Be the Example Your People Can Follow

12 Jun


Immediately after his inauguration, Lincoln was besieged by office seekers because there were hundreds of department positions that could be obtained.

This was a really special case in 1861 since many of the people who had been in those positions left to go to the new country of the Confederate States of America.

Despite contrary advice from aides and cabinet members, Lincoln set aside a few hours of his very long days in the first few months to meet with huge lines of people forming outside the White House wanting a job.

Replying to the advice given to him, he reportedly said,

“I have much to give.  They want but little.”

In response to Lincoln’s work ethic and dedication, as well as the dire situation of the nation, the people of his administration worked as hard as Lincoln did.

Assistants John Hay and John Nicolay spent many a night up late with the President; sometimes just so he could wind down.

War Secretary Edwin Stanton was always burning the midnight oil (literally in those days).

All of the cabinet departments, by many accounts, toiled away willingly for long hours for their respective leaders.

And, no area of the Lincoln Administration worked harder or sacrificed more than the Army (except of course when General George McClellan was in charge – but even then they were constantly being drilled and trained).

During the course of the war years, the rest of the nation responded, too.

Over two million volunteered for military service, and many factories often worked round the clock to provide the materiel needed for the war effort.

Women filled the void left by the men, tending farms and often going to work where possible in the factories.

Following the example of Lincoln, his people also realized they had much to give.

The results?

  • The Union Army was rarely outnumbered, out-gunned, or out-supplied by their Southern counterparts.
  • Everyone had a stake in the outcome of the war.

The lesson?

You don’t have to pull out the whip to make everyone work harder.  If your mission is important enough, and you work as hard as everyone else ought to, then your people will follow your example.

Read more on leaders setting examples at “Seven Ways The Best Leaders Set an Example By Going First” at


Here’s a prime example of a leader vision

Be yourself so that people can believe in you

Take ultimate responsibility for your team


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