Leadership Lessons from Lincoln

Leadership Lessons from Lincoln

I just saw the new Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field. If you haven’t yet seen it I definitely recommend it – especially because it conveys so many powerful ideas regarding leadership. In fact, after watching it I read an article about a leadership development event for federal employees. The participants were shown the film as part of their seminar. So here are three insights of mine based on “Lincoln” that I believe you’ll find helpful in your own capacity as a leader.

Keep a Clear Head

While Lincoln led a complicated and intense life, he managed to keep his thought process uncluttered. The importance of crystal clear vision, coupled with a positive attitude, cannot be overemphasized. Reduce the negative internal chatter and you will automatically discover an internal reservoir of increased clarity and awareness.

Embrace Diversity

Lincoln often appointed political competitors to key positions because he valued the unique outlook and expertise of those rivals. Surrounding yourself with people who always share your point of view can feel good, but leadership isn’t a fan club. You will be a stronger and better informed leader if you seek out diverse perspectives that contribute to inclusive, multifaceted teams built around diverse talents.

Tie Today’s Goals to Your Long Game

Lincoln had many big ideas that would take years to unfold. But he planned ahead, connecting short-term goals to his lifetime ambitions. By taking that approach he was able to see every small step through a long-range strategic lens. Know what you want out of life. Keep your eyes on the prize. Then work hard, confident that today’s tasks – however mundane they may seem at the moment – are essential to the ultimate realization of your dreams.

As Spielberg recently said of Lincoln during an interview promoting the movie, “He thought things out. He talked things out. He argued both sides of every issue.” We can all learn a great deal from Lincoln’s leadership example – and then emulate those ideas to become iconic leaders in modern times.

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Sarah Hathorn is a leadership development mentor, executive presence coach, image and branding consultant, public speaker & author. She is the founding CEO of her own successful company, Illustra Consulting, and the creator of the proprietary Predictable Promotion System™.

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Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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