Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. He is credited with preserving the Union during the Civil War and abolishing slavery within the Confederacy.
A Short Biography
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, 1809 to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks in a small town in Kentucky. When he was a child, his family was forced to move to Indiana after losing the rights to their land in Kentucky.
He only spent 18 months in formal school but continued to learn through self-education and reading. Lincoln had many talents; he was a good wrestler and a skilled axe wielder. He was also a great storyteller and often entertained his friends in meetings.
Lincoln began his political career at the young age of 23. Five years later, he began his first protest against slavery. He also protested against the war in Mexico, stating that President Polk was doing it for his own glory. Criticizing the president caused him to temporarily lose his footing in the political scene, but he continued to spend the next few years speaking against slavery as a citizen.
Twice, Lincoln was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate before he became the 16th President of the United States in 1860. Upon his appointment as President, the states that disapproved of his appointment made it clear they would leave the Union. These states became the Confederate States of America.
The dispute between the Union and the Confederates led to the American Civil War, with the abolishment of slavery as the core issue between the two opposing sides. During this period, Lincoln displayed his exceptional leadership through his war strategy, his political rhetoric and his deft handling of the difficult political issues of the time.
The war lasted four years, and ended with the surrender of General Lee and the Confederate armies.
After the war, Lincoln spent his time rebuilding the United States and rallying the American people together through his speeches. In April 1865, while attending a play, Lincoln was assassinated by an actor and Confederate spy named John Wilkes Booth.
Lincoln is greatly admired and respected as the president who preserved the Union and abolished slavery.
Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln
1. Allow room for strong opinions on your team
Lincoln is known for surrounding himself with a ‘team of rivals’. He was a confident leader who surrounded himself with bright and capable people on his cabinet. He was unafraid of soliciting feedback and advice from them, and allowed room for them to express their opinions even if they didn’t agree with him.
Lincoln viewed differing perspectives as a tool for reflection and encouraging debate to arrive at the best solution.
As a leader, be aware of the tendency to surround yourself with ‘yes’ men. Adopt Lincoln’s attitude and build a team that is willing to collaborate with you to move the organization forward. Hire men and women who are skilled and capable and trust in their expertise to steer the team in the right direction. Create an environment where your staff feel comfortable expressing their opinions. In this way, you can best utilize their individual strengths to achieve your goals.
2. Have the desire to learn
Although Lincoln did not have much formal schooling, he had a strong desire to learn. This desire showed in his prolific reading habits and, during the war, his study of military strategy.
His commitment to learning made him a great public speaker and also one of the most quoted persons in history.
Don’t allow a lack of formal schooling to be a barrier to your success. Having a desire to learn is more important to your continued growth as a person and a leader. With knowledge comes creativity, wit, and wisdom to engage and influence your world. If you want to increase your sphere of influence, develop a commitment to learning.
3. Having character is important
Most of Abraham Lincoln’s most memorable quotes revolve around the development of a person’s character: having persistence, developing core values, displaying courage.
This is very different from the culture we live in today. In our culture of personality, celebrities with exorbitant lifestyles are exalted and idolized. They are constantly in the media, upheld as role models for us to follow.
Become a leader who values people of character as Abraham Lincoln did. Develop your own character and seek to surround yourself with like-minded people who can join you on your journey to becoming a better person and leader.
Books about Abraham Lincoln
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln’s unparalleled ability to put himself in other people’s shoes and provide a wider perspective on any matter gave him the edge over experienced and more experienced political opponents. This book shows that character can triumph over political matters, even in times of conflict.
Guiding a country torn by a vicious civil war is a challenge not many could endure. Abraham Lincoln not only became a president in the most dire of times, but an irreplaceable moral leader who made ground-breaking changes for the entire nation.
This New York Times bestseller and winner of numerous awards is an essential overview of philosophy and life behind one of the greatest moral leaders of America: Abraham Lincoln.
Quotes from Abraham Lincoln
A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
As our case is new, we must think and act anew.
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.
Everybody likes a compliment.
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.
He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.
I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.
I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.
I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
I hope to stand firm enough to not go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country’s cause.
I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.
I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.
I will prepare and some day my chance will come.
If there is anything that a man can do well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance.
If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.
Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
Lets have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything.
Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.
That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.
The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself in every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.
These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have.
Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.
Whatever you are, be a good one.
When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Abraham Lincoln Leadership Video
This is a youtube video with actors doing the famous Gettysburg Address.
Wikipedia: A highly detailed account of Abraham Lincoln’s life
Whitehouse.gov: A biography of the life of Abraham Lincoln
More Political Leader Profiles
For leadership profiles of other famous Political leaders, including George Washington, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr, check out our Political Leadership Profiles section.
Also check out our Leadership Profiles book series. In each book, we study 10 influential leaders in Business, Military, Politics and Sports.