What we can learn from Abraham Lincoln

Excerpts from Leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln, Diane Coutu

“History also shows that it’s essential to know how to connect to the larger public, whether that’s through radio, in the case of Franklin Roosevelt, or in Lincoln’s case, through speeches that were filled with such poetry and clarity that people felt they were watching him think and that he was telling them the truth.”

“I would add here that one more success factor is key for great leadership, be it in business or politics, and it’s one that’s usually overlooked. As a leader you need to know how to relax so that you can replenish your energies for the struggles facing you tomorrow.”

“Lincoln went to the theater about a hundred times while he was in Washington. And although he suffered from a certain melancholy, he had a tremendous sense of humor and would entertain people long into the night with his stories. Franklin Roosevelt was the same way. He had this cocktail hour every evening during World War II when you just couldn’t talk about the war. He needed to remain free from thinking about the bad things for a few hours. Or he would play with his stamps. This ability to recharge your batteries in the midst of great stress and crisis is crucial for successful leadership.”

“You also have to be able to figure out how to share credit for your success with your inner team so that they feel a part of a mission. Basically, you want to create a reservoir of good feeling, and that involves not only acknowledging your errors but even shouldering the blame for the failures of some of your subordinates. Again and again, Lincoln took responsibility for what he did, and he shared responsibility for the mistakes of others, and so people became very loyal to him.”

 

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