Six Lincoln Life Lessons

"Why does the internet keep putting words in my mouth?"**Abraham Lincoln

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We interrupt this Valentine's week to remind you of a more significant event, Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

Sadly, Lincoln's birthday (today!) gets short shrift because everyone's making chocolates and because his birthday is too close to George Washington's birthday (February 22).  The result is we're all distracted by our cravings and otherwise ignoring the forgettable "Presidents' Day."

However, we can move past these pitfalls and spend a few moments considering some of the lesser-celebrated qualities Lincoln modeled.

Perhaps my favorite Lincoln insights come from  Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This book has a unique narrative in that it focuses on how well Lincoln led his cabinet who were bickering, hated rivals. If you've ever had to deal with challenging people, Lincoln gives a master class in how to be effective in the middle of horrible team dynamics.

In fact, if you've ever worked with a dysfunctional team, you would be well-served to pick up Goodwin's brilliant profile of Lincoln's leadership skills.  Consider these two insightful paragraphs:

“When resentment and contention threatened to destroy his (Lincoln's) administration, he refused to be provoked by petty grievances, to submit to jealousy, or to brood over perceived slights. Through the appalling pressures he faced day after day, he retained an unflagging faith in his country’s cause.

Moreover, Lincoln possessed an uncanny understanding of his shifting moods, a profound self-awareness that enabled him to find constructive ways to alleviate sadness and stress. Indeed, when he is compared with his colleagues, it is clear that he possessed the most even-tempered disposition of them all.”

Wow.  Did you catch all of his leadership attributes?  In two paragraphs, we see a list of behaviors which could take a lifetime to master.

1. Not easily provoked.

2. Not jealous.

3. Didn't take offense.

4. Faithful.

5. Self- Aware

6. Even-tempered

If you do nothing else to honor the legacy of Lincoln today, re-read that list and write it down.   Imagine how much better the work place would be if we all tried to live by this for even a day?!

Give it a shot.  It's the least we can do!

** Have you ever noticed how often Honest Abe is misquoted?  If not, pay attention and you'll see it all over the place.  It's a strange phenomenon....