Leadership Style Paper On Abraham Lincoln
January 29, 1998
To write this paper I used two books and one main source on the Internet. Both books were written by Donald T. Phillips. The first book was entitled, Lincoln On Leadership, and the second was entitled, Lincoln Stories For Leaders, Influencing Others Through Storytelling. They were published by Warner Books in 1992 and The Summit Publishing Group in 1997, respectively. The source on the Internet, (http://www.netins.net/showcase/creative
/lincoln.html), was a very good source on a variety of Lincoln information. I, however, used it mostly to get the text of Lincoln’s speeches. An examination of his inaugural addresses gives indication why I chose to do my leadership paper on Lincoln. His first address was 6 very detailed pages long; the second only two. Lincoln chose to be the president of this country during a very difficult time. He had many things to accomplish in his first term, and he was successful. He knew some of his decisions would cause good people on both sides of the issue to lose their lives, but he believed this issue was bigger than all of them. Despite Lincoln’s humble beginnings and limited formal education, he was making choices that would affect how the United States was perceived by the rest of the world. By being the embodiment of strength and the epitome of patience, he eventually found the resources and successes he needed to win the war and to win election to his second term.
Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Lincoln would have been classified as an INT?. All of the indicators, with the exception of “P” or “J”, were easy to determine. In the book, Lincoln was referred to as “shy as a youth”. This fact in and of itself does not make him an introvert, but when added to the fact that he became a lawyer through one year of formal schooling and lots of self study, a strong case is made for Lincoln having an internal focus. “I” (intuition) also seemed an easy choice. Lincoln did not process things one at a time. He allowed many elements to be a part of the decisions he made. Even though the civil war affected many facets of American life, Lincoln made long term decisions to benefit the entire country rather than just the North. The choice of “T”(thinking) over “F”(feeling) was also an easy decision. Lincoln did not make decisions based on public opinion. Because he did not have a staff of pollsters, he made the decisions he felt were right and suffered the consequences that were associated with unpopular decisions. Lastly, it is not completely clear whether Lincoln was “P”(perceiving) or “J”(judging). According to Keirsey’s (http://keirsey.com) explanation it is more likely he is an INTJ. An INTP is referred to as an “architect”. Although Lincoln did rebuild the country, the definition of the INTJ, the mastermind, seems to come much closer to describing Lincoln. Keirsey describes the INTJ as strong willed, very judicious, a contingency planner, a natural brainstormer, a natural leader, and open minded. These are all qualities that made Lincoln a perfect candidate to reunite the country.
Interpreting Lincoln’s Herrmann Brain Dominance Indicator is best done by examining what his indicator looks like (Exhibit A). First, as the graphic indicates, Lincoln was very strong in the A quadrant. One of the main reasons he was successful was his ability to think issues through thoroughly. When Lincoln was upset with someone, he would often write a letter telling them exactly as he felt, but then he would never send it. By doing this, he was able to analyze a situation, and after the unsent letter was put away, the reason for his anger could be forgotten . Although many generals were involved in the war effort, Lincoln was the only person who was involved in the major decisions throughout the war. Because of this, Lincoln’s strategy would have to be credited for a large part of the victory. The B quadrant was Lincoln’s weakest category. Although he made changes to the military and enacted a variety of other policies to handle the challenges of the civil war, these decisions were born in his D quadrant and then his appointees implemented the ideas for him. The C quadrant also held some strengths of Lincoln. He liked to interact with people. He enjoyed visiting the offices of his various cabinet members. He used these opportunities to see how his appointees handled the challenges of their office and the type of people they really were. Lincoln was also known to have an open door at the White House. Often visitors would see him and give him their opinions on the issues the country was facing. Lincoln enjoyed their insight and their interaction. Lastly, Lincoln was very strong in the D quadrant. This is evidenced by his enjoyment for telling stories. Often, he was able to make points with a story that otherwise could only have been made by openly criticizing his subordinates. Many of his stories were humorous. Lincoln became very emotionally burdened by the war, and laughter was an opportunity for him to relieve the stress and tension. Lincoln’s creativity was an asset to him as he developed innovative ways to abide by the Constitution, and to reunite the divided country. Interestingly, Hermann declared this profile (1 3 2 1) to be one often seen “in top executive positions…where future-oriented strategic thinking is a major work requirement.”
Using the Burns Transactional vs. Tranformational Leadership, Lincoln was a transformational leader. Obviously, the voters provided the votes to take Lincoln to the White House (Transactional leadership), but once there, Lincoln provided much more than the normal bureaucrat. He led when others were content to be indifferent. Very few men (or women) had the skills necessary to lead the nation so that it emerged united. If he were participating in the normal political exchange between voters and elected officials, he could have taken a manager’s role and not made any difficult decisions. Instead, he became the moral compass for the country. Even while the war continued, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation and availed himself to all of the criticism it caused.
The final leadership style theory I used to analyze Lincoln was the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid (Example B.) Using this theory, Lincoln did a very good job balancing the concern for people with a concern for production. If someone needed to be fired, it was only after they had been given an adequate amount of time to reveal their inadequacies. If a person was overwhelmed, Lincoln tried to place them in a position where they could be successful. Considering the goals and the circumstances Lincoln was facing, he was a patient man. If Lincoln was available, he was open to the feedback of visitors. Although he sometimes received negative feedback, the comments of visitors provided a portion of the encouragement Lincoln needed to continue to make the difficult decisions regarding the Civil War.
I have gained much greater insight into Lincoln and his leadership style. He did not mind people thinking he was a country boy. His decisions and the quality of his decisions spoke for themselves. Using stories to make points allowed the points to be made and allowed the listener to save face. Choosing the right story was Lincoln’s secret. Many of the experiences of his earlier years gave him the volumes of anecdotes to convey the point he needed. Additionally, Lincoln used creative approaches to deal with very challenging situations. Lincoln’s personality traits and leadership style were such that he appears to have been ideally created for the presidency during the Civil War. He served despite the difficult decisions he had to make. His example shows the qualities necessary to be an effective leader. The book, however, goes into little detail of his marriage and family life. One could imagine him being a good father, but the demands of being an excellent leader certainly impacted his ability to parent.
If Lincoln were to walk into the doors of my company, Applied Innovation, he would find some of his work had already begun. The new CFO has done many of the things Lincoln would realize needed to be done, but Lincoln would have done it with more attention to the human side. Lincoln would had recognized the “fat” within the organization, but he would have brought the changes about with a recognition of the hardship it might cause the employees. Lincoln was a person who would have welcomed a conversation from almost anyone. As these recent changes have taken place within the company, Lincoln would have been much more approachable as concerns about the reorganization were announced.
Applied Innovation’s CEO, on the other hand, has a “wandering” management style. Although this does not accurately describe Lincoln’s management, there are similarities. Lincoln was not the type to sit in his office and wait for things to happen. He would often visit with his department heads. He knew that if there was friendship and a deeper understanding of values, the necessary objectives would more likely be met. The higher echelons of present management at Applied Innovation do not seem to be as concerned about these issues. The presence of a Lincoln would allow the development of a commitment to the organization as a whole, not just each person’s departmental role. My company, however, is comprised mostly of reclusive engineers. Thus, the present management style may be well-suited for most of the organization.
My leadership skills have not been given the test by fire that Lincoln’s skills received, but there are some lessons I can learn and some similarities I share with Lincoln. First, both of us share the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator of INTJ. Although Lincoln’s indicator was speculatively determined after his death, this similarity gives a strong indication of the potential I possess. Both Lincoln and I like to talk to our business associates. We both agree it builds trust and a deeper understanding of how the other person thinks. Whether the communication is done using humor or stories, both of us could face a variety of situations successfully. The differences I noticed are quite likely an indication of Lincoln’s maturity as a person. If I went through the Civil War in his role, I would have been much more likely to try and micro-manage the whole affair. Lincoln gave generals an opportunity to prove themselves beyond where my patience could stretch. Lincoln was also very good at handling criticism. When I am criticized, I become frustrated very quickly, but Lincoln’s maturity allowed him to withstand more criticism in a day then I get in an entire month. He was very determined and disciplined. I sometimes show signs of these traits, but at this point in my life, I could not sustain them for a four year presidential term.
Finally, could I ever become president or a great leader? It’s possible. The MBA certainly will provide additional experiences to build upon. I will need to seek out progressively more challenging positions, become more flexible in dealing with a wider range of personalities and become more effective in relating to more divergent groups. Additionally, I am cursed by the distractions of modern life. Prior to all of these distractions, it was easier to resolve to improve oneself. Our society is constantly challenging our decisions and our commitments. Yes, I may become a great leader, but the freedoms of the modern era have shackled us to luxuries that Abraham Lincoln never thought to tell a story about.