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Probation Officer and Adult Volunteer Leader for the High School Ministry of Granger Community Church.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Leadership Lessons from Lincoln

I recently bought a gift card for a friend's birthday from Media Play. In return, they gave me 7 free issues of Time Magazine. So far each issue has been so timely and, well, wonderful. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to bring myself to cancel the trial offer. Thankfully, I can still get online when the hard copies stop coming in the mail. Like I said, each issue has been good. And the most recent didn't let me down. The following are eight leadership lessons that I found from our 16th president in a recent article :

Develop Empathy - Lincoln had the gift of putting himself in the place of others, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. This empathy allowed him to absorb the sorrows and hopes of his countrymen, to sense their shifting moods so he could shape and mold their opinion with the right words and the right deeds at the right time. Viewing a situation from another's perspective may give you an insight you might not have gained if you simply keep your eyes on yourself.

Use Humor - Lincoln possessed a remarkable sense of humor that allowed him, time and again, to defuse tensions and relax his colleagues at difficult moments. You don't have to be Johnny Carson or Conan O'brian, but learning how to use humor can be a valuable tool. Oh ya, and learn to laugh at yourself... other people already are.

Demonstrate Magnanimity - Magni-What!? Lincoln refused to hold grudges or pay people back for previous hurts. In fact, he appointed his greatest rivals, the people who humiliated him the most, to his Cabinet. Simply put, he just didn't have the time to waste on personal vendettas. There are just more important things to think about.

Demonstrate Generosity of Spirit - When Congress found out about wasteful contracts during the first part of the Civil War, Lincoln publicly took the blame saying that he himself and his entire Cabinet "were at least equally responsible." Equally important, he shared the credit for successes giving General Grant the position of honor even though it was his to stand in. And most of all, he was quick to admit to his errors saying, "I frequently make mistakes myself, in the many things I am compelled to do hastily." Take the blame, share the successes and admit your errors.

Gain Proper Perspective - Learn how to develop positive perspectives in all situations. Lincoln had an uncanning ability to look over lesser concerns for more important ones. In other words, learn how to wade through the mess to see the important junk.

Develop Self-Control - When angry, Lincoln would write a letter to vent his feelings but then never sent it until he had cooled down, at which point he didn't need to send it. Of course, there were times when he lost his temper, but he would follow it up with a kind gesture which repaired injured feelings that might have turned into lasting hurts. It's amazing the wisdom you gain if you just delay your reactions.

Develop A Sense of Balance - Unlike his colleagues who worked themselves to death, Lincoln understood the importance of finding ways to relax. He was known to get away to see a play even in the most difficult times of his presidency. One assistant noted, "He has forgotten the war. He has forgotten Congress. He is out of politics. He is living in another time." Find what relaxes you, and then make it a point to balance all your life.

Gain A Social Conscience - Lincoln's ambition was never simply for office or power, but rather to accomplish something worthy that would stand the test of time, that would allow his story to be told after he died. Lincoln used his influence to reach out to the unreacheable and lived his life with compassion for people. Develop a conscience that says people matter, not simply because they can do something for me, but because they simply matter.

Check out the complete article, The Master of the Game, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

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