The Cardinal Mistake Many Leaders Make

On October 24, 1961- President Lincoln relieved Gen. John C. Freemont front command of the Department of the West (headquartered in Missouri) and replaced him with Gen. David Hunter . What was his cardinal mistake ?

During his four years as President Abraham Lincoln spent most of his time among the troops. They were number one to him; they were the people who were going to get the job done. He virtually lived at the War Department’s telegraph office so he could gain access to key information for quick, timely decisions. He met with his generals and cabinet members in their homes, offices and in the field, principally to provide direction and leadership. 

He toured all over- all to obtain accurate knowledge of the workings and abilities of the armed forced. This contact also gave gave him the first-hand knowledge he needed to make informed, accurate decisions without having to rely solely on the word of others. Lincoln even went to the field to observe or take charge of several battle situations himself, coming under fire at least once. 

In a letter to General Hunter, written shortly before relieving Freemont, Lincoln summarized his view of the situation. “He [General Freemont] is losing the confidence of men near him, whose support any man in his position must hae to be successful,” said Lincoln. 

“His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.”- Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s letter is something of a lesson in itself for today’s leaders. Not only did he explain the problem he had with Freemont in writing, he also offered to Gen. Hunter the advise on how to solve the problem and avoid making the same “cardinal mistake”

There could now be no misconceptions about what President Lincoln demanded of Gen. Hunter in being Freemont’s replacement. 

In other words: Get out of the office and circulate among the troops. By not doing so and isolating yourself as a leader you are making a “cardinal mistake”. 



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