A Perspective of Leadership Through the Eyes of a Great Leader

Abraham Lincoln had a distinct way of elevating people. This is evident in one of his leadership techniques as pointed out by Donald Phillips in his book, Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times. This, he had done by recognizing his subordinates, his people as equals.

More importantly, it is by not failing to remember that he, as a President acted not as a Chieftain but as representative of the people who elected him; and it is from this people, his power as Chief Executive emanated. In the same way, there are leaders who act based on the same principle as Abraham Lincoln. Take for example, Nelson Mandela.

The latter’s leadership although may be viewed very differently from that of Lincoln is characterized by the similar principles in leadership as Lincoln’s. Like Lincoln who is a master of active passivity, Mandela offered only passive resistance against efforts that put the Blacks in the position of permanent servility (Brink, 1998).
Like Lincoln who preached visions, in his case, through the Gettysburg Address, Mandela preached visions as a mode of getting across ideas that would set forth the movement towards his objectives. According to him, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (Brink, 1998). Also, like Lincoln, Mandela showed integrity even with his failures which he considered not as such but as blessings which “enhance rather than diminish his personality (Brink, 1998).”
1.      In your opinion, what were Lincoln`s most important attributes or traits?
It is not proper to say that Abraham Lincoln had a most important leadership attribute for it is only when his traits are seen as a whole that his leadership can be qualified. Saying that one trait is more important than the other means elevating one and subordinating the rest. Surely, it is not only just one or a few leadership attributes which can carry or distinguish Lincoln as a leader from the others.
According to Donald Phillips (1992), “’During his four years as president, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his time among the troops.’ He visited key individuals in government, members of Congress, toured hospitals to visit the wounded, etc. He was a natural wanderer. As a lawyer, he went out to discover the facts first hand.”
Still, it cannot be said, for example that Lincoln’s consideration of “getting out of the office and circulating among the troops” distinguished him over the others because there were leaders who valued such in their leadership too. Princess Diana was considered as a prime figure during her days because she showed empathy to the people and in Phillips’ words, she ‘got out’ in public to experience the people first hand and not only through the eyes of third observers.
The same goes with Pope John Paul II who was renowned for his frequent tours among Catholic nations. He was not the Pope who sat down his Papal Chair as he observed the world through his accolades. He went out, shook hands, waved and hugged the people whom he led in faith. Both leaders value “reaching out to their people” as prime necessity in effective leadership.
Having said this, it is the combination of Lincoln’s leadership traits that made him a distinguished him from the others. It is the right amounts of humility, foresight, patience, tact and eloquence that made him one of the supreme leaders not only in the history of the United States but in the history of the world.

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New York University
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