What Can We Learn From This? Part III

Dear Christian Radio,

He was being stalked…hunted. His killer was deranged. In fact, this soon-to-be assassin was so deranged that he actually visited the jail where he knew he’d be kept after the deed was done.  Why visit a jail?  The assassin wanted to make sure the accommodations were to his liking.

The killer borrowed money to buy a gun.  He put up some extra money of his own to get one that had an ivory handle. He then began following his target.

That target:  President James Garfield.
The assassin: Charles J. Guiteau.
The motivation: Fame. History.

It was 1881, sixteen years since the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the United States still did not have Secret Service for the chief executive.  The country had come to view Lincoln’s death as a military casualty and not a lone assassination.

Three times Guiteau stalked Garfield, following the President as he walked the streets of Washington D.C.  Then, the day he’d been preparing for came. Garfield was to board a train leaving Washington D.C., but Guiteau was already waiting for him inside the station.

Two shots rang out.  The first grazed the President’s arm.  The second landed in Garfield’s lower back causing the President to fall to the ground.

People screamed. Some ran. Others gathered.  The search was on for Guiteau.  People began to attend to the President’s wounds.  The President had an entourage that day.  One man, however, had to excuse himself—it was simply too much…the scenethe memories…it was still too real.

The man who had to quietly leave was Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Lincoln.  Seeing the President put on a stretcher and carried was a surreal reminder of his own father’s demise.  Robert Lincoln knew he would be of no good to Garfield in his current state.  He had to get away and clear his head.

Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881.  He died 79 days later.

What’s the leadership lesson? Know when to leave the room.

Leaders must have the maturity to know their own emotional state.  Robert Lincoln practiced that beautifully.  He simply stepped aside to gather his wits.  In leadership, we call this “coming up for air.”  Even leaders need a moment.  Robert Lincoln needed to “come up for air” so he could better serve the President.

Dear leader, come up for air.  Be aware of your situation.  If you feel yourself getting emotional, you may not be in the best space to have that meeting.  Delay the meeting.  Go for a walk.  Get a stick and beat a tree if you must.  You’d rather hit a tree with a stick than allow your stress to result in verbally beating up the team.

Be like Lincoln…Robert Lincoln…come up for air. Take a break. Get your footing, so you can best serve the team and the mission.


Brian Sanders
Executive Vice President, PAR
Positive Alternative Radio


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