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PRESIDENT LINCOLN by Peter F. Drucker

People and Performance ()

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Harvard Business School Press

Guilherme Meneghelli

PRESIDENT LINCOLN by Peter F. Drucker

“President Lincoln, when told that General Grant, his new commander-in-chief, was fond of the bottle, is reported to have said: ‘If I knew his brand, I’d send a barrel or so to some other generals.’

After a childhood on the Kentucky and Illinois frontier, Lincoln assuredly knew all about the bottle and its dangers. But of all the union generals, Grant alone had proved consistently capable of winning campaigns.

Grant’s appointment was the turning point of the Civil War. It was an effective appointment because Lincoln chose his general for his ability to win battles, not for the absence of a weakness.

Lincoln learned this the hard way, however. Before he chose Grant, he had appointed in succession three or four generals whose main qualifications were their lack of major weaknesses.

In sharp contrast, Robert E. Lee had staffed the Confederate forces from strength. Every one of his generals was a man of obvious and monumental weaknesses.

But these failings Lee considered—rightly—to be irrelevant. Each of them had one area of real strength, and it was only this strength that Lee utilized and made effective.

One of his generals, the story goes, had disregarded orders and completely upset Lee’s plans—and not for the first time. Lee, who normally controlled his temper, blew up in a towering rage.

When he had simmered down, one of his aides asked respectfully, ‘Why don’t you relieve him of his command?'

Lee, it is said, turned around in complete amazement, looked at the aide and said, ‘What an absurd question—he performs.’ ”

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