Tag Archives: Lincoln

Lincoln, Leadership and Another of the “Little Things”

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.

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Filed under Business, Coaching, leadership

Finding Leaders – Lessons From Interviews

In the competitive world of business, leadership requires special people who are able to balance the goals of the firm, the needs of their team, and the needs of their own ego.  Leaders who create dynamic teams, who have a record of achievement and sustained superior performance in a variety of situations.   Not managers of process, of programs, of performance matrix, or even of people.   In short, those special few who truly lead people.

Identifying these special few is not an easy thing to do, and it is certainly not an easy thing to find or discern, either in a resume or from interviews.  However, over the years we have heard a virtual cornucopia of  screening questions from our clients regarding this very issue, but only one that was worth sharing.  While to the casual observer it might be a question of semantics, for many it has become the key tool in identifying those special leaders.  Simply put, what is more important to a leader – to be liked or to be respected?   Asking this simple, “must choose one” question tells one a great deal about the person and their real leadership ability.

Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln and his administration, is one of the finest studies of this issue and serves as a great case study.  Clearly Lincoln’s “team” neither liked nor respected him as a person, as a politician, and certainly not as a leader.  Lincoln never set out to win their approval or friendship.  What he did do was respect their individual talents and experiences, provided them the freedom to do their jobs, and above all he lead them.   As a leader, Lincoln set clear goals, made tough decisions, shared his vision, stuck to his convictions, never wavered, and held people accountable.  Over time and through his actions Lincoln gradually won the respect, loyalty, and ultimately sincere affection of his Team of Rivals, a divided nation, and arguably a world.

Regardless of what Lincoln the person might have wanted, Lincoln the Leader knew that above all else he had to earn the respect of his team first.  He never set out to be liked.  He set out to lead.  There in lies the heart of the question – Leaders realize they must earn the respect of their team first – all else stems from the respect of the team, to include being liked.

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Filed under Hiring and Interviewing, Interviewing, leadership, Politics