Knowing Yourself before Hiring Completes Your Leadership

26 Jun

hers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal_ Abraham LincolnBRING IN THE TALENTS OF OTHERS TO MAKE UP FOR YOUR DEFICIENCIES.

Considering that the country was going to tear itself apart before he even stepped into the White House, Abraham Lincoln probably felt that it wouldn’t be possible to overcompensate in his hiring of others.

At the age of 23, Abraham Lincoln had spent a month in the Black Hawk War, a small, brief, localized event in the upper Midwest.

Based on his previous, rather limited military experience, he needed a really good war secretary, and eventually he found one in Edwin Stanton.

Lincoln needed creative ways to finance the war, but he was a plain-living prairie lawyer.

He found an expert money person in Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase.

War inside America meant there would probably be trouble from other countries, namely Great Britain, so he needed an expert in international affairs. (Lincoln himself had once been to Canada for a couple of days.)

Luckily, he found his expert in Secretary of State William Seward.

Seward also turned out to be his Washington insider, which was a good thing for Lincoln since his two-year stint in Congress had ended 12 years before.

War also was going to mean civil rights issues, especially in an era of slavery and racism; and although he was also a lawyer, Lincoln needed a highly respected national jurist who would be listened to by others.

He found one in Edward Bates.

Lincoln also needed someone he could trust as a personal assistant; a younger version of him.

The job of this President was going to be overwhelming; he was going to need somebody to vent to, relax with, and help him shoulder the great burden of what was to come; and this person needed to be an extra pair of eyes and ears, be his gatekeeper, and be as energetic and intelligent as he was.

He found two such persons in John Hay and John Nicolay.

Obviously, for war you need a great general.  Unfortunately, Robert E. Lee was taken.

It would take Lincoln a long time to find the ones he wanted, but he eventually found them in Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Phil Sheridan.

The results?

  • We’re still one country.
  • We don’t have slavery anymore either.

The lesson?

Create the perfect manager by assembling a team that can tackle any situation.  Start by knowing your strengths and then complement yourself with the strengths of others.

For more on hiring to make up for your deficiencies, check out “Hiring Executives: If You’ve Never Done the Job, How Do You Hire Somebody Good?” by Ben Horowitz on


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