Analyses of Lincoln S Leadership and Communication SkillsEssay

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Business -- Persuasive Communication -- Summary of Communication


Throughout his life, Lincoln learned and honed his abilities and skills for effective leadership and persuasion. According to his contemporaries, he was committed to effective communication (Phillips, 1992, p. 145). In fact, he was so renowned for these skills that when Stephen Douglas was informed that he would be running against Lincoln for the U.S. Senate in 1858, Douglas called Lincoln "the strong man of his party -- full of wit, facts, dates, and the best stump-speaker with droll-ways and dry jokes in the west" (Phillips, 1992, p. 146). Lincoln realized the value of communication by public speaking, including extemporaneous speech (Phillips, 1992, p. 146). Consequently, he thoroughly prepared for every public speech (Phillips, 1992, p. 147). Even his initially ungainly appearance was overcome by his eloquence and preparation; so much so that one observer stated Lincoln was "transfigured" into a speaker who brought the cheering crowd to its feet (Phillips, 1992, p. 148). As Phillips states, "He combined a well-rounded, albeit self-taught, education with wit and sincerity to serve as the nucleus of the archetypal communicator" (Phillips, 1992, p. 153). Even the most contentious leaders of his day were forced to recognize Lincoln's powers of leadership and communication.

Seeking to help other public speakers, Lincoln composed a number of principals for effective speaking. Knowing that some speaking abilities are inherent but must be honed and that other skills must be taught, he encouraged public speakers to: be the best stump-speaker, with droll ways and dry jokes; use extemporaneous speaking as an "avenue" to the public; use several types of body language when speaking; prepare thoroughly; never deem anything written to be finished until it is published or deem any speech finished until it is delivered; sometimes you should be silent and communicate that to your audience; try to avoid mistakes because people are listening in earnest and a mistake can affect you and whatever you represent; and often use documents with verbal discussions to grasp the idea with two senses (Phillips, 1992, p. 154). The shrewdness and conscious development of Lincoln's deceptively simple-looking approach is unmistakable in these principles.

Lincoln was also an excellent conversationalist. His contemporaries remark upon his ability to speak easily with a wide variety of people (Phillips, 1992, p. 155). Upon their first meeting, Carl Shurz, who eventually became a Union general said, "He received me with an off-hand cordiality, like an old acquaintance ... and we sat down together ... [he] talked in so simple and familiar a strain, and his manner and homely phrase were so absolutely free from any semblance of self-consciousness or pretention of superiority, that I soon felt as if I had known him all my life" (Phillips, 1992, p. 156). Part of his charm was his humor and ability to tell a humorous story to make his point (Phillips, 1992, p. 158). Lincoln was well aware of the importance of good story-telling. He used story-telling as an "emollient" to save friction and distress when giving a refusal or rebuke (Phillips, 1992, p. 159). He understood the importance of being able to communicate privately as well as publicly in order to motivate people, discover what they are thinking and win their loyalty, a principle that is vital to effective business leadership (Phillips, 1992, p. 160). Even today, leaders recognize and develop these skills to be the most effective leaders possible.

Lincoln's deep understanding of conversation, story-telling and humor led him to compose even more principles for communication and leadership. Once again dropping his simple-seeming demeanor to educate other would-be persuaders, he encouraged to: try not to leave any individual with an unpleasant impression by or about either of you; use simple and familiar "strains" with people so they will feel like they've known you all their lives; humor is an important aspect of persuasion; a good laugh is good for mental and physical digestion; a broad and humorous illustration can most easily influence people; a short story can illustrate your point-of-view while avoiding a long discussion or explanation; an appropriate story can blunt the sharpness of a refusal or rebuke; and loyalty is often won through private conversation (Phillips, 1992, p. 161). By promoting these simple, effective skills, Lincoln focused on educating persuasive leaders for generations to come.

All the above communication skills are vital to effective leadership. Organizations flourish or perish because of their leaders' ability to personify and communicate the company's vision (Phillips, 1992, p. 162). "Vision" is knowing where the company is going, being passionate about it and being able to articulate it plainly and succinctly (Phillips, 1992, p. 162). An effective vision endows people with power and formulates for the future while having origins in the past (Phillips, 1992, p. 163). It is the vision that inspires, empowers, leads and accomplishes goals.

Lincoln's leadership during the U.S. Civil War is an exemplary lesson in leadership with an effective vision. As our Civil War president, he justified and explained the Union force's drastic action with the nation's foundational principles (Phillips, 1992, p. 163). One of the most important foundational principles is liberty in the forms of equality and personal freedom, which Lincoln continually stressed as founded in our past, important for the present and a hope for the future (Phillips, 1992, pp. 163-5). His simple and effective style was to continually rejuvenate the values on which the country was founded, calling on the past, relating them to the present and linking them to the future (Phillips, 1992, p. 166). Perhaps the simplest and most eloquent example of his well-honed leadership skills is found in the Gettysburg Address, a two-minute speech in which he linked the past, present and future in such a way that it is still considered one of his finest moments, more than 150 years after it was delivered (Phillips, 1992, p. 167). It is a small wonder that this speech is admired, repeated and examined to this day.

Modern day scholars use that short but eloquent speech to illustrate Lincoln's principles on communication and leadership. The Gettysburg Address is used as a roadmap to: give a clear, concise statement of the organization's direction and justify your actions; reaffirm, reassert and remind everyone of those basic principles whenever and wherever you can; you must persuade rather than try to force an effective vision; your leadership style must be used to harness your vision; aim for the common people to understand your vision; for renewal, call on the past, relate it to the present and link them to the future; ensure that critical human talent and energy are released to ensure the success of your vision (Phillips, 1992, p. 169). This was perhaps Lincoln's most emphatic lesson about direction for leaders of all times.

John Kennedy's "Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in Leadership" applies modern theories of communication and leadership to examine Lincoln's classic embodiment of both. As Kennedy illustrates, Lincoln fits every modern theory of leadership: the "Big Five" factors of intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability. (Kennedy, 2013, p. 4); the "Three Skill" crucial aspects of the human dimension, the conceptual dimension and the technical dimension (Kennedy, 2013, p. 4); "Situational Leadership" through the directive, coaching, supporting and delegating styles, matching his leadership styles to abilities and development levels of his followers (Kennedy, 2013, p. 5); and situational leadership's complementary style of "Transformational Leadership," in which Lincoln generated an attractive vision for his followers, successfully articulated the vision and enabled his followers to live the vision (Kennedy, 2013, p. 6). Examining several theories of leadership, Kennedy found that Lincoln embodied the best of each theory.

Applying Lincoln's exceptional leadership abilities to the Gettysburg Address, Kennedy states that

"like all great orators, Lincoln did not just copy the words, he used them in a new context and gave them an added meaning; a meaning of sacrifice and a meaning of renewal. An acknowledgement of those who had paid the price, so that America could have a 'new birth of freedom'" (Kennedy, 2013, p. 45).

Parsing the Gettysburg Address, Kennedy also illustrates Lincoln's uses of communication skills: "asyndeton" (omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence) when stating "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground"; the "rule of three" by repeating the terms "we cannot" three times in a sentence (Kennedy, 2013, p. 46); imagery; personification; and the "problem/solution" device of presenting the difficulty and quickly reminding his audience of the solution; antithesis; and an utter play on emotions, first made famous by Aristotle (Kennedy, 2013, p. 47). Finally, Kennedy points out that Lincoln's speech was structured in three parts: a beginning, linking it to the past; a middle, linking it to the present; and an end, linking it to the future (Kennedy, 2013, p. 47). In this way, Kennedy echoes Phillips' analysis of Lincoln's rejuvenation of the American ideal of liberty.

Kennedy's application of leadership and communication skills to Lincoln's approach led him to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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