Two Facets of Leadership

There are two very different facets of leadership: doing the right thing and doing things right.

What is the right thing? A right thing is something that is in alignment with a person’s purpose. The difference between having a significant life and a successful life is knowing what your purpose is and how it fits into the greater scope of the world.

Moreover, it’s important to be clear about your purpose for the day. For example, if you receive a phone call it may be a nice call to take, but it may not be the right thing because it doesn’t fit in with your purpose for that day. A lot of things can be good. But good things are not always the right things.

Doing things right, on the other hand, means doing what fits in with the fundamental principles that you have decided to live your life by, such as the principles committed to in the Advanced Leadership Seminar. If a decision or activity you have before you doesn’t align with those, then it’s not the right way.

Abraham LincolnThere’s a quaint story about Lincoln that involves doing the right thing and doing things right. During the Civil War, the Confederates were banging at the door of Washington, D.C. At the same time, Colonel Scott, the senior officer in charge of defending Washington, was informed that his wife had died. Scott asked his commanding officer if he could leave to be with his family for the funeral, but the officer declined his request because of the Confederate attack.
Colonel Scott took his case all the way up the chain of command to the secretary of war, a man named Stanton. Even Stanton declined to let Scott go. Desperate, Colonel Scott approached the president, Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln blew up. Couldn’t Scott see that he, Lincoln, had bigger decisions to make than this? Why didn’t Scott listen to his chain of command? But the next day Lincoln sought out Colonel Scott, apologized, and gave him permission to visit his family.

There are differing viewpoints about how Lincoln should have handled this situation. One is that Lincoln did the right thing, but he did it the wrong way. And the second day, he did the wrong thing because of his guilt, but did it the right way. What do you think? How do you know what is right and what the right way is?

Not only do you need to be clear about what your life purpose is, but you also need to know what your purpose is for tomorrow, for this week, for the year. And you need to be very clear about the principles that you want to live by so that when the need arises, you will be able to make right decisions based on those principles.


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