Our generation is fortunate to have the most curated data and content around leadership. Excavating key lessons from historical figures is a powerful tool every leader can use to produce a better future.
So how does one provide a better future than before? Well, I was having a conversation with Jon Birdsong, CEO of Rivalry, and he said, "It starts with leadership."
In an effort to produce a generation of better leaders than our predecessors, the following 5 Leadership Lessons From Abraham Lincoln For Your Business Today will help you be a better leader. Tools have changed since Lincoln held office, but our 5 lessons are principles for any generation looking to innovate and challenge the impossible.
1. Be a Person For the People Over Being a People Person
Most individuals think a great leader must be a gregarious, popular, extrovert. Abraham Lincoln was an introvert. Introverts are not necessarily anti-social, they are people who aren't energized by people. Lincoln recharged by reading and taking long walks. More important than being a people person is being a person for the people.
How does one know if they are a person for the people?
There are two types of people who walk into a room:
One that says: "Here I am."
Another says: "There you are"
Great leaders want to connect with you. They want to get to know you. Those are the "people skills" required to be a great leader.
Lincoln went from being raised in a cabin with dirt floors to the most powerful man in the United States. He wasn't able to do it due to family connections, money or an Ivy League education. He was able to achieve such a level because of the relationships he built along the way.
Leadership is about relationship. Forging those bonds between the leader and the lead is everything. In the management of our business, one on one meetings are the best way to forge these critical bonds and establish sincere connections.
2. Passion: "I Want to Do Something Significant"
Great leaders are energized by something. Passion is a requirement for great leadership and most times our passion is sparked by a problem.
The greatest problem Lincoln saw was the expansion of slavery to the West. If freedom were to expand, slavery could not; this lit Lincoln's fire.
It was not enough for Lincoln to just be a successful lawyer. Lincoln took the successes he had and wanted to do something extraordinary for the country. Every great leader must find their significant something.
3. Produce a Clear Vision and Trajectory
The capacity to imagine something better is essential for great leadership.
Where do you want your business to go?
Where do you want any organization you are involved with to go?
Lincoln's vision and creativity is exemplified through The Compromise of 1850. A product of Stephen Douglas and The Great Compromiser, Henry Clay, sectioned slavery into geographical regions and states with California being free and and Utah and New Mexico having no slavery restrictions. Once the constitutional amendment took place, Lincoln was afraid every state there after would expand to slavery.
The vision of the United States did not included slavery expansion with Lincoln. He had the imagination and creativity to link the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and go all the way forward of how the country should be. Many limit Lincoln to a North-South boundary but he also kept the frontier on the forefront.
Overall, Lincoln's vision for the United States includes not being just a continental power, but a global power backed by the greatest moral principles the country was founded on.
4. Character Builds a Necessary Trust
A strong character inspires trust. Lincoln overcame not just monetary poverty, but a much more defeating element: emotional poverty. At 9 years old, his mother passed away a slow and painful death. There was no hospice. What was left was a father who beat him when he prioritized reading over chores left to do. There's no wonder why he did not even attend his funeral. The love of his life died early on and 3 of his 4 sons did not live past their teenage years. Historians suggest there were 6 episodes of depression where his friends removed the knives from his house due to suicidal fears. Lincoln had a great deal of emotional poverty that he had to overcome and it required an extremely strong character.
5. The Ability to Communicate Effectively
Great leaders have the ability to communicate their areas of passion. Abraham Lincoln knew to emotionally connect and build forging bonds with people, excellent communication was key. Outside of Lincoln's predecessor Andrew Johnson, Lincoln had the least amount of formal education (1 year) of any President.
Instead he educated himself constantly, even to the point where he would carry a pocket Shakespeare and bring it out in between meetings. This was a man who read everything from Aesop Fables, poetry, and much more.
He knew his audience read the Bible, he knew what phrases would resonate.
If you care about people are trying to connect with them, a great leader will take the time to choose the words necessary of furthering the cause you believe in.