Abe Lincoln’s Leadership Tips
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearnes Goodwin is a wealth of information on the cleverness of Lincoln. One of the reasons he remains such a key figure in our culture today is because we admire him still for his leadership skills. Throughout the book, Goodwin highlights several instances of Lincoln’s strong leadership and present traits that assisted Lincoln’s natural skills. This is the second post of the series, and it will illustrate the importance of knowing your material. Chances are, you’ve been assigned a group project sometime in your life. One of the professors at my alma mater strongly advocated group projects. Typically, the work was good—after all, many hands make a lighter load (or something like that).
As I was saying though, chances are you’ve been assigned a group project, and chances are that you had an experience similar to mine. Many of my peers didn’t understand the project, and as the professor was slightly distracted, asking for clarity wasn’t as enlightening as anticipated. This left those of us who did understand the project (read: me) to delegate responsibilities. When the time came for the group to present the project, all group members dutifully appeared (physically, anyway. Mental presence was never clearly established for all members) but had no idea what they ought to say about our work. Bless them, they tried to fill their allotted space with something—just vague statements of an unconvincing quality.
If you’ve been in a similar situation then you’ll appreciate that part of leadership is knowing your material. Thankfully the above situation was in a room of communications students who are some of the most welcoming and encouraging peers. It was easy to gloss over the vague jibber-jabber with clear statements which definitively outlined our project. Perhaps you’ve been in a more awkward situation needing to address an inaccurate statement your supervisor said, or to correct a peer’s statement in a more formal situation.
Or, perhaps you’ve been the jibber-jabberer.
Lincoln was the sort of person to study something until he knew it inside and out before making a statement. Before talking about the Nebraska Act, Lincoln camped out in the State Library pouring over debates to clearly understand the debate’s evolution to craft an eloquent and compelling story. According to Herdon, “Lincoln would express no opinion on anything until he knew his subject ‘inside and outside, upside and downside’”(Goodwin, p. 164).
The extra time that Lincoln spent researching the arguments meant that he was able to keep a consistent message throughout his campaigns. According to Goodwin, “[Lincoln] rarely said more than he was sure about” giving him the advantage over his rivals “each of whom tried to reposition himself in the months before the convention”(Goodwin p. 255).
Consistency with a brand, an individual, or a product is key. Furthermore, consistency is not achieved without intentional research prior to the release of information to the public. Wise leaders heed the advice of Lincoln and know their stuff in order to remain consistent and steadfast despite changing times.
Until Next Time,