Brian Sanders

Leadership Encouragement Blog “Come Up For Air”

Come Up For Air

He was being stalked. Hunted. His killer was so deranged that he visited the jail where he’d be kept after the deed was done. The assassin wanted to make sure the accommodations were up to his liking. The killer borrowed money to buy a gun. He then put in some of his own money, so he could get one that had an ivory handle. From there, he began following his target.


That target: President James Garfield.

The assassin: Charles J. Guiteau.

The motivation: Fame. History.


On three separate occasions Guiteau stalked Garfield. He would follow the President as he walked the streets of D.C. The year was 1881, sixteen years since the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the United States still did not have Secret Service for the chief executive.  The country had come to view Lincoln’s death as a military casualty and not a lone assassination.


Guiteau’s day finally came. Garfield is to board a train leaving Washington D.C. Guiteau would be waiting.


Two shots ring out in the station. The first grazes the President’s arm. The second lands in Garfield’s lower back, causing the President to fall to the ground.


People scream…some run…others gather.


The search is on for Guiteau as people begin to tend to the President’s wounds.


The President had an entourage that day. One man had to excuse himself—it was simply too much: the scene…the memories. It was still too real. That man was Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Lincoln.


Seeing the President put on a stretcher and carried out was a surreal reminder of his own father’s demise. Robert Lincoln knew he would be of no good to Garfield in his current state. He had to get away and clear his head.


Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881. He died 79 days later.


The leadership lesson: know when to leave the room.


A leader must have the maturity to know his or her emotional state. Robert Lincoln practiced that beautifully. He simply stepped aside to gather his wits. In leadership, we call this “coming up for air.”


Even leaders need a moment. Robert Lincoln needed to “come up for air” so he could better serve the President.


Dear leader, come up for air. Be aware of your situation. If you feel yourself getting emotional, you may not be in the best space to have that meeting.


Delay it….go for a walk…get a stick and beat a tree…whatever. You’d rather hit a tree with a stick than allow your stress to result in verbally beating up the team.


Be like Lincoln…Robert Lincoln…come up for air. Take a break. Get your footing, so you can best serve the team and the mission.


Source: Accidental Presidents – Jared Cohen

Brian Sanders serves as Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio. He regularly writes and speaks on leadership topics. His new book, “Leadership Endurance,” can be purchased HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *