The leadership of Lincoln
No Comments | November 15, 2012
Recently, I read a great book called Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Philips. The book provide examples of Lincoln's excellent guidance of the United States during the Civil War.
Lincoln would address the concerns of his subordinates in the form of short stories—parables, almost. I found the best example of this to be when he was confronted by politicians from the west who approached him with demands and suggestions on how he should run the war effort. Lincoln replied with this story:
"Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold and this you had placed in the hands of one man to carry across the Niagara River on a rope. Would you shake the cable and keep shouting at him, 'Stand up a little straighter, stoop a little more, go a little faster, go a little slower, lean a little more to the south?' No, you would hold your breath, as well as your tongue, and keep your hands off until he got safely over."
I think this is a fantastic reply to dealing with those who are trying to guide you on your leadership journey. (Now, this is not to say you shouldn't take advice from those wiser than you.)
Another clever 'trick' Lincoln practiced was this: whenever he was angry at a mistake one of his cabinet members or generals made, he would not lose his temper in front of them. Instead, he would retreat to his desk and write a very charged letter expressing his disappointment and rage. However, he would never send these letters—they only served to vent his anger.
I think we can learn a thing or two from how Lincoln went about his leadership. Maybe try to infuse anecdotes in your explanations for your actions or use letters to privately express dissatisfaction—it may help you manage those who would normally send you 'off the deep end.' Remember: a leader is one who is always looked up to. You are a model for how others should behave. If the people you lead see you are unpredictable, they are less likely to continue having faith in your vision.