On November 19, 1863, one of the most important speeches ever given in America started with, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…”

Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was only ten sentences. It took just over two minutes to deliver. And every word was meticulously chosen.

In his 272 word speech, Lincoln used the words, “I,” “me,” or “my,” exactly ZERO times.

Keep in mind, this was a speech given to dedicate the Soldier’s National Cemetery for fallen Union soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg. It was given just four months after the North won the crucial battle, stopping Robert E. Lee’s assault on northern states.

By all rights, this could have been an end zone dance. It could have been a time to take credit and energize the troops for the final push to victory of the war.

It was not.

In his 272 word speech, Lincoln used the words, “we,” “us,” or “our,” 15 times.

You see, Lincoln had a larger goal. Not to win a battle … not even to win a war … but to REUNITE a country.

Great leaders do not focus on themselves. Great leaders focus on the collective.

“…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

~ President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

Take another example of a speech, from a great leader, focused on the collective. A speech that could have been crafted to be adversarial. A speech that, while the title would lead you to believe it was about the orator … “I have a dream,” was anything but.

Martin Luther King Jr. used the words, “we,” “us,” or “our,” 50 times!

When you remove the “I have a dream” repetitions and his quoting of “My country ‘tis of thee…” he said “I,” “me,” or “my,” only 7 times.

Regardless of the title on your business card … you are a leader.

  • Lead by example

  • Focus on the collective

  • Share the credit and accept the blame

  • Don’t over-celebrate the little victories when the larger goal is not yet won

  • Transform your team into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will he able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I Have A Dream 

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