BY |              December 17, 2012|  The Daily Dose

4 Leadership Lessons From Abraham Lincoln

image credit: Shutterstock
In a scene from the Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln,
Mary Todd Lincoln tells her husband: “No one is loved as much as you by
the people. Don’t waste that power.” Spoiler alert: He doesn’t.

While the movie focuses on the passing of the 13th Amendment
abolishing slavery, it also gives a lot of insight to Lincoln’s strong leadership skills — those things that have made him so admired.

While you may not be leading revolutionary change in the
country, here are four leadership lessons from our 16th president on how
to lead revolutionary change at your startup or small business.
1. Say no to ‘Yes Men.’ At a time in history when
the United States was at war with itself, Lincoln surprisingly chose to
fill his cabinet with a team of his rivals. These were men he considered
to be the best and brightest minds in the country, and they were
unafraid to challenge Lincoln and assert their opposition. A
self-confident man, Lincoln welcomed strong opinions as it provoked
thoughtful debate as well as inner reflection. It proved to be an
important tactic during his presidency.
Rick Lepsinger, president of the New York City-based leadership consulting firm OnPoint,
agrees: “Don’t hire in your own image,” he says. “Get comfortable with
conflict and learn how to manage differences productively.”
Lepsinger suggests that leaders not allow conflicts to fester, but
bring them to the surface as soon as possible. He also recommends
avoiding the overuse of compromise, looking instead for common ground
and alternatives.
2. Be decisive. While it’s helpful to get more than
one opinion, strong leaders know when and how to make decisions. Cabinet
members could have argued forever, but Lincoln had the ability to
knowwhen he had all of the information he needed. Walking away to seek
solitude, he was able to determine the best solution and make a decision
without wavering.
Good leaders clarify their decision criteria, says Lepsinger,
identifying musts and wants, and using that as a guide to compare
options. “Assess the risk of each option as well as the benefits,” he
says. “These practices will increase confidence that you’ve selected the
alternative that is the best balance of risk and reward.”
3. Look for inspiration in unlikely places. As a
member of Congress, Lincoln studied mathematics to gain wisdom in
reasoning. In the movie, Lincoln shares some of this wisdom with two
young clerks at the telegraph office: “Euclid’s first common notion is
this: ‘Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each
other.'”
Lepsinger says leaders are continuous learners and look outside their industry for ideas and innovation.
4. Connect with people on a personal level. We know
“Honest Abe” was fair, but Lincoln was also known for his jokes and
storytelling. It’s how he broke the ice and blazed a trail to common
ground. Lincoln also made himself accessible. As president of the United
States, he kept regular office hours and citizens were allowed to see
him.
“It’s not how smart you are — strong personal relationships and high
levels of trust are the foundation of effective leadership,” says
Lepsinger. “[Good leaders] demonstrate empathy, take an interest in
others and find out details about them.”