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Lincoln on Leadership - Executive Strategies for Tough Times

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Lincoln on Leadership

Executive Strategies for Tough Times

By Donald T. Phillips

President Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest leaders of all times because of his philosophy on leadership. He believed, “get out of the office and circulate among the troops” (Phillips 12). In essence, a leader should not be closed up in their office and should take the time to get to know their team. Often times leaders can get buried with duties and meetings and forget to take time out to have conversations with their subordinates on a personal level. Some leaders can be in personable in fear of getting to close with their employees. As for Lincoln, it was the opposite. He wanted people to feel comfortable with him and around him. Sometimes he even met with people in their homes, for less tension or stress. His philosophy was, “If subordinates, or people in general, know that they genuinely have easy access to their leader, they’ll tend to view the leader in a more positive, trustworthy light.” (17) When a leader has an open-door policy, it shows people that someone is willing to listen. Abraham Lincoln was always empowering, motivating, and appreciative of others hard work. Hence, the famous Gettysburg Address, “these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth” (Southard). Lincoln was well aware of his power to motivate and communicate effectively. Most leaders today fail to motivate their team instead they can be discouraging leaving staff feeling unappreciated. Encouraging and empowering people to be creative and think outside of their role, motivates individuals to do great things.

As a leader, you want to make sure you are sharing the vision of the organization or the overall goal of the project. It is difficult for troops to follow when they do not know where they are going. Lincoln was consistently sharing his vision of America with the soldiers keeping them motivated and understanding why they were fighting for the country. He was a great communicator because he believed in explaining himself in writing and offer suggestions instead of just telling others what to do. Dictatorship was not something Lincoln was fond of, his philosophy was, “you can catch more flies with honey” (40). Giving positive feedback and speaking kind words to your team does not mean a manager is weak. It simply creates an atmosphere of inspiration and people will be eager to please their boss for the hope of praise. For Lincoln, he was a man of persuasion and he often used his words of suggestion to get others to do what he wanted. Just giving orders and telling people what to do is not something Lincoln supported. During his campaign Lincoln spoke, “Understanding the spirit of our institutions is to aim at the elevation of men;  I  am  opposed to whatever tends to degrade them. Without question, dictatorship in any form degrades human beings’’ (41).

Honesty and Integrity are essential for a good leader. They are the keystones that holds an organization together. Being honest was one of Abraham Lincoln’s key principles which is how he got his nickname Honest Abe. He exemplified good integrity by sticking to his word and helping others when needed. During his time, they considered him a man of leniency and mercy. Unfortunately, many leaders today show no mercy and are not people of second chances. Most companies did not have a write up policy because they live in an “At-Will” state. Meaning, they can terminate you at there will without notice and some managers take advantage of not allowing the employee to improve themselves. Key point, leaders should practice cohesion and not coercion amongst their team.

Another great principle of Lincoln is being a good listener and taking advice from your constituents without being threatened. A good leader that has personal security and will not feel threated when they are surrounded by competent people. Effective leaders know they cannot do everything and must have people willing to do what it takes to be successful. Encouraging innovation and for others to think on their own creates achievements for the entire organization. The power to motivate solely relies on the leader and it should not only happen privately but publicly.



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