President Abraham Lincoln is in fashion. Kind of humorous to think of it that way, but it is certainly the case. Actually Lincoln tends to ebb and flow…he never really falls out of favor, and that is a good thing. However there is no denying that thanks to Lincoln the movie, he is at the forefront of our consciousness. Yes, it is a very, very good film.
I have always had a huge bias towards President Lincoln. Part of it obviously comes from growing up in Central Illinois, part of it comes from having quite a few undergrad classes at Lincoln Hall, and part of it comes from just years of reading and study. There is so much to learn from the man and his story. Lincoln on Leadership is still one of my all-time favorites, and Team of Rivals is an excellent read. Though there are no absolute right answers when it comes to leadership, so much can be learned from Lincoln. His story, his actions, his example; he is easily at the top of the list when it comes to standards of leadership excellence.
While watching the movie, another one of those little aspects of great leadership was illustrated time and again by Daniel Day-Lewis as he portrayed Lincoln. It was such a small thing, and something that is sometimes lost in our modern world – the personal touch. Throughout the film there were numerous examples of Lincoln’s personal touch, both figuratively and literally. It was clear that he listened, that he would build a connection by focusing on a person, that he would engage people on a core level; he would touch them in a figurative sense. There was also a literal piece to the personal touch – a pat on a shoulder, a hand shake, a grasping of hands – literally reaching out to a person. Obviously our PC (both politically correct and personal computer) world does not allow for such things as often, but dare I say there is a time and a place for both the figurative and literal personal touch in leadership.
Granted, it is a movie. A well written and exceptionally well acted movie, but still a fictional portrayal. Yet it was seeing these small gestures, and the impact it had on others, that drove home the point that leadership is about personal connections. Lincoln teaches so many lessons in perserverance, focus, committment, caring, and on and on, but it was great to be reminded of another of the small things that can and do make such a huge difference.