Lessons from Lincoln

The Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” has, of course, stimulated much discussion about Abraham Lincoln and his abilities as a leader. I have read several articles outlining the “lessons from Lincoln.” One that I particularly enjoyed described three lessons that were identified by Lincoln historian Robert Bray of Illinois Wesleyan University.

1) Make your enemies into your friends. By keeping your eyes on the prize, you can disassociate yourself from personal attacks.
As leaders, we will always be faced with disagreement and skepticism. The strongest leaders do not take these challenges personally. They remain focused on their goals and the vision they have for the organization. These leaders actually welcome diverse points of view and see that these differences of opinion can make the organization stronger. It takes a very secure leader to remain focused and objective in the face of critical challenges, but these leaders are able to make their challengers into friends by letting them voice their concerns and differences, without being offended.

2) Be firm but play nice. Talk without anger, even to your opponents.
The most effective leaders understand the importance of respect. They believe it is fine to disagree, but never to disrespect. They respect their team members, their superiors, and their competitors. These leaders always control their anger and channel this passion to motivate them to higher levels of leadership achievement.

3) Take the long view. Lincoln believed that if Americans put their heads together and put their will to it, they could be a shining example of equality for the whole world.
Leadership requires great vision. Leaders must communicate the vision for the organization so team members are motivated to move in the direction of the vision. The effective visionaries believe their organizations are capable of accomplishing great things. They think big and create a big vision. These leaders believe their organizations can be shining examples for the whole world.

Although it’s a bit cliche to write lessons from Lincoln during this time of “Lincolnmania,” it is clear that leaders can learn a great deal from Abraham Lincoln. I hope these lessons make you think about ways to take your leadership to new levels.

Thanks for reading,
Jim

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