Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success

Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success

Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success

Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success


What can 21st century educators learn from the example of a 19th century president? In this intriguing and insightful book, Harvey Alvy and Pam Robbins show how the legacy of Abraham Lincoln can guide today's education leaders--principals, teachers, superintendents, and others--as they tackle large-scale challenges, such as closing the achievement gap, and everyday issues, such as communicating with constituents. The authors identify 10 qualities, attributes, and skills that help to explain Lincoln's effectiveness, despite seemingly insurmountable odds:

1. Implementing and sustaining a mission and vision with focused and profound clarity

2. Communicating ideas effectively with precise and straightforward language

3. Building a diverse and competent team to successfully address the mission

4. Engendering trust, loyalty, and respect through humility, humor, and personal example

5. Leading and serving with emotional intelligence and empathy

6. Exercising situational competence and responding appropriately to implement effective change

7. Rising beyond personal and professional trials through tenacity, persistence, resilience, and courage

8. Exercising purposeful visibility

9. Demonstrating personal growth and enhanced competence as a lifetime learner, willing to reflect on and expand ideas

10. Believing that hope can become a reality

Chapters devoted to each element explore the historical record of Lincoln's life and actions, then discuss the implications for modern educators. End-of-chapter exercises provide a structure for reflection, analysis of current behaviors, and guidance for future work, so that readers can create their own path to success--inspired by the example of one of the greatest leaders of all time.


Abraham Lincoln. His life and work evoke possibility, humility, hope, and moral leadership. Frederick Douglass may have said it best. On April 14, 1876, Douglass was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Freedmen’s Monument in Washington, D.C. On this occasion, Douglass said of Lincoln:

Though high in position, the humblest could approach him and feel at
home in his presence. Though deep, he was transparent; though strong,
he was gentle; though decided and pronounced in his convictions, he
was tolerant toward those who differed from him, and patient under
reproaches. & the hard condition of his early life, which would have
depressed and broken down weaker men, only gave greater life, vigor,
and buoyancy to the heroic spirit of Abraham Lincoln. (Oakes, 2007, pp.

Lincoln’s leadership helped a nation continue a journey toward equality—a journey that has not yet been completed.

As school leaders, we, too, are embarked upon an unfinished journey, a journey characterized by possibility and guided by the sacred proposition that “all men are created equal.”* Lincoln’s words and deeds related to equality and possibility serve as a beacon for all school leaders—principals, teachers, and superintendents—illuminating a keen focus on what is important in their work to help students realize the gift of democracy. Lincoln’s beliefs

To represent historical documents authentically, the term men appears in context; for the present day, we
will, of course, be referring to men and women.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.