Saturday, 12 February 2011

Book Review: Team of Rivals

Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, so it seems fitting to post my review of the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

The book tells the story of Abraham Lincoln and the three rivals he beat for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. Lincoln appointed all three men to his cabinet, soothed their egos, drew upon their talents, political skills and experience to help him in leading the country through the most difficult period of its history. The book spans the decades running to the Civil War, the war’s big battles, and ends with the assassination of Lincoln.

Through the book you get an idea of Lincoln’s leadership: his superhuman empathy, superlative sense of political timing, and patience. But what really set him apart was his ability to strike compromise and control his own emotions - whether he was under attack by colleagues, critics or public opinion.

He would not be rushed but carefully thought through issues from all sides. He took counsel from those with more experience or clear gifting, always sort to take others with him. Slow to react to critiscism, fast to forgive, never afraid to apologise, generous with his time and always looked for the good in people. The statesmanship of Lincoln is immense and it is easy to see how he is so revered, indeed the story related by Tolstoy and mentioned in the book sums him up well. Tolstoy was the guest of a tribal chief in Russia 40 years after Lincoln's death and had entertained them with of tales of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon.  The Chief then stood and said, "But you have not told us about the greatest general and ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock... His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America"

In my opinion Abraham Lincoln stands alongside Henry V as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Great because of the skill, leadership and humanity they show.

Through this book I had grown to care and respect Lincoln so much and see the love in which he was held that reading the last chapter which chronicles his assassination was quite an emotional experience.

I thoroughly recommend this book.

I would be glad to have a tenth of the qualities old Abe had.  The one thing I do share with him is my birthday, so Happy Birthday to the both of us!

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