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Taking leadership lessons from ‘Honest Abe’
When Abraham Lincoln won the U.S. presidency in 1860, he astonished both friends and foes by appointing his chief rivals to the most important posts in his cabinet. It wasn’t just a defensive strategy, but an effort to ensure he had the ablest people to win the Civil War and unify the nation afterward.
In distilling the brilliance behind that and other moves of this great president, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin captured the attention of thousands of real estate practitioners at the recent 2007 Realtors® Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.
Kearns is one of the country’s foremost presidential historians and is the best-selling author of “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”
But Goodwin was there for more than just to give a history lesson. She also had a relevant message to share: Lincoln’s strategies for dealing with perhaps the worst crisis to face the United States can offer real estate professionals insights into leadership they can use in today’s difficult markets and beyond.
• Set aside your ego. Lincoln was animated by the desire to make the world a better place because of his role in it, something he achieved to an uncommon degree. Yet, his remarkable leadership rests on only a few very simple principles, top among them his willingness to set aside his own ego to get the best out of others.
• Share the credit, shoulder the blame. Acutely conscious of his own limitations, Lincoln created an environment in which all of his advisors felt comfortable sharing their ideas, whether they agreed with him or not. And when Lincoln finally made his decisions, he ensured that he had the imprimatur of all participants. When the decisions led to success, he was quick to share the credit. When they led to failure, he was equally quick to shoulder the blame.
• Find time to relax and reflect. Kearns walked attendees through some of Lincoln’s most momentous decisions, but also provided an intimate view of Lincoln’s steady, but quiet, resolution behind the scenes, his acute awareness of the preciousness of time, and even his ability to relax and spin entertaining yarns.
• Be diplomatic. Goodwin also told of Lincoln’s skill in exercising what she termed “soft power,” a strategy for disarming his critics, getting warring factions to work together toward a common cause, and handing someone a defeat without turning that person into an enemy. These gifts were crucial to his ability to lead the Union forces to military victory and to set the country on a path toward reconciliation.
• Be visionary. Lincoln would make a good Realtor, Kearns said, particularly right now with the mortgage crisis swirling around the industry. It’s in a time of crisis that a leader with Lincoln’s vision of leaving the world a better place and the day-to-day skills to get people to exercise their talents toward a common cause are most needed.
Of course, few real estate practitioners will have the chance to leave a legacy equal to Lincoln’s, but Kearns made clear that they do leave legacies of their own every day, in their communities and with their families.
Source: REALTOR® Magazine Online
© 2007 FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
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Notable Quotations of Abraham Lincoln
“I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down...”
“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax”
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
“Things may come to those who wait...but only the things left by those who hustle.”
“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.”
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”
“Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”
“I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.”
“A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me”
“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”