Bob SelleComment

Old Abe and His Leadership Behaviors

Bob SelleComment

Old Abe and His Leadership Behaviors
Published on Published on October 17, 2016

I took the below from a recent HBR Article. I cut and pasted the important behaviors a leader should possess. In this case it's one of my favorites "Old Abe" Enjoy..Lot's to chew on for a Monday AM:)



By early 1865 when this amendment was being debated, the president had developed strong ideas — and perhaps even stronger emotions — about slavery and its poisonous effects on the animating principles of America. But these were not what he relied on as he worked to secure passage of the measure with his cabinet and Congress. Instead, he used a series of pragmatic arguments (and the political currency he had as chief executive) to convince undecided advisors and legislators as well as influential journalists to support the amendment.



A leader’s ability to appreciate other perspectives on a given issue and to do so without getting tangled in his or her own thoughts and feelings about the subject are critical to accomplishing any important mission. This capability requires (at least) four leadership qualities. The first is deftness — or intellectual and emotional dexterity applied with attention and care to the situation at hand. The second quality is detachment; virtually all of the effective leaders, past and present whom I have studied, taught themselves to “walk around” an issue, and see it from many different angles other than their own immediate thoughts and emotions. This ability, in turn, fed another important leadership quality, and that is empathy – the capacity to understand (and appreciate) what another person or group, including those on the other side of a given issue, are feeling.



But finally and most important, what we are talking about here — and what Lincoln used so powerfully to help hold the nation together during its greatest crisis — is emotional awareness. A sensitive man, Lincoln was sickened by the bloodshed of the Civil War. He often grew deeply distressed about the conflict, its carnage, and his own ability to keep doing what he believed he must as commander-in-chief. Some of his emotional anxiety took itself out on his appetite. He lost more than 30 pounds as president, weighing about 155 pounds when he died. He also had a great deal of trouble sleeping and spent many nights pacing the second-floor hallway of the White House.



Despite his own distress, he rarely revealed his doubts and fears to anyone other than his closest confidants. He knew that if the president displayed such anxiety, it would quickly spread to his generals, his advisors, and the American people, and this contagion would damage his mission to save the Union.



Throughout his presidency, Lincoln relied heavily on such emotional awareness and control. A famous example of this occurred after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, when Federal General George C. Meade decided not to pursue the retreating Confederate General Robert E. Lee, allowing the southern commander and his army to escape safely back into Virginia. When Lincoln learned of Meade’s decision, he was furious. He believed that if Meade had followed Lee, Union forces would have crushed the Confederate army, effectively ending the war. Lost in his anger, the president drafted a scathing letter to Meade. But then he paused, thought some, and decided not to let his rage out. He recognized that at the time, 1863, he could not afford to alienate Meade or other Union military leaders. So instead of sending that letter, Lincoln chose to fold it up and slip it into a drawer, where it was found after his assassination. (Many times I’ve wondered how different history might have been if Lincoln had had email or Twitter in the early 1860s.)



As the 16th president understood, leaders must always aim high when the forces around them are heading downward. It’s always important for a leader to cultivate the better angels of our nature, to motivate each of us to work from our stronger selves. Despite aggressively prosecuting the deadliest war in American history, Lincoln’s goal was always to “nobly save” our country, which he called “the last best hope of earth.” Toward this end, he urged his “fellow citizens” to “take increased devotion to that cause for which [soldiers fighting at Gettysburg] gave the last full measure of devotion.”



Again and again, he called Americans to be stronger, better, bolder, and more generous than our lower instincts or smaller selves would have us. And Lincoln did so with a kind of consistency, gravitas, and humor that we would all do well to recall and emulate right now.