Book Review

Learning From Lincoln

Leadership Practices for School Success

by Harvey Alvy and Pam Robbins, ASCD, Alexandria, Va., 2010, 192 pp. with index, $25.95 softcover


As someone who has an interest in all things relating to Abraham Lincoln, the title Learning From Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success by Harvey Alvy and Pam Robbins captivated me. Recognized by most Americans today as a great, successful president at one of the most critical times in the nation’s history, can it be that Lincoln exemplified leadership practices that can contribute to modern-day school success?

Learning From Lincoln

The authors conclude that, as president, Lincoln was in command of communication and management skills that served him well in crisis and these skills can be invaluable to contemporary school administrators. We can gain much by reflecting on Lincoln’s successes and failures, his wise decisions and his missteps as presented in this book.

Alvy and Robbins present the case with 10 chapters that highlight qualities and skills exemplified by Lincoln. The reader gains insights as the authors analyze stories, speeches and events involving Lincoln.

One of the excellent lessons in this book teaches that effective leaders need to sometimes admit they are wrong. When General Ulysses S. Grant correctly chose a strategy that Lincoln felt was a mistake, Lincoln recognized his own mistake. Seeing that Grant made the correct decision, the president took pen in hand and wrote, “You were right and I was wrong.”

As an effective communicator, Lincoln offers a clear connection to success for modern leaders and managers. Numerous examples of his effectiveness are related — many with lessons for leaders pursuing success in their schools.

Reviewed by Darroll Hargraves, consultant, School and Community Resources, Wasilla, Alaska