictator. He goes and he says that.
He goes, "Of course it was not for this that you said, but in spite of it that I've given you the command. Only those generals who gained successes can set up dictators, but what I now ask of you is military success and I will risk the dictatorship.”
Lee: This is like Lincoln crowd or something to that effect. Just to let that sink in so I'm willing to risk the dictatorship, right. Think about that and if you deliver victory, just stunning. Well I can see we're going to get ready for a break in another couple of minutes.
What I would like us to be thinking about as we get ready to wrap up today's VoltCast is some of the tips and takeaways we're going to delineate for people that they can apply in their management practice. Let's go back to general Meade to start the wrap of today’s show and then we'll finish with Joe Hooker in just one other comment about Hooker. I know that when Lincoln talked about, you know he cautioned Hooker to say that the spirit that he infused into his army will not work against him. Meaning that this is the gossip person, the negative Nelly, the Debbie Downer. Criticism, it's loss of confidence, if you’re running around spreading doom and gloom and it's all about me people see through that in a heartbeat.
If you have ever been in the circumstance where you've had a leader or manager or maybe at some point you've actually been that manager where it's all about me, let me tell you when those 360s come back, they're not too flattering. These folks are going to be yes. You sound good. You think you have it going on, but let me tell you reporting to you and getting our work done together maybe not so much. It would be interesting now to bring these guys in a time machine and do a 360 on Lincoln with his cabinet to see what they would have said.
Like wow and to see what they would have done, what the feedback would have been for Joe Hooker and General Meade. I would have loved to be the person that debriefing over that 360. We're going to come up on a break. We're going to ready to wrap today’s show. Again this is VoltCast Illuminating Leadership. This is principal consultant, Lee Hubert and my special guest today, Stevie Rogstad. We’ll see you all again in 2 minutes.
Lee: Hello and welcome back to VoltCast Illuminating Leadership. This principal consultant, Lee Hubert sitting in for Jeff Smith today. We've been having just a great robust discussion about letters from Lincoln and two people in particular in Lincoln's Administration, generals George Meade and Fighting Joe Hooker and just so happy and pleased to have my friend and colleague, Steve Rogstad with us who really is an excellent Lincoln scholar and presenter. Again if you're interested in this sort of thing reach out to us because we'd like to connect with you over this type of topic and it the places we do it especially senior retreats and executive retreats people really do resonate with this content.
What I'd like to focus on or some practical tips and take always. Let's summarize some of the ways that Lincoln dealt with these two individuals. The first thing I'd like to do it's just start with General Meade. With General Meade remember Lincoln started writing his famous letters to him after he heard Meade wanted to resign due to some perceived perceptions, a statement of Lincoln's dissatisfaction with him. What did Lincoln do? He apologized. He was proactive. Translation and take away, he knew his person. He was a good soldier, but he knew his personality. In other words he knew his people. What are your thoughts about that?
Steve: Well I think he absolutely knew Meade. He also knew he needed Meade and so he needs to somewhat pacify Meade even though he's dissatisfied with him. You know we talked in the letter he talks about the fact that you know he was writing to him because you know he had heard that Lincoln was dissatisfied and he thought it best to write him a letter and tell them why. You know early on in the letter and of course we talked about the fact that ultimately did not send a letter but.
In another part of his letter Lincoln says you know I heard all of this evidence that as to why he called them evidences. “I heard all of these evidences as to why you did not pursue Lee, you know what your reasons were and I heard them. I'm not going to tell you why or why what these evidences are that I heard.” He says, “I will tell you sometime when we both shall feel better.”
He knows Meade is upset with him and kind of hurt and Lincoln knows he still upset with Meade. There's no reason to hash it out now when emotionalism is high and they are both probably going to say something or do things that they will ultimately regret so Lincoln says we’ll talk about this in detail later when we both feel better.
I think that a strong take away.
Lee: Let me add on to that point and I want to move over to Hooker because we need to cover a fair amount of things as we wrap today. The take away here is don't deal with people when they're emotionally upset because as you’ve said you know we do it when we both feel better. You know when he criticizes Meade he didn't want to be perceived as being the persecutor or a prosecutor and nor did he ask for Meade head’s on a stick I mean you know he knew that need really screwed up. He blew it. Lincoln was focusing on being effective and continued to use them because he knew he had some talent. Let's go on over to Joe Hooker and some of the key tips and takeaways that stuff that we want to summarize for people today about how he dealt with Hooker.
Steve: Well in the Hooker case at the end of this letter he says to hooker you know in a spirit of advice and just the statement. He says, “I know much fear that the spirit, which you have aided to infuse in the army of criticizing your commander and withholding confidence from him will now earn upon you.”
“I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down either you nor Napoleon if he were alive again could do any good out of—to get any good out of an army well such as spirit prevails in it.” He says, “And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance. Go forward and give us victory.” He's advising him and I want to say in this case he hand-delivers this letter to Hooker. Hooker after Lincoln's death, now Hooker was put in command of some of Lincoln's funerals after Lincoln died. He’s still in the—he's a high-profile guy. He only had his command for five months, but later on Hooker said about this letter he told a journalist quote, “That is just such a letter as a father might write to his son. It is a beautiful letter and although I think he was harder on me than I deserved I will say that I love the man who wrote it.”
Lee: I tell you I was thinking exactly the same thing. We've got a couple more minutes to do some summaries and I'm going to you know wrap up today’s show. Another of the takeaways that we want to tell people to summarize is that he actually complements Hooker. I mean he understands. I mean you know that guidance he gave to him about you know the spirit he infused is you know it's analogous to the culture of an organization.
If you’re a leader and you're out there backstabbing people and your spreading negative negativism negative energy and then watch what happens to you Lincoln is absolutely right in my humble estimation that this will come back to bite you. Now Hooker has to overcome and correct the problem that he caused and Lincoln still wants to use them because he has some talent very similar to his approach to Meade except Meade was a little bit more fragile. The things that Hooker said in public about advocating for dictatorship I mean just think about that. Give me your thoughts on that in terms of a summary comment and then I'll get ready to wrap today's show.
Steve: Well you can just imagine you know your fighting a civil war over the idea of democracy and you've got a general who is fighting for you know the President of the United States and says what we need is a dictator. Now I don't know too many commanders in chief or presidents of the United States in contemporary history that would have said, “Well you know I can overlook that or I'll just ignore that or you know or you are you going to lose your command over that.” You know, Lincoln is not like that. He's not like that.
Again you can insult Lincoln, you can disagree with Lincoln. You can anger Lincoln. You know it's almost as though Lincoln realizes hey I'm dealing with human personality and whether or not they like me whether or not they think I should be president, whether or not they agree with my policy you know as long as they're doing your job on the battlefield and giving us victories like he said with McClellan, “I’ll hold their hat if they give us military success.”
That's stunning. That is a stunning piece of managerial leadership.
Lee: Well Stevie this is been great. I have just enjoyed being with you again today. You know we've had a little background noise for you folks listening. We had a really a big electrical storm go by the radio studio today so if you hear that that’s what some of that is. Again Stevie thanks for being here. Will catch up to you soon.
My pleasure and again this has been VoltCast Illuminating Leadership. We are so glad that you have joined us again today. We do get feedback from all over the United States about and other countries UAE, Pakistan, UK, you name it. People are chiming in and you if you have an idea or a guest or content topics you would like us to address because we do honor those please let us know the best way to get in touch with us is either Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com or you can reach me at Lee@VoltageLeadership.com or you can visit us at our website at www.VoltageLeadership.com or get in touch with Jeff on Facebook at Voltage Leadership or Jeff at @VoltageLeaders. We've so enjoyed having you with us today. Next week on the 27th I believe we're going to have Gloria Wit, my colleague from Lynchburg, Virginia and were going to be talk about diversity and inclusion. That will be an important day and a great VoltCast. Until then we want you all to have a great day and make it a great week. See you then.