In honor of President’s Day, I offer you one of my favorite stories about Abraham Lincoln that demonstrates his wisdom and maturity as a leader.
During the Civil War, when he was angry about something, he’d write what he referred to as a “hot letter.” Venting his thoughts and feelings with vigor, the receiver would know precisely what he meant.
But, there were times when Lincoln knew he’d be better off re-thinking what he’d written, so he’d put the letter in his drawer until he had time to cool down and consider the situation calmly.
After his death, a batch of letters was found labeled Never Signed Never Sent.
His maturity kept him from sending some letters that could have devastated the receiver and deepened the problem. He decided it would be better to handle the situation differently.
Today, Lincoln may have written those letters as emails with no name in the “To” box and saved in Drafts. Or banged them out in a document to vent and clear his thoughts. Something I hope you do. I sure have.
Every wise leader has learned that venting thoughts in writing (or email, text or tweet) feels good. It’s cathartic to release it from head and heart. But, re-reading, re-thinking, re-writing – and often deleting – before sending is the mature and usually more productive thing to do.