In her brilliant book, “Leadership,” Doris Kearns Goodwin, the author, eloquently presented Abraham Lincoln’s leadership principles in the chapter titled “Transformational Leadership.” They are as follows:
- “Acknowledge when failed policies demand a change in direction.”
- “Gather firsthand information, ask questions.”
- “Find time and space in which to think.”
- “Exhaust all possibility of compromise before imposing unilateral executive power.”
- “Anticipate contending viewpoints.”
- “Assume full responsibility for a pivotal decision.”
- “Understand the emotional needs of each member of the team.”
- “Refuse to let past resentments fester; transcend personal vendettas.”
- “Set a standard of mutual respect and dignity; control anger.”
- “Shield colleagues from blame.”
- “Maintain perspective in the face of both accolades and abuse.”
- “Find ways to cope with pressure, maintain balance, replenish energy.”
- “Keep your word.”
- “Know when to move back, when to move forward.”
- “Combine transactional and transformational leadership.”
- “Be accessible, easy to approach.”
- “Put ambition for the collective interest above self-interest.”
Lincoln applied those principles in 1862 to lead our country away from the danger of destroying the dream of our founders, with all its flaws, and back to being one nation, living on the foundation of our constitution.
Here we are 160 years later, facing a descent into that same abyss, albeit it for different reasons, but similarly grounded in hatred, seeing anyone who disagrees with us as an enemy that must be destroyed. Listening to one another is weakness. Collaboration is cowardice.
Lincoln’s principles are as relevant today as they were in 1862. They beg the question: What must define great leadership in all segments of society today? And most importantly – what would it take for you to apply them – right now?
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