Monday, February 17, 2014

Leadership Lessons From Abraham Lincoln

Today is President's Day in the US. A federal holiday originally to recognize George Washington, our first President, is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present. In honor of this I want to share some leadership lessons from one of these great leaders.  

President Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be a noble and great leader who shaped American history. However, he is not often looked to as an example of how to be an effective leader and business role model. But, there is actually a lot we can learn from one of our most well-known leaders.

Here are 10 leadership principles starting with P that Abe Lincoln exhibited that set an example for the type of leader that managers and executives should exemplify: 

1. Purpose – Answer the question “Why I am doing this?” Without purpose there is not direction. 
2. Probity – Demonstrate complete honesty if you want integrity. This is how leaders get people to follow them. 
3. People – This is the “Respect for People” element. Listen and show we care. The say Lincoln would go beyond just hearing your pain and actually absorb your pain for you. 
4. Preparation – Proper planning saves time. Never stop learning and improving. 
5. Persuasion – Show them how through doing. The use of stories to illustrate your point makes it more personal and memorable. 
6. Persistence – Never give up; keep going, especially when the road is not so clear. 
7. Process Thinking – Put a process in place. It is through this we can improve our current state. 
8. Problem Solving – PDCA, objectively study, build strong problem solving skills, and engage everyone everyday in the process.
9. Performance – Don’t focus on the results, focus on the process and the results will come. 
10. Possibilities – Take the impossible and make it possible. There is no limit to the possibilities if we open our mind.  

In my experience people don’t like to be told what to do. Lead them by asking the right questions. Challenge their thinking and develop them to constantly improve. Lean is a powerful way of thinking. I believe it is this thinking that can truly change the world. Lincoln was able to learn and grow amid great calamity. His story, like no other, demonstrates that leaders do not just make the moment; they meet it and, in the process, are changed by it. Like Abraham Lincoln be the role model for leadership in your organization by practicing these qualities.

Note: The source of the 10 leadership principles from Abe Lincoln comes from Jerry Bussell's book Anatomy of a Lean Leader

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