3 Leadership Lessons of Lincoln-Another Look

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The Civil War of the United States started 150 years ago today. This is a great time to reflect on the sacrifices made by many soldiers and families during this bloody war. We can also reflect on the leadership lessons of that era. I would like to look again at the leadership of one of the greatest Presidents and the leader of our nation at that time, Abraham Lincoln. Here is a post from November 2010:

[tweetmeme]It is an April night in Washington, D. C.  It has been just 5 days since the end of a bloody war on American soil.  President Abraham Lincoln and his wife leave to attend the play Our American Cousin at the Ford Theatre.  The President’s primary bodyguard, Ward Lamon is not on duty.  The Presidential party includes Major Henry Rathbone and his friend, Miss Clara Harris.

The President’s bodyguard, John Parker, leaves the theatre for drinks at the Star Saloon during the intermission. Lincoln and his guests sit in the state box in the balcony unguarded.  The play continues after the intermission.  The clock approaches 10:15 p.m. when a shot rings out.  Major Rathbone grapples with the shooter but is stabbed.  The shooter jumps from the balcony onto the stage to make his escape.  The President has been shot.  After nine hours in a coma, President Abraham Lincoln dies.  After a prayer, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton salutes and says, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings to become not only President of the United States, but also quite possibly the best President yet.  Lincoln provided the following description of his early life:

I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families–second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks…. My father … removed from Kentucky to … Indiana, in my eighth year…. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up…. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher … but that was all.”

What can we learn about leadership from this man who went from a one-room log cabin to the White House?

  1. Stand for what you believe:  Abraham Lincoln’s presidency was defined by his stance on preserving the Union and slavery.  President Lincoln believed passionately that the United States could not divide and that slavery must end:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand’. (Mark 3:25) I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.” Lincoln’s leadership preserved the Union and ended slavery.  He had to know that it could cost him his life.  His security detail discovered would be assassins even before Lincoln took office.  He was assassinated by a well-known actor, John Wilkes Booth.  Booth had planned to kidnap the President.  He only plotted to assassinate the President after hearing Lincoln speak for voting rights for the freed slavesLeaders take a stand, even in difficult times.
  2. Work hard:  Lincoln had little formal education.  He worked very hard to become self-educated.  He even taught himself law, passed the bar exam and was admitted to the bar.  As a practicing lawyer, Lincoln rode by horseback for 20 weeks out of the year to try cases at the county court houses throughout the State of Illinois.   An arduous task he continued for 16 years.  His law partner stated: “His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.”  Leaders work hard.
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  4. Persevere:  Lincoln’s life and career was riddled with hardship and loss.  He was raised as part of a poor frontier family.  His mother died before he was ten.  His sister died in labor at a young age.  Lincoln lived to see two of his children die.  His father was uneducated.  He had little opportunity for formal education himself.  He lost numerous political campaigns.  But he persevered.  He went on to win the presidency.  He saved the nation and freed the slaves.  Leaders persevere.

We can learn much from the life of President Abraham Lincoln.  Just three lessons are studied here:  taking a stand, perseverance, hard-work. What will you do to become a better leader today?

Best regards,
Christian Paulsen
Lean Leadership Blog
Written for http://www.consumergoodsclub.com


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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6 Responses to 3 Leadership Lessons of Lincoln-Another Look

  1. Pingback: Lincoln, Zeus and Ichabod Crane | Lint In My Pocket – Artillery On The Ridge

  2. Mark Welch says:

    Great lessons from a great leader. Excellent post, Christian.

    I had not known about Lincoln’s body guard and his departure to the saloon. Interesting…

  3. HeelShields says:

    Really interesting article. In fact, I found the ending to be quite inspiring. I learned alot about President Lincoln.

  4. Jeremiah Miller says:

    I am a huge Lincoln fan. Thanks for pointing out some of the traits that made him such an amazing American hero. The one that really sticks out for me is the third lesson, perseverance. The level of humility and self confidence he demonstrated by never giving up despite all of his set-backs and personal tragedies is truly inspiring. Great post!

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