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Reviewed by:
  • Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success
  • Shawn Mark (bio)
H. Alvy & P. Robbins. (2010). Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success. Alexandria, Va.: ASCD. 192 pages. $25.95.

Summary, Purpose, and Structure of Book

Few historical figures have been examined as closely as Abraham Lincoln. The sixteenth president of the United States was well loved and loathed in his lifetime, but this dynamic personality set an example of exemplary leadership practices that have permeated into our present time. Though highly regarded by many, Abraham Lincoln was a human being who experienced a wide range of triumphs and tragedies, successes and failures. Regardless of whether he was on [End Page 84] a peak of popularity or in a valley of struggle, Lincoln was guided by steadfast values that made him an example of humility, strength, and moral leadership.

Authors Harvey Alvy and Pam Robbins wrote their book Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success with the purpose of examining Lincoln's life and leadership practices and drawing practical applications that school administrators and teachers can apply when leading twenty-first-century schools. They have identified and detailed ten leadership qualities that they believe are important for all school leaders. The ten leadership qualities, which have been expounded on in chapters by the same titles within the book, are

  1. 1. "Implementing and sustaining a mission and vision with focused and profound clarity"

  2. 2. "Communicating ideas effectively with precise and straightforward language"

  3. 3. "Building a diverse and competent team to successfully address the mission"

  4. 4. "Engendering trust, loyalty, and respect through humility, humor, and personal example"

  5. 5. "Leading and serving with emotional intelligence and empathy"

  6. 6. "Exercising situational competence and responding appropriately to implement effective change"

  7. 7. "Rising beyond personal and professional trials through tenacity, persistence, resilience, and courage"

  8. 8. "Exercising purposeful visibility"

  9. 9. "Demonstrating personal growth and enhanced competence as a lifetime learner, willing to reflect on and expand ideas"

  10. 10. "Believing that hope can become a reality" (4)

Each chapter in the book is focused on one of the ten aforementioned themes, and the final chapter is titled "Achieving Authentic Leadership in Schools." Each of the eleven chapters concludes with two sections entitled "Lincoln's Life and Work: Implications for School Leaders" and "Reflecting on History and the Moment: Implications for the Future" in which the authors explicitly tie Lincoln's nineteenth-century leadership examples into a twenty-first-century school leadership setting. Each chapter also includes reflection questions to help guide the reader in applying the principles and leadership qualities described in the chapter.

The title of chapter 1 is "Implementing and Sustaining a Mission and Vision with Focused and Profound Clarity" (7). Lincoln had a permeating mission and vision of sustaining the union and liberating slaves during the Civil War. Educators can emulate Lincoln's tenacity for his vision of freedom and a [End Page 85] unified country when they demonstrate a strong commitment to the mission and vision they have developed for their schools. The reflection questions at the end of chapter 1 lead the reader through the process of examining his or her own school's mission and vision and identifying the leadership traits that are critical to sustaining established ideals.

Chapter 2 is called "Communicating Ideas Effectively with Precise and Straightforward Language" (19). Lincoln was able to communicate his ideas to others in clear and concise language so that all could understand his mission and vision. He used crisp and concise writing, everyday language that was easily understood by the common person in his day, and metaphors and storytelling to help others relate to his perspective. School leaders need to apply these same principles when they communicate with the various stakeholders in schools. Like Lincoln, leaders should also be active and patient listeners and seek out feedback for their ideas from people who have to live with their decisions. Reflection activities in chapter 2 relate to examining one's own communication patterns and practices and evaluating whether observed behaviors complement or hinder the mission and vision of a reader's school.

"Building a Diverse and Competent Team to Successfully Address the Mission" (39) is the title of chapter 3. Lincoln...


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pp. 84-89
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