As CEOs and CHROs continue to wrestle with how to entice the right candidates to fill an ever-growing list of vacancies amid the Great Resignation, some startling statistics are circulating. According to the ADP Research Institute, a quarter of American workers quit their jobs in 2021. Recent surveys indicate that only 16 percent of employees feel fully engaged at work, and a mere 15 percent feel resilient at work.
These numbers clearly signal that companies must do something beyond offering beefier salary packages and more perks. Workers want to feel that that they are not just doing a job or climbing a career ladder toward a golden retirement. They require a sense of purpose. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
For three days in July 1863, the American people fixed their eyes on the tiny town of Gettysburg, where the Union Army of the Potomac sought to hurl General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army out of Pennsylvania. The scale of the battle was immense. Tales of heroism from places like Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, and Cemetery Ridge would eventually become part of the collective memory of the Civil War, but as the guns fell silent and the smoke cleared, President Lincoln was faced with a growing problem. Although the battle was a Union victory, it did not end the war. Casualty reports and photographs from the battlefields of both Gettysburg and far away Vicksburg, Mississippi, which fell to the Union at the same time, horrified the American people. They had had enough of war. Just days later, the New York City draft riots broke out on July 11, 1863.
Several months later, the Herculean effort to bury the dead at Gettysburg in a new military cemetery was well underway. The cemetery’s planners thought a dedication ceremony was needed to properly commemorate the sacrifice of the fallen. Renowned orator Edward Everett was invited to give the keynote address. At the last moment, one of the committee leaders, David Wills, extended an invitation to President Lincoln to offer “a few appropriate remarks.”
The president was sensitive to the significance of the event and to the fact that Everett’s remarks would likely be lengthy, but he knew he had to use the opportunity to refocus the public on the war’s purpose. As was his custom, Lincoln drafted several versions of his speech, carefully honing the turns of phrase to hit just the right note. Arriving in Gettysburg the day before the ceremony, he asked to be taken to the spot where his friend General Reynolds had been killed in the battle. Lincoln then retired to his room at the Wills’ home and continued his revisions through the night.
Lincoln had been right in anticipating the crowd’s stamina. As Everett concluded his two-hour speech that had included comparisons of the current war to the ancient Battle of Marathon, the people politely applauded but were clearly reaching the end of their patience. Lincoln rose from his seat and began to speak. When he sat back down just two minutes later, the awestruck crowd didn’t even applaud. The speech was so brief, the photographers couldn’t capture a clear image of him delivering it. In 272 words, Lincoln achieved what he set out to do: rally the people to the war’s purpose to give the nation “a new birth of freedom.”
The one thing Lincoln was wrong about was the durability of the speech. He didn’t expect it to be remembered in the long term; he was simply saying what he thought the people needed to hear in that moment. The Gettysburg Address is now commonly lauded as one of the finest speeches ever given in the English language.
If you are striving to infuse a sense of purpose in your team, Battlefield Leadership can help. Our Lincoln Leadership Experience will walk you through the evolution of Lincoln’s extraordinary communications skills throughout his career culminating with the Gettysburg Address. Our Gettysburg Leadership Experience will transport you to the very spot where he spoke those immortal words. Whichever program you choose, you and your team will be transformed.
We will see you on the battlefield.
Through our unique programs, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, government entities and higher education institutions learn how to overcome these challenges and transform their organizations, positioning them for future successes. Find out how Battlefield Leadership can help your team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 864.386.9637.