Thesis: Abraham Lincoln as a Leader

Pages: 6 (2141 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Leadership in management [...] President Abraham Lincoln's leadership traits and what made him a great leader. President Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, was perhaps one of the greatest leaders in the nation's history. He embodied many of the qualities of a good leader, from empathy and sympathy to strong, ethical leadership when the country, divided by Civil War, needed a strong, courageous and yet sympathetic leader. Throughout his administration and reelection, Lincoln demonstrated many leadership concepts, and his leadership inspired the American people, which is why they were so devastated when he was assassinated. Millions of people lined the railways across the country when his body was transported from Washington back to Illinois. One Lincoln biographer writes, "Thousands silently stood along the tracks as the train slowly passed, and thousands more viewed the body as it lay in state in principal cities along the way. All told, well over a million Americans viewed the body of their fallen leader on this journey home" (Gienapp, 2002, p. 202). The country reeled from his death in a strong reaction. Lincoln was a leader at a time when he did not have masses of assistants and staffers to manage his daily affairs. He wrote his own speeches, worked long hours, and aged dramatically during his time in office. Yet he did not give up, although some times he did give in to rare bouts of despair. Author Gienapp continues, "Few presidents have put in longer days, worked harder, or endured greater strain. A government official who called on him early in 1863 observed that he looked 'worn and haggard' and that 'his hand trembled' when he wrote" (Gienapp, 2002, p. 128). He exhibited many qualities of a fine, determined leader, and these qualities were what made him attractive to the American people and helped him guide the country during a time of great stress and fractionation.

Abraham Lincoln had several traits that qualified him to lead the country. First, he was an excellent communicator, as some of his speeches and letters clearly show. A leadership expert offers this assessment of the importance of communication in a leader. He writes, "Leaders who operate aloof of the people, pass the buck but keep the bucks and look for scapegoats, can't use communication for persuasive end. If you didn't identify with the problem, the workforce would perceive your motivation as condemnation and seek defense" (Kumuyi, 2007). Lincoln was not aloof at all, he involved himself in every aspect of the presidency, showed interest and involvement in the people who came to him for favors or advice, and showed leadership traits that showed he was a strong and moral leader. For example, Lincoln was honest, even brutally honest to the American people about the heavy cost of the Civil War. Another biographer notes, "Yet Lincoln's words and conduct as war leader and definer of the conflict runs against the usual definition of the American character. He never minimized the costs or exaggerated what the war would achieve; his language was at once prophetic and tragic" (Elshtain, 1999, p. 43). He communicated effectively, was brutally honest, and had not intent to deceive the people or the government about what the war was set to accomplish. His own words at his second inauguration indicate his great way with words. He said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds" (Elshtain, 1999, p. 43). This shows his communication style, but it also shows that Lincoln had a sense of the expectancy theory when dealing with the people. He understood what motivated them and they valued (in this case, peace and healing), and promoted those because he was a sympathetic and ethical leader who truly wanted to do the best for his people and his country. He also could communicate with the people and his advisors quite effectively, another mark of a great leader.

Lincoln's management skills represent the LMX theory as well, because he carefully chose his closest cabinet members and enjoyed a close relationship with all of them. Another writer notes, "Lincoln created a coalition, a Union cabinet embracing party leaders, diverse points-of-view toward slavery, and a nearly even balance of ex-Democrats and ex-Whigs" (Rawley, 2003, p. 36). This inner group represents the inner group that a LMX manager chooses to surround himself or herself with, and represents a high level of trust in this group. Lincoln's cabinet literally supported him during the war, taking some of the burden of the presidency off his shoulders. He also nurtured his inner circle by using his sense of humor to help their personalities blend. Author Rawley continues, "They described Lincoln relating funny stories, laughing uproariously at them, his face comically aglow" (Rawley, 2003, p. 41). Lincoln knew what his secretaries and cabinet members were good at, and exploited their strengths, another indicator of a great leader. One secretary, William Seward, became one of his closest confidants and friends, another key aspect of great leadership skills. Author Rawley states, "Thereafter Seward fell into place, as a presidential appointee, counselor, friend, and admirer of the increasingly self- confident chief executive" (Rawley, 2003, p. 46). Seward followed clear leader emergence paths to pull away from the cabinet pack and become the president's closest advisor. The president also created idiosyncrasy credits with his cabinet members and close advisors by creating successful and positive relationships with them, giving them more appreciation of his power and strength as a leader, and reinforcing that power. He had to create these credits at the beginning of his new administration, and the fact that he did that successfully indicates the depth of his leadership capabilities. He was honest and hardworking, and he sometimes made extremely difficult decisions, but he inspired and rallied his followers behind him by using sound leadership principles that are still in use today.

Lincoln displayed ethical leadership skills, never lying to the people or clouding the difficult issues that faced the nation as it entered into war. He also displayed great empathy and sympathy, qualities a great leader must have. Another writer notes, "He had three qualities of the highest value. The first was sympathy -- genuine appreciative sympathy for all his fellow men. Contemplation of human nature furnishes nothing more encouraging than the general response of mankind to such a quality" (Root, 2008). There are numerous examples of his sympathetic nature throughout his life, from his sense of fairness throughout his life to his pardoning of many Union soldiers who had disobeyed orders and could have faced a firing squad. Author Root continues, "Secretary Stanton used to get out of patience with Lincoln because he was all the time pardoning men who ought to be shot; but no one can tell how much the knowledge of that quality in him drew the people of the country toward him and won their confidence and support" (Root, 2008). He was also extremely sympathetic toward the victims of the war, not only the lost soldiers but also their families, and he worried about the plight of the newly freed slaves, as well. Rawley continues, "The plight of the freedmen-homeless, hungry, and uncertain about their future-early elicited Lincoln's sympathy and concern" (Rawley, 2003, p. 205). In short, he was genuinely concerned about the people he governed, and they recognized that. Any good leader must have empathy and understanding of those around them, and Lincoln demonstrated this quality throughout his administration. Author Root continues, "Above all, that quality enabled him to understand men, to appreciate how they felt, and why they acted as they did, and how they could be set right when they were wrong" (Root, 2008). Any great leader also suffers when they have empathy with those they lead, because they understand what their people are going through, and Lincoln suffered as he led the nation into Civil War. He joked, gained support from his cabinet, and emerged into a great leader, but he worried, worked to hard, and suffered, too.

It has been established that Lincoln had a sense of humor and it helped him through many rough points in his administration. He used this sense of humor to gain proportion on situations, another admirable quality of a great leader. He showed great emotional intelligence in diffusing situations with humor, but he also showed that he knew when to take things seriously and when not to take them so seriously. Author Root notes, "He knew intuitively what was big and important and must be insisted upon, and what might seem big, but was really small and unimportant, and might be sacrificed without harm" (Root, 2008). That is the quality of a great leader, illustrating they have a quick grasp on the ramifications of a situation and understand how to manage it effectively. He also used this same leadership quality to create clear… [END OF PREVIEW]

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