Leadership Lessons From One of the Greatest U.S. Presidents

Abraham Lincoln, U.S. president, leadershipIt goes without saying that most people in the United States regard Abraham Lincoln as an American hero. But mention Abraham Lincoln on this site, and you’re in for an earful.

Which is one of the great things about the Community Comments below; you will get both sides of the story, and in the case of “honest Abe,” many of you readers clearly don’t think he was so honest.

But whether you love Lincoln or loathe him, it’s hard to dispute the fact that this man was a great leader -- and an inspiration of what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it.

Here was a man who was born in a log cabin, with less than one year of formal education to speak of for his entire life -- and he went on to become president. This is especially remarkable considering that most successful people in that time started out with advantages.

Then there are all of his failures.
  • In 1832, Lincoln was defeated in an attempt to become Speaker of the Illinois legislature.
  • In 1843 he was defeated in an attempt to win nomination for Congress.
  • In 1846, he was elected to Congress, but had to leave two years later because his party had a policy of limiting terms.
  • In 1854, he lost a run for the U.S. Senate.
  • In 1856, he lost the nomination for vice president, and in 1858, he was again defeated in a race for the Senate.
During this time he also faced emotional setbacks, including the death of his first love and a rejected marriage proposal. It’s said that Lincoln was actually clinically depressed.

Yet in spite of all these setbacks, in 1860 he was elected president of the United States.

What Can You Learn From Lincoln?

I’m not here to debate whether or not Lincoln was a great president, but I do think most of us can learn something from him, and that is how to turn your failures into successes. As this article says:

“Every time Lincoln failed at something, he was soon trying for something even bigger. He failed many times, but somehow he always failed upward.”

Simply put, Lincoln had amazing inner strength. He had emotional and professional hurdles to overcome, yet never did he let a setback get the better of him.

Think about this for a minute.

How many times have you let a failure dictate your future? What if you could take that letdown and learn from it -- coming out even stronger than you were before?

The name of the game here is persistence, and at this Lincoln was a master.

Meanwhile, he imagined himself as being great right from the start.

“Lincoln saw himself as a leader long before he was one. In fact, he saw himself as the leader, right from the first. This wasn’t arrogance or empty ambition. It was a sense of ultimate purpose in service of a worthy cause,” the article’s author writes.

You, too, can apply these principles in your own life, and use them to find, and achieve, your mission.
+ Sources and References
  • Nightingale-Conant 2008
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