Three Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln

Three Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March, 1861, until his assassination in April, 1865. During his presidency, Lincoln successfully led the country through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis – the Civil War. His personal leadership was pivotal in ultimately preserving the Union, ending slavery and promoting both economic and financial modernization. Today, he remains one of the most important figures in U.S. history. Below are three leadership lessons Lincoln taught us as president.

Lesson 1 – Communicate Vision           
Lincoln used vision to provide direction for the nation and justify the war (”elevation of the condition of men”) and he reminded people of it at every opportunity. Lincoln also renewed his vision to ensure it remained meaningful. Organizations win or lose based on the leader’s ability to communicate and embody the vision. Leaders must know where they are going to empower and inspire people about the future. Visions cannot be forced on people; they must be set in motion through influence. When people have direction and understand expectations, they will act.

Lesson 2 – Deliver Results
Lincoln was driven by achievement. While failure and setbacks depressed him, he developed the ability to learn from mistakes and persevere. Lincoln had a strong sense of urgency toward achieving results. He wanted to be just and fair with people, but not lose time. He quickly resolved dissension and gained alignment. He knew that roadblocks and unresolved conflict slowed down progress. Establishing goals and gaining their acceptance is needed for successful leadership. Goals unify people, motivate them and focus their energy and talent.

Lesson 3 – Influence People
Lincoln used kind and unassuming influence. He rejected coercion as a violation of basic individual rights. That is, no man wants to be forced to do something. Or, no man is good enough to govern another man without their consent. He gained commitment through openness, guidance and empowerment. He rarely issued orders, but offered suggestions and views and hoped people would do right. People want to believe that what they are doing is their own idea and makes a difference. People must be understood, even when being led for their own best interest.

Lessons Learned
– Communicate and continually reaffirm both vision and strategy to provide people with clarity and focus.
– Deliver results faster than the competition through strong execution and a relentless sense of urgency.
– Enable meaningful change within the organization through positive influence, not coercion.
– Remember: “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” – Abraham Lincoln

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.


One Response to Three Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln

  1. Jennifer White says:

    I never get tired of ready leadership lessons about or by Lincoln. Great post.


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