What qualities in Abraham Lincoln made him such an outstanding leader? Why did this man with less than one year of formal education and practically no political experience become such an excellent writer, politician, and president?
Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the best-selling “Team Of Rivals” book about Lincoln and his cabinet, has identified ten characteristics of Lincoln’s personality which in her opinion made him such a brilliant leader. She encourages us today to look for these same qualities when trying to decide who we will elect as our next president.
  • The capacity to listen to differing points of view – this was the concept behind Lincoln appointing former political rivals to his cabinet.
  • Ability to learn on the job – Lincoln learned as he grew into the job. Experience doesn’t mean everything as my previous post explains
  • Willingness to share credit for success – Lincoln shared credit for successes with his cabinet and generals.
  • Willingness to share blame for failures – like Harry Truman, Lincoln took equal credit for failures when necessary. Compare this to recent presidents who hang their cabinet members out to dry.
  • Awareness of own weaknesses – Lincoln realized he gave people too many chances. Think how much better we’d be off in our country today if Bill Clinton and George W. Bush would admit their weaknesses.
  • Ability to control emotions – Lincoln often would write a letter to someone who had aggrieved him, but then would never send it.
  • Know how to relax – Lincoln’s sense of humor saw him through some of the darkest days of the Civil War. Not that he found the war to be funny, but he tried to combat his grief over it through funny stories.
  • Manage directly by “walking around” – Lincoln often visited with soldiers and tried to meet with ordinary people to get a handle on public opinion.
  • Strength to adhere to goals – Lincoln never wavered in his goals to see the Union restored.
  • Ability to communicate goals and vision – the one quality which escapes nearly every politician of our time.

This list was found at HR.BLR.com, a Human Resources website. It reported on Ms. Goodwin’s lecture at the 2008 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) convention in Chicago, where she identified these ten qualities of a great leader.