If ever there was a man who led, and led marvelously well, during times of crisis it was Abraham Lincoln. Secession and Civil War had been fermenting for decades in an increasingly divided country. Finally, with his election in 1860, the Southern states decided they had to withdraw from the Union and war began a few months later in 1861.
Nevertheless, Lincoln led and lived almost long enough (he was assassinated in 1865) to see all hostilities cease and healing begin in the country he loved.
So, what were his leadership traits? What made him the man for the hour?
- Humility—while he knew what he wanted he could also listen to others, even putting men into his Cabinet that stringently opposed him at every turn.
- Honesty—there seems to be no “spin” in his speeches or letters.
- Boldness—he did what was necessary. Suspending habeus corpus, for example, while a highly criticized move, helped keep order during the crazy period.
- Decision—if a general couldn’t get it done, he replaced him. The times were too dire to worry about feelings. Not until he found U.S. Grant did he believe he had the man to win the war and he went through several generals to get to him.
- Focus—there was nothing else on his agenda besides reuniting the nation.
- Passion—aged beyond belief by his time in office, Lincoln gave his energy, his health, and ultimately his life for his cause.
February 12 is his birthday. We need to lead like Lincoln today—in our companies and in our country!