If you were ever lucky enough to have a favorite boss, you likely remember being motivated to get up early and stay late at work. You thought about your job in your spare time, and came up with great ideas that you were excited to share as soon as you got to work.
You felt appreciated. You felt valued. You believed you were working for the best. Dealing with your superior was a pleasure; not a chore. Working for him or her was a dream; not a nightmare.
Hopefully, you still feel that way (and probably do if the boss is now you). If it is, it might be time to ask, “Do my subordinates feel that way?” If you don’t feel that way, you’re probably asking, “How do I get that feeling back?”
My personal quest to get that feeling back began while casually reading up on Abraham Lincoln’s time as President. I soon came to the conclusion that I’ve always wanted to work for this is the type of person. Every manager or leader should be more like him.
Lincoln’s abilities and traits were the reasons for his success – and the reasons why his subordinates were able to achieve so much on his behalf. Not everybody began their relationship with Lincoln by liking him, but almost all loved him by the end.
In my humble opinion, here are the reasons why there are few, if any, comparisons when it comes to working for someone like Abe:
#10: Lincoln was transparent; his number one goal was to re-unify the United States. His number two goal was to end slavery. All of his people knew that, and he made no bones about it. (He also showed his ability to prioritize here, for he knew that without the first goal being accomplished, there would be no chance to achieve the second.)
#9: Lincoln laughed, allowing his followers to maintain faith in their cause because they knew their leader’s heart was not nearly as heavy as it could have been. Although often criticized for his indulgence of humor, Lincoln knew it was best to have others see him with a positive attitude.
#8: Lincoln was kind: above acting in a malicious manner, stopping retribution and resentment before it even had a chance to take root, and following with an apology and asking for forgiveness in rare instances when he lost his temper. His subordinates were never afraid of him, but never wanted to disappoint him either.
#7: Lincoln was a learner, both of himself and others; spending much of his days reading and listening to experts so that he could make informed decisions. With no formal schooling, Lincoln was practically self-educated, and his ability to learn worked to his advantage at a critical time.
#6: Lincoln was protective; never throwing his loyal people “under the bus” in front of outsiders, and always stepping in front of his people when they were under fire. (During one battle on the outskirts of Washington D.C., he literally did stand in front of his people while bullets were flying around him!)
#5: Lincoln was a master communicator in speaking, writing, and personal conversation; comfortable and well-versed at talking to anybody and any number of people. Yet, he was also a great listener, encouraging people to speak their minds in private without fear of retribution.
#4: Lincoln was generous, believing he was only going to get back what he put in; investing in his followers; helping almost anybody that needed his assistance; ensuring he always had the better equipped, better trained, and larger army.
#3: Lincoln possessed good judgment about bringing strong, smart people onto his team who he could trust to make up for his deficiencies and inabilities – with very little interference from him. He had the good sense to know that he had to spend his time and energy on saving the country. He knew he needed to rely on others to be successful.
#2: Lincoln was a motivator, sharing his vision with his followers and inspiring them to act by painting a picture of what a bright future would be like with a reunited America. In the bloodiest war in U.S. history, there is no greater proof of his ability to motivate than the continued support of the war by a majority of Northerners.
#1: Lincoln was flexible, dealing with all types of people, personalities, and situations; caring about the ends most, and much less about the means – yet always maintaining his integrity. He was never afraid to try, do, or say anything that would help achieve the country’s common goal of winning the war.
If you haven’t studied Lincoln in-depth, keep in mind that he modeled the above list of traits brilliantly while…
- Not possessing any significant management experience.
- Being initially elected with a minority of votes.
- Managing a horrible war resulting in over 600,000 deaths.
- Building an army and navy from a mere skeleton force of 17,000 men spread throughout North America.
- Being accused of suppressing civil liberties and violating the Constitution.
- Walking a tightrope of national bankruptcy.
- Initially hiring four people who wanted his job (and two more later).
- Contending with a series of below-average generals.
- Risking war with two major European powers.
- Maintaining peace between Unionists and slave abolitionists.
- Keeping up national morale and support for a civil war, despite a constant homecoming stream of military deaths and gruesome disabilities.
- Being re-elected in the face overwhelming odds.
- Eliminating slavery permanently in the United States.
- Rebuilding the foundation of a country that would one day become the richest and most powerful on the planet.
This is the type of leader I want to work for – or be. If you have anything to add or subtract, I would appreciate your feedback.