I just finished reading an enlightening book about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet members titled A Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin. It allowed me to trace back the roots of the many lessons and values we learned as children. The book uses anecdotes to display the qualities these great leaders possessed and is a true history lesson of how our “American” values were formed. However, these characteristics are not as prominent as their perceived importance has regrettably diminished in our modern society.
What history revealed was leadership in its most authentic form. At a very early age Lincoln was left with his sister to fend for themselves in the wild frontier instilling the perseverance he would be known for throughout the remainder of his life. The refusal to quit or accept failure is universally admired in all great leaders and managers but no one quite defined the term like President Lincoln did.
Throughout his presidency, some of his closest advisors rallied to garner opposition against his administration for their own selfish political gains. Lincoln never lashed out or used his authority to condemn; instead he fought disingenuousness with magnanimity. He understood that the well-being of the country came before all else. Lincoln was therefore willing to overlook the damage these deceitful advisors may have caused to his personal career. He forgave their petty antics so long as they continued to fulfill their obligations to the country.
Lincoln made regular visits to see the troops on the battlefields and hospitals where injured soldiers were cared for, a presidential tradition he started. This allowed him to feel the pulse of his people and understand the full impact of his decisions. His compassion for the soldiers was instantly recognized and appreciated by the troops. They were fighting for a leader they believed in and a leader who believed in them. Compassion gave Lincoln the edge that many of his rivals lacked.
When I think about the managers and leaders I most admire in my life, I think about their strong values. They had qualities; perseverance, magnanimity, and compassion, which made them extraordinary leaders easily distinguishable from all others. There is no reason these qualities should sound antiquated. Let’s not lose the honesty and sincerity in our approach with one another. In other words we have to be cautious of becoming a society focused on form, persuasion and rhetoric, rather than SUBSTANCE. Let’s bring authenticity back to leadership not because it may pay off but because it has moral meaning beyond benefits and rewards!