Change Leadership Lessons in the Gettysburg Address

photo: Mr. T. in DC via flickr

photo: Mr. T. in DC via flickr

At the sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Marketplace spoke with Nancy Koehn (Harvard Business School professor and faculty for the NAS Chief Executive Program) about leadership lessons in the iconic speech.

Koehn notes elements of the address that make it a great example of effective change leadership, including succinctness, framing, acknowledging the stakes and, perhaps most importantly, candidness about costs in service of a larger mission (she cites Howard Schultz’s response to a Starbucks shareholder’s concerns about lost profit due to the company’s support of gay marriage as a modern example of this type of candidness). While it is no doubt difficult to convey a meaningful argument in just over 220 words, Koehn believes that thoughtful, honest leadership in written or spoken form, regardless of length, is very apparent and can help a leader more easily convince stakeholders that the change they seek is worthwhile.

Listen to the interview at Marketplace.org »

At NAS, we know that getting others on board can be one of the most challenging parts of leading change. How do you frame your goals to staff, board, donors and audiences for maximum buy-in? What costs need to be considered and acknowledged?

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