Abraham Lincoln: Leadership Lessons
Leadership Lessons From A Great American President - Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. His story is one of the most told stories in American history. He served as president in an incredibly unsettled time. He had victories, and he had defeats. He did things well, and he did things poorly. In the process, he demonstrated some great leadership traits. Looking at his life, we can learn from his experience and become better leaders ourselves.
Five Leadership Lesssons We Can Learn From Abraham Lincoln
Looking closely at Lincoln's behavior during his presidency, you can see many great leadership lessons. I'll mention five of them here.
1. Build a strong team.
In 1855, Abraham Lincoln was slighted and insulted by Edwin M. Stanton, his co-counsel, in the McCormick-Manny patent infringement case. Stanton said that he would not work with "such a damned, gawky, long-armed ape as that."
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the Republican Party presidential nominee. Entering the convention he was rated behind William Seward of New York and in the mix with Salmon Chase of Ohio and Edward Bates of Missouri.
After he became President of the United States, he nominated:
- William Seward to be his Secretary of State
- Salmon Chase to be his Secretary of Treasury, and
- Edward Bates to be his Attorney General
When he had to build a team, he built one in spite of initial personal animosity rather than because of close relationship. From this group of competing and, in some cases, openly antagonistic people, he built a team that helped him to ultimately hold the Union together.
Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals details this process really well.
2. Use stories to convey your message.
One of the most noted and long-remembered parts of Lincoln's persona was his ability to tell stories. Many historians point to his ability to tell appropriate stories as part of the "magic" that drew people to him once they got to know him.
3. Persuade more than you coerce.
Lincoln seldom used the power of his office to force compliance with his wishes. He told stories. He met with people. He wrote letters. If necessary, he could be quite direct. Sometimes he had to go that route with people. Most of the time he worked to persuade people rather than to coerce them.
4. Learn to speak in public.
Lincoln was a noted public speaker. Much of his influence is attributed to his ability to deliver a message publicly.
5. Master and become comfortable with paradox.
Lincoln was able to handle the tension of living in paradox. For example:
- He built his cabinet from political rivals.
- He looked past personal slights and insult to build strong alliances (Edwin Stanton).
- He was consistent in his principles and flexible in his pursuit of fulfilling them.
- He understood both compassion and accountability.
- He took risks, he created new approaches, and he demonstrated patience in his timing.
For more insights on Lincoln, I strongly recommend each of the books listed below.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes
"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."
"I have always wanted to deal with everyone I meet candidly and honestly. If I have made any assertion not warranted by facts, and it is pointed out to me, I will withdraw it cheerfully."
"Half finished work generally proves to be labor lost..."
"If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend."
"I am here; I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take."
"I determined to be so clear that no honest man could misunderstand me and no dishonest one could successfully misrepresent me."
"No man [who has] resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention."
"I'll study and get ready, and then the chance will come."
"On the whole, my impression is that mercy bears richer fruits than any other attribute."
All quotes from Words Lincoln Lived By, Gene Griessman,1997.
Books That Tell the Story of Lincoln's Leadership Skills
Some Lincoln Videos at YouTube
Links About Abraham Lincoln's Leadership
- Abraham Lincoln on Leadership
Learn leadership skills from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
- The Accomplishments of President Abraham Lincoln
This page describes Lincoln and his leadership style.
- Lincoln's Leadership Lessons - Forbes.com
Best-selling author Doris Kearns Goodwin on what Honest Abe could teach today's executives and politicians.
- Hoover Institution - Hoover Digest - Lincoln: Hypocrite or Statesman?
Reflections on "the greatest practitioner of democratic statesmanship that America and the world have yet produced." By Dinesh D'Souza. This essay addresses both conservative and liberal historical revisionism about Lincoln.
- Abraham Lincoln Quotes: Famous Abraham Lincoln Quotes
Abraham Lincoln is seen as one of the foremost symbols of American democracy. Born to a nondescript family, his life proved that in America any boy can grow up to be President one day. This is a collection of Abraham Lincoln quotes that reflect his b