Abraham Lincoln’s Leadership Genius
By George Anderson
“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against
me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” – Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest president in the history of the United States. In the recently published, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, author/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin provides a detailed look into the decisions and leadership style that made it possible for the President to forge alliances and begin rebuilding a country during one of its darkest of hours.
In an interview with Forbes.com, Ms. Kearns Goodwin said Mr. Lincoln’s style offers valuable lessons for individuals in leadership positions today.
Among the most important of Mr. Lincoln’s qualities was his willingness to seek a wide variety of opinions on important issues and bring people into the organization that possessed knowledge and strengths superior to his own.
“Lincoln had a quiet self confidence that allowed him to surround himself by people better known than he was,” said Ms. Kearns Goodwin. “He knew they’d argue and debate with him. In order to strengthen his own leadership he knew that if he could have that leadership in his own political family, it would make him a better leader.”
“Lincoln also had the ability to absorb and listen well to what people were feeling and thinking. He could see both sides of the issue,” she said.
The President was known for acknowledging and learning from his own mistakes. He also took the heat off subordinates by accepting responsibility when they made errors.
When things were not going well, Mr. Lincoln made a point of being even more visible. He went out to meet Union troops to rally them when times seemed bleak. This was especially important during a period of crisis, according to Ms. Kearns Goodwin, because “setting an example is the most potent thing of all.”
Moderator’s Comment: What lessons do you think business leaders today can learn from Abraham Lincoln? Is there one
lesson, in particular, that you believe is especially critical in today’s business environment? –
George Anderson – Moderator