Leaders can learn a great deal from President Abraham Lincoln. He was likely one of the best leaders to ever serve as President of the United States and at one of the most difficult times in our Country’s history. He had a number of leadership traits that made him successful. However, how many of us have considered the trait of being able to put aside differences with someone perceived as the enemy for the good of the cause or organization? How many of us would forgive someone who publicly ridiculed and criticized us on a national level and then we went on to appoint that person to a United States Cabinet position? That is just what President Lincoln did. Edwin M. Stanton publicly embarrassed Lincoln when the two were practicing law and Stanton went on to criticize Lincoln on a wide variety of topics when Lincoln was running for President. However, Lincoln recognized Stanton’s tenacity and organizational and management skills and appointed Stanton to be the Secretary of the War Department during the Civil War. Lincoln knew Stanton would effectively manage the War Department at a critical time. Lincoln put their personal differences in the past for the good of the country. Also, Lincoln knew Stanton would give him an honest opinion on matters of critical importance, whether Lincoln liked them or not. Lincoln showed significant courage and self-confidence in appointing Stanton to this position.
Could you forgive someone who has treated you badly and appoint them to a critical position if this was in the best interest of your organization? This would be very difficult to do. However, there may be situations when it is necessary. Could you do it?
Portions of this “Thought of the Day” are from Lincoln on Leadership, by Donald T. Phillips.