Leading While Naked: Part 2—Happy Thanksgiving…Or How Lincoln Led from the Heart

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

Vance Havner said, “We grow up taking things for granted and saving our flowers for the dead.  All along the way, countless hands minister to our good, but rarely do we acknowledge them.” I wonder why that is?  Why do we not stop, acknowledge the beauties of the day, and thank those who have helped us?  Or at least do all that more often?  And why don’t we send flowers every day to say “thank you”?

Ironically enough the Civil War, which started in 1861, gave rise to one of President Lincoln’s most interesting but least known acts: establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For context, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered the now famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It was a mere four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.

His address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as “a new birth of freedom” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states’ rights were no longer dominant.  I understand that people said “the United States ARE” before the Civil War and the term we have grown accustomed to, “the United States IS” became the way after the Civil War.

And in case you haven’t read it in a while, here is the entire text of that two-minute Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Remarkable?  You bet.  Absolutely stunning in impact and directness!  But there is even more to this story than meets the eye – and certainly more to Lincoln.  As he surveyed the state of the Union in 1863 and surely wondered if his strategies would work to hold us together, he found the time, attention, and ability to take pause to formally establish Thanksgiving Day – on October 6, 1863 – a mere 40+ days before he delivered the Gettysburg Address.  Think about it.  Kindergartners can recite the Gettysburg Address but very few adults can identify Lincoln as the one who officially called for a national day of Thanksgiving.  A day when we send “flowers” to all we know, to slow down the pace and breathing and enjoy the moment, a time when most if not all seems right with the world.

And in case you haven’t read it in a while either, here is the entire text of Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

Draw your own conclusions about the spiritual references – it was Lincoln’s way – maybe not yours.  But get the message:  Let us not become “intoxicated with unbroken success.”  And let us forever recollect why a President, facing the ravages of a civil war, countless citizens dead, and a nation divided, could and would pause and say “thank you”.  Incredible.

Happy Thanksgiving.   To you and your loved ones.

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About paulshultz
In my work life, I lead the Dallas metroplex practice for Slalom Consulting. I have consulted in a number of industries including consumer products, food & beverage, industrial and high tech manufacturing, entertainment, energy, real estate, aerospace, and financial services. I have helped clients in creating and deploying strategic plans; developing and deploying strategic information and systems plans; creating customer-focused shared service centers; and assessing, designing, and implementing new technology-powered business processes. When not working, I chase little white balls through merry fairways, savor a good red wine, and follow those Baylor Bears

8 Responses to Leading While Naked: Part 2—Happy Thanksgiving…Or How Lincoln Led from the Heart

  1. Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active.

  2. Pingback: Leading While Naked Part 4: That’s a dumb question « The Slalom Blog

  3. Pingback: Leading While Naked Part 1: “I Like the People and I Believe in the Mission” « The Slalom Blog

  4. Pingback: Leading While Naked Part 3: Enter the Danger « The Slalom Blog

  5. Pingback: Leading While Naked Part 5: Can You Smell Courage? « The Slalom Blog

  6. Pingback: Leading While Naked Part 2: Happy Thanksgiving–Or How Lincoln Led from the Heart « The Slalom Blog

  7. Pingback: Leading While Naked Part 5: Can You Smell Courage? « The Slalom Blog

  8. Pingback: Leading While Naked: Part 6—Oh. THAT Conversation! « The Slalom Blog

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