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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders are Like Lincoln

Leaders are Like Lincoln

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This week, I write my 100th blog. Looking at all the blogs I have written, it is rare that I have talked much about my personal leadership journey. My journey started seeking mentoring from historical figures. This is my second blog on mentoring and emulating others, an absolute core part of leadership to give back to our replacements. I always emphasize to those learning leadership to follow those who came before. Indeed, while technology has changed over the centuries, leadership principles are seemingly timeless. In some ways, leaders have it tougher today because the environment is so dynamic with all the technological advancements giving distraction to followers who have many more inputs to their day than just the leader’s sage advice. Regardless, as a young man, I was always a student of history. As I was hitting my formative years, Ken Burns’ Magnum opus Civil War series hit the airwaves and I learned so much about Abraham Lincoln, which I then tried to emulate his nobility during my military career. For my 100th blog, please allow me to celebrate my historical mentor, the Great Emancipator.
Donald Phillip’s famous book Lincoln on Leadership remains a central book breaking down his leadership successes. Phillips elaborates on 10 characteristics he brought to our nation to lead us forward as our 16th President. I will elaborate on three, the first being how well he treated his friends and enemies alike. Lincoln is famously quoted as saying, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” For me, this philosophy looms large in a country where political division is so prevalent. Lincoln’s brave leadership was on display after his narrow Presidential election win in 1860 when he filled his cabinet with opponents and enemies. His success was chronicled by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals book, which details how Lincoln was able to rise above the fray and bring his cabinet together to agree and move the country forward in the midst of a Civil War. I took from his example his courage and the power of unity better summed up in his classic quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
A second characteristic I looked to emulate is Lincoln’s pursuit of justice. I recently wrote a blog that leader’s do the right thing. Lincoln aimed to do the right thing his whole career hence the nickname Honest Abe. He made two just priorities during his Presidency – preservation of the Union and emancipation. The North was doing well economically and he could have argued to let the South go, but he truly believed that preservation of the Union as ratified by the States in 1783 was non-negotiable. His quest to end slavery was even more laudable. He is quoted as saying, “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, Lincoln put in motion actions that would abolish it. Character and justice were everything to Lincoln and I took from that to be the foundation of any good leadership.
Finally, Lincoln lived a life of never quitting. It is something I have always tried to emulate and always include it in any leadership lesson I present. Leaders never quit. Lincoln’s early life is strewn with failures, embarrassments and setbacks, yet he preserved to the highest office in the land. It is fortunate for American democracy and our posterity he always pushed forward. In total, he lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown. Although self-doubt undoubtedly slowed him down, his belief in his goals and his followers carried him forward. Lincoln is often the example given when showing no mountain is too high to summit.
For my 100th blog, I honor Abraham Lincoln who saved the Union and demonstrated leadership in so many incredible ways. For Lincoln, it was not a game or a battle on the line, it was the American future. His ability to win over his enemies, his belief in finding right and the fact he never quit are characteristics I tried to emulate during my career. He was so effective at making believers of those around him that one of his rivals Edwin Stanton, his Secretary of War, was famously quoted after Lincoln was assassinated: “Now he belongs to the ages. There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.” High praise from a rival. I celebrate leadership every blog. I certainly celebrate a leader like Abraham Lincoln who is a mentor to all of us. Leaders should be like Lincoln, no doubt.
Whatever you are, be a good one. ~ Abraham Lincoln