Exploring Human Potential

A Call For Positive Leadership Across The Ages

Posted on | January 23, 2013 | Comments Off on A Call For Positive Leadership Across The Ages

Mike Magee

This has been a week of past, present and future. This week I completed Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”. (1) In her introduction, the author states, “”I find that after nearly two centuries, the uniquely American story of Abraham Lincoln has unequalled power to captivate the imagination and to inspire emotion.”

In 1909, Leo Tolstoy commented, “The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last thousands of years…He was bigger than his country – bigger than all Presidents together…and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives.”(2)

As I moved slowly through this remarkable book of Lincoln, with its 757 pages, other events were occurring in real time. President Obama was reelected and a range of politicians like Congressman Akins disappeared. Grover Norquist lost his predatory strangle hold on Republicans. Twenty kindergarteners in Newtown, CT were slaughtered with a military weapon. And the NRA leadership showed its true colors for all the world to see. Turning the pages of my book, it seemed to me that we too have our own “Civil War”. We too must emancipate ourselves, bind our wounds, chart a better future.

What was Lincoln’s genius? Kearns Goodwin says that his “genius was revealed through his extraordinary array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him; to repair injured feelings that, left unattended, might have escalated into permanent hostility; to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates; to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes.” (1)

She continues, “His success in dealing with the strong egos of the men in his cabinet suggests that in the hands of a truly great politician the qualities we generally associate with decency and morality – kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty and empathy – can also be impressive political resources.”(1)

This last passage called to mind an introduction I had written two decades ago for a book called “Positive Leadership”.  It read “Life is lived as a series of conversations. We are instructed by stories, stories that extend and accumulate over a lifetime; stories that submerge and then reemerge, sometimes with purpose, other times seemingly out of the blue. These stories contain images as vivid and real as if drawn from the family photo album. They also contain deeply embedded values like individuality, teamwork, performance, innovation, integrity, and respect for others and oneself.”(3)

When I opened my email this morning, there was a note from Professor Susan Pellerin, president of the human resources consulting firm, E&S Consulting. The note said, (printed with her permission):

“After reading Positive Leadership I knew that I had finally found someone who understood the power of honoring people! Your book is assigned reading for all my management and human resources classes. Today, I received an email from a student that was, just like me, overwhelmed upon reading all the concepts associated with positive leadership. Found this site ( on Google and wanted to tell you that your leadership concepts continue to influence many of us. Another group of MBA students will be introduced to Positive Leadership today! Please send a copy of “Positive Leadership” to every member of the House of Representatives, The Senate, – OK – the “belt way” – They all need it!”(4)

The concepts presented in “Positive Leadership” were grounded in the works of Norman Vincent Peale which I reflected on in 1985 in the peaceful environment of Greenfield, MA. Physicians were disgruntled at the time in our state, and I was looking for a way to point our profession back toward its finer self.

While I can’t send copies uninvited to all of the above, I have today placed the entire text of that book online at Please feel free to access, download and share liberally with any and all who you feel my benefit from it.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee.


1. Goodwin DK. Team of Rivals. 2005.

2. “Tolstoy Holds Lincoln World’s Greatest Hero.” Library of America.

3. Magee M. Positive Leadership. Spencer Books. 1995, 1999.

4. Pellerin S. Personal Communication. 1/23/13. Reprinted with permission.


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