“Lincoln on Leadership”
By Donald T. Phillips
Based on the Above Book
Abraham Lincoln is known to almost everyone. It is recognized that he led the country through one of the hardest times in its history. What many of us do not know or understand are the methods he employed in order to lead us through the Civil War. Phillips became interested in Lincoln’s leadership methods and abilities because he found that these same ideas were still being taught today. He wrote this book because he was unable to find other books detailing Lincoln’s leadership. Because Lincoln’s methods are still applicable in today’s leadership environment, Phillips realized that much could be learned by examining Lincoln’s actions while serving as president. According to Phillips “the foundation of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style was an unshakable commitment to the rights of the individual” (1992, p. 3). We will learn from Philips how Lincoln’s methods helped him to become a great leader.
Lincoln led through his dealings with people by being available. He knew that if a leader never left their office they would miss out on the real action. A leader needed to be available to those relying upon him. Lincoln needed and wanted the most up-to-date information he could have in order to make decisive and speedy decisions. The best way for him to do this was to be around the people who were getting the job done. Also, for Lincoln it was important for people to know they were appreciated for the work they were doing for the country. By keeping in touch with the people he was tapping a wealth of information he might not receive otherwise. He did not wait for the information to be brought to him, he went to where the information was, and he even waited at the telegraph office for messages so he could reply quickly. This philosophy was important because in order to win the war Lincoln knew he needed to have a good idea of the workings of the troops and to always be on top of things. This is not an unheard of idea. Some have termed this style as “managing by wandering around” (Phillips, 1992, p. 14). It is basically the act of getting out of your office and establishing human contact. Giving your followers access to yourself as a leader will help them to believe you truly are interested in them and committed to making things work.
Building strong alliances was another leadership method used by Lincoln. This allowed him to gain the trust and respect of his subordinates. He took the time to listen to his people and this enabled him to get to know them better. By being familiar with his people he could predict how they would react in certain situations and he was also able to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Lincoln wanted action and victory and by placing people with the right characteristics in places where he needed them, more things could be accomplished. By building relationships such as this with subordinates a leader can begin to overcome personal differences and/or hard feelings. The use of persuasion instead of coercion was another method Lincoln used in order to get what he wanted to accomplish done. According to Phillips “when a leader begins to coerce his followers, he’s essentially abandoning leadership and embracing dictatorship” (1992, p. 38). He knew that he would not be able to do everything on his own. He needed to be able to trust that his people could lead without his direct guidance and that they would understand what his wishes would be and to follow them accordingly. Lincoln did not want to force anyone to do something they did not want to do because he did not want to violate the rights of anyone. Because of this he used openness, empowerment, and coaching in his dealings with his people. He wanted to work with and through his people in order to accomplish his objectives; he did not want to have to watch over their every move to make sure they were doing what they were...
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