Published on August 27, 2021

Diverse hands making a heart

Teamwork and Heartwork

The names William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates are not exactly household names. They all served in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet—Seward has Secretary of State, Chase as Secretary of the Treasury, and Bates as Attorney General. What makes that especially interesting is that they had all been opponents of Abraham Lincoln in his bid to win the Republican nomination for President.

After Lincoln was elected the sixteenth President, he reached out to his old adversaries and invited them to be among his closest and most trusted advisors. It was an extraordinary act of vision and leadership – the type of leadership that helped save the Union.

The gathering of former opponents was not just for show. When Lincoln was preparing his First Inaugural Address, he showed an early draft to several of his friends and colleagues – including his old rival, William Seward. Seward took the assignment seriously and returned a six-page memo to Lincoln in which he made dozens of suggestions on how it could be better. 

What did Lincoln do? He incorporated many of them into his final speech, including substantial changes to the closing paragraph. Lincoln demonstrated that he knew the importance of listening and learning from those around him. The speech was better as a result, and so was his presidency. He took teamwork to heart.

There’s another chapter to this story. After Lincoln had won his second term, and he turned his attention to his Second Inaugural Address, America was in a much different situation than it had been at the time of his first inauguration. The war was nearly over, and Lincoln knew that the long and difficult process of knitting the country back together lay ahead for the country.

This time around when he wrote his address, he wrote it without consulting others directly but he listened to his informed heart. He took stock of all the things that he had learned from being the American President during the most bitter conflict. He brought back to mind the words and stories and faces of the American people – from the North and the South – he had encountered in his four years as president. So effective was Abraham Lincoln at communicating the values at the very heart of our democracy that the Second Inaugural Address is still remembered and repeated. Visitors to the Lincoln Monument will find the speech engraved on one of the walls flanking the statue. It includes this amazing paragraph:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

I recommend both approaches that Lincoln took in writing his two inaugural addresses. With visionary leadership, he reached out and took the counsel of his core team seriously. He trusted their expertise and acted on their counsel. However, he also trusted and listened to his own heart. He reflected on what he had learned from his leadership team as well as from the people he had encountered every day – and he poured all those things into a fervent address.

Much like the saving work that Lincoln did for our country, we are also in the business of caring and binding up wounds. We do that through teamwork – and our teams represent clinical excellence and proven leadership and experience. We also know the importance of bringing our hearts to the tasks before us. I have great confidence in what teams made up of passionate and engaged people can do when they set out to deliver exemplary care. Our teams represent us at our best.

Teamwork and Heartwork. As we pursue our sacred mission, both approaches are important and will yield excellent results.

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