Business lessons from Abraham Lincoln’s mentors

Abraham Lincoln had great mentors who led him to and through his presidency. Discover how their philosophies can be applied to business.
Lincoln's Mentors on wooden table

Lincoln’s Mentors

By Michael J. Gerhardt

Learning from great leaders is one of the reasons to read books and pursue educational opportunities. This month’s book, Lincoln’s Mentors, examines how Abraham Lincoln’s mentors guided him along his path to and during his presidency. Lincoln barely had a formal education, yet he learned a great deal throughout his life. He was always looking to learn and grow in his abilities.

Michael Gerhardt wrote Lincoln’s Mentors, and it was published in 2021 by Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. At 496 pages, this book is longer than most business books on the shelf today. In fact, it really is not a business book at all. But, don’t let that stop you from picking up a copy. Gerhardt takes a biographical approach and walks through Lincoln’s life with special emphasis on how five men influenced him.

The five mentors Gerhardt focuses on are Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, John Todd Stuart, and Orville Browning. A couple of these men, specifically Clay and Jackson, could be better described as role models than mentors. Lincoln never met Jackson, and it is unknown if he ever met Clay. Mentors, at least in our modern-day business context, infers a two-way relationship where the mentor guides and advises the mentee. Regardless of how you define the word mentor, these men influenced Lincoln and made him a better leader.

One of the most impactful lessons from Lincoln’s Mentors is the ability to learn from individuals even if you disagree with them. Andrew Jackson and Lincoln were opposed on almost every issue except for fighting against secession. Lincoln learned and channeled Jackson’s passion and executive power that were vital to leading the country through the Civil War.

Lincoln’s Mentors is more of a biography than a business book, but there are plenty of examples and takeaways that will benefit us as business people. Strong leadership, compromise, overcoming failure, and public speaking are all skills we can use in business today.

Are you interested in learning and discussing business books with other local leaders? If so, send an email to philk@edmondbusiness.com with “Book Review” in the subject line.

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.