Assignment on Critical Analysis of a Successful Leader (Abraham Lincoln)
Module: Organizational Management and Leadership
Module code: MGT101
Submitted by: Choki Dorji
Index no: 01150002
Submission date: 15/09/17
Analysis of leadership of Abraham Lincoln
Short biography of Lincoln
Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky on Feb 12, 1809. Raised by poor parents, he received less than a year of formal education by the time he reached the age of 21. His primary means of education was schooling at home, using borrowed books and the Bible. He was elected one of Sangamon County’s Whig representatives to the Illinois State Legislature in 1834. From 1847 to 1849 Lincoln served a single term in Congress, and then went into semi-retirement from politics in order to concentrate more on his law practice. He was elected President in 1860. Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 and died the following day (Leidner).
Abraham Lincoln as a successful Transformational Leader
Albeit Lincoln is dead for centuries his leadership talent is one of the most discussed qualities of his outstanding ability as president of America. Scholars have studied leaders for centuries but only in last hundred years theorists were able to concentrate on how man is psychologically motivated to perform and following leadership theories were developed: psychoanalytical, contingency, charismatic, attribution, situational, transactional, and transformational leadership leader theories to discover the components of effective leader.
James McGregor Burns proposed transformational leadership theory in 1978. Bernard M. Bass states that transformational leaders transform or motivate followers to go beyond their own self-interests for the good of their group by making them aware of the importance of accomplishing certain tasks, and by activating their “higher order” needs, which include moral values such as liberty, justice, and equality.
Albeit there are many variations of transformational leadership theory, Bernard M. Bass’s position on what a successful transformational leader does is most accepted theory. The leader is considered transformational primarily by his or her effect on supporter. Supporter usually has trust, loyalty, and respect toward the leader. They are motivated and do more than they normally does, they continue to battle and make sacrifices to achieve common goal despite difficulties or hardship. Certainly, they are inspired and follow higher moral principles under influence of the transformational leader.
Lincoln as a typical transformational leader did employ his ability in ways. First, acquiring trust, loyalty, and respect; second, inspire people to persevere despite hardships; and third, ethical values to urge followers to a higher morality.
Secretary of State William Seward said that every man was accessible to Lincoln as person in both formal and formal ways. Davis exclaimed that Lincoln personally interviewed at least two thousand soldiers through the course of the war. Regardless of rank Lincoln consistently treated the men with polite and honour. Lincoln listened patiently to every request of soldiers and made every effort to solve their problem regardless of the degree. The men called him as “Father Abraham,” and they were confident he would make every effort to take care of them. As stated by Davis, Lincoln’s common touch and complete absence of insincerity won the affection and loyalty of every man. They are convinced that Lincoln had best interest in them at heart and he truly developed the trust, loyalty, and respect of the troops. In his re-election in the autumn of 1864, he received a shocking share of the soldier vote—approximately 80 percent.
As a transformational leader, he proved the second quality of transformational leader-inspiring followers to persevere for the benefit of the society. It was in fact, challenge to Lincoln to continuously encourage northern soldiers to fight for action less valued than the southern soldiers’ protection of their homes as the war continued inevitably with intensifying casualties making the cause of Union just a mere dream. With this difficult situation, Lincoln was careful enough to remind the soldiers the importance of their sacrifices for the country. Lincoln insists more on his armies and peoples’ achievement not his. Davis states that Lincoln knew what encouraged men to continue the struggle.
Lincoln’s success at motivating the troops is seen in many of the men’s’ letters, as a Pennsylvania soldier send to mother, saying that albeit his joining in the arm force was about to die he made up mind that a country that is worth living in time of peace is worth fighting for in time of war and he would not return home. According to James McPherson, making an effective appeal to the followers’ moral principles is essential to the transformational leader.
Lincoln’s appealed to ideology is clearly demonstrated in how he dealt with the moral issue of slavery. According to McPherson, in the beginning of war, most of the soldier did not believe that the elimination of slavery was linked to the goal of preserving the Union. Lincoln believed that “if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” and in the summer of 1862 he recognized an opportunity to exercise his presidential authority to strike at the “peculiar institution.” On July 22 Lincoln formally announced the plan of freeing slaves at a cabinet meeting. Lincoln’s appeal to the moral argument for ending slavery had a significant impact on the soldiers. Some men still disapproved of freeing the slaves, but according to Davis, for every expression of disapproval there were ten in support of the act.
Through investigation of Lincoln’s relationship with the troops, it is obvious that Lincoln possessed the skills of a transformational leader. He developed the trust, loyalty, and affection of the soldiers by making himself available to them, showing genuine concern for their difficulties, and putting forth a visible effort to resolve the problems they faced. Finally, it was in his ability to appeal to the moral values of his followers that Lincoln has gained one of his greatest legacies. Lincoln was a strong transformational leader that not only developed loyalty and willingness for self-sacrifice among the soldiers, but also appealed to their higher moral values as shown by changing their attitudes toward emancipation of the slaves.
Though Lincoln was a transformational leader there are personality traits that contribute to his leadership. While research shows that the possession of certain traits alone does not guarantee leadership success, there is evidence that effective leaders are different from other people in certain key respects. Key leader traits include: drive (a broad term which includes achievement, motivation, ambition, energy, tenacity, and initiative); leadership motivation (the desire to lead but not to seek power as an end in itself); honesty and integrity; self-confidence (which is associated with emotional stability); cognitive ability; and knowledge of the business. There is less clear evidence for traits such as charisma, creativity and flexibility. We believe that the key leader traits help the leader acquire necessary skills, formulate an organizational vision and an effective plan for pursuing it, and take the necessary steps to implement the vision in reality.
Personality traits of Lincoln that contributes to his leadership qualities
Drive: Efforts to abolish slavery clearly shows his drive to lead. Lincoln became president of the United States in 1861. And, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, announced that slaves within the territory of the secessionist Confederate states will be freed.
The Proclamation declared the acceptance of black men into the Union army and navy, helping the liberated to become liberators. At the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and the abolition of slavery.
The Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, was passed during the Civil War years when southern congressional representatives were not present for debate. The amendment bill was passed in April 1864 by the Senate, with a vote of 38 to 6. The required two-thirds majority was defeated in the House of Representatives by a vote of 93 to 65. Abolishing slavery was almost exclusively a Republican Party effort—only four Democrats voted for it.
Lincoln then took an active role in pushing it through Congress. He insisted on passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to be added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming presidential elections. He used his political skill and influences to convince most of the Democrats to support the amendment’s passage.
His efforts finally met with success when the House passed the bill in January 1865 with a vote of 119-56. Finally, Lincoln supported those congressmen who insisted southern state legislatures must adopt the Thirteenth Amendment before their states would be allowed to return with full rights in Congress (Hornor, 2013).
Leadership Motivation: Lincoln had a strong appreciation for the motivation of others. Lincoln believed that the great leading law of human nature is motive. He reasoned all ideas of a disinterested action out of my mind. His idea was that at the bottom of these motives was self. He opposes to act without motive and unselfishly; and when somebody did the act and told him of it, he analyzed and sifted it to the last grain. After he had concluded, it can be admitted that he had demonstrated the absolute selfishness of the entire act.
Although a profound analyzer of the laws of human nature he could form no just construction of the motives of the particular individual. He knew but little of the play of the features as seen in the ‘human face divine. He could not distinguish between the paleness of anger and the dark deep tint of modesty. In determining what each play of the features indicated he was pitiably weak. Although it is hard to comprehend the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of Abraham Lincoln’s character, some generalizations can be made from the observations of his contemporaries.
Honesty and Integrity: When Lincoln was working as store keeper in New Salem, Ill. Owing to one story, whenever he is aware that he had short-changed a customer by a few cents, he would close the shop and deliver the correct change-regardless of how far he had to walk.
People accepted his integrity and asked to act as judge or mediator in various contests, fights, and arguments. People relied completely on hid absolute honesty, integrity, and impartiality. As a member of the Illinois legislature and later in his law practice, he took advantage of his reputation for honesty and fairness to help broaden his constituency. His good name helped win him four consecutive terms in the legislature.
Lincoln moved to Springfield, Ill, and began his law practice, a profession at which he admitted there was a “popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest.” His advice to potential lawyers was: “Resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.”
According to Judge David Davis, in whose court Lincoln practiced for many years, “The framework for mental and moral being was honesty, and a wrong cause was poorly defended by him.” Another judge who had worked with Lincoln agreed, saying “Such was the transparent honesty and integrity of his nature that he could not well or strongly argue a side or a cause he thought wrong.”
Lincoln was ethical not only in his legal dealings with clients, but with his personal relationships. Always comfortable telling jokes and stories around the men of Springfield, he usually was awkward and self-conscious around women. In Lincoln’s early political years, he wrote “I want in all cases to do right, and most particularly so in all cases with women.” This was a principle to which he remained true all of his life. Today, historians tell us there is not a single credible story of Lincoln’s being unfaithful to his wife.
The Reverend Albert Hale of Springfield’s First Presbyterian Church said, “Abraham Lincoln has been here all the time, consulting and consulted by all classes, all parties, and on all subjects of political interest, with men of every degree of corruption, and yet I have never heard even an enemy accuse him of intentional dishonesty or corruption.”
An example of an “enemy’s” respect came in 1858, during Lincoln’s Senate race against the powerful incumbent, Stephen A. Douglas. The senator, having competed with Lincoln in the legislature and many Illinois courtrooms, knew his opponent well.
Responding to the news that Lincoln was to be his adversary, Dou8glas said: “I shall have my hands full. He is the strong man of his party-full of wit, facts, dates-and the best stump speaker, with his droll ways and dry jokes, in the West. He is as honest as he is shrewd, and if I beat him my victory will be hardly won.”
Lincoln lost his Senate bid to Douglas. Two years later, however, he found himself running against the same man for the presidency. When Douglas was told of Lincoln’s victory, he unselfishly told his informants: “You have nominated a very able and very honest man.”
By the time Lincoln was president, statements he had made previously, such as “I have never tried to conceal my opinions, nor tried to deceive anyone in reference to them,” and “I am glad of all the support I can get anywhere, if I can get it without practicing any deception to obtain it” had become a source of strength for him as a leader.
Everyone, even his bitterest political opponents, knew exactly where they stood with Lincoln. Because he didn’t have to waste time convincing his opponents of his sincerity, he was able to devote his energies to solving political issues and winning the war.
Lincoln as commander in chief was honest and straightforward with his generals, always telling them directly what he did and did not appreciate about them. An example of his honesty is the following excerpt from a letter to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker in early 1863:
“I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which of course I like . . . I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.”
Finally, in search for the reason Lincoln was so adamant about honesty, a quote by one of his closest friends, Leonard Swett, is revealing: “He believed in the great laws of truth, the right discharge of duty, his accountability to God, the ultimate triumph of the right, and the overthrow of wrong” (Leidner).
Self-confidence: Lincoln’s Heroes and his own Self-Confidence Born in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was a young man as the “founding fathers” of the United States were becoming old men. Several of them were already dead; Benjamin Franklin had died in 1790, George Washington in 1799. Incredibly, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the same day, July 4th, 1824. Lincoln was well aware of, and greatly admired, the heroes of the American Revolutionary War and their struggle for independence. Nicknamed the “father of our country,” George Washington was Lincoln’s personal favourite. As a young boy, living in Indiana, Lincoln borrowed a copy of Mason Locke Weems’ sometimes fictitious biography, The Life of Washington. Originally published in 1800, the one-time Episcopalian minister turned author and book seller, probably concocted the well-known story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree. Factual or not, young Abraham Lincoln read that book many times. The book was damaged during a rain storm and Lincoln worked for his friend’s father until his debt was paid. Lincoln kept the book and referred to it from time to time.
Just before his first inauguration as president, Lincoln mentioned the book and compared the task of Washington securing our independence from Britain to his task of protecting the Union from dissolution. Lincoln knew that to preserve the country was akin to perpetuating the original ideas and hopes of the American Revolution. By all accounts, Lincoln was a melancholy, sometimes depressed, person. But Lincoln possessed a significant degree of self-confidence. Consider the many hardships that shaped his life. His mother died at an early age; his fiancée died before they were to be married. He grew up in the frontier “wilderness” of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. He received relatively little formal education. He failed more than once in an attempt to start his own business and he was defeated in more elections than he won. Tragically, only one of his three children with Mary Todd grew to adult age. As president he presided over a country torn asunder by civil war. Yet, through it all, Lincoln had an abundant faith in the “Divine Being” (God) and in his own ability to prevail. He did not go to church but frequently read the Bible. He used humour and told stories to diffuse tension and make friends. He studied law, developed a successful legal practice, was elected to the Illinois legislature (four times) and the United States House of Representatives (one time). He helped start the Republican Party, and against all odds, he secured the nomination of his party to run for president in 1860. He never held high political office, and without any significant military training, he successfully led the country through its most traumatic time (anonymous).
Cognitive Ability: Lincoln was a logician. Law partner William H. Herndon exclaimed that predominating elements of Lincoln’s peculiar character were: 1) his great capacity and power of reason; 2) his conscience and his excellent understanding; 3) an exalted idea of the sense of right and equity; 4) his intense veneration of the true and the good. His conscience, his heart and all the faculties and qualities of his mind bowed submissively to the despotism of his reason. He lived and acted from the standard of reason-that throne of logic, home of principle-the realm of deity in man. It is from this point Mr. Lincoln must be viewed. Not only was he cautious, patient, and enduring; not only had he concentration and great continuity of thought; but he had profound analytical power. His vision was clear, and he was emphatically the master of statement. His pursuit of the truth, as before mentioned, was indefatigable. He reasoned from well-chosen principles with such clearness, force, and directness that the tallest intellects in the land bowed to him (The Lehrman Institue).
Sense of humour: Today Abraham Lincoln is regarded as a great leader, perhaps greatest. People recall his eloquent speeches, his dedication to the Union, and his superior leadership. And honour his devotion to duty, sacrifice, and honesty. But most of the people do not think of his good joke. In Lincoln’s day, however, he was a well known humorist and story teller. Lincoln inherited his penchant for jokes and storytelling from his father, Thomas Lincoln. When Abe was a child he loved to listen to his father and other men swap yarns around the woodstove. As he grew older he became increasingly talented at telling and re-telling humorous stories, frequently modifying them to accommodate each situation. When Lincoln became a lawyer, he used his jokes and stories to gain the good will of juries, and more than once his opposing counsel would complain to the judge that Lincoln’s stories were irrelevant and distracting to the jury.
As a politician, Lincoln made excellent use of his humorous stories. His long time political opponent Stephen A. Douglas complained that Lincoln’s jokes were like a slap across his back. More than once Douglas and other political opponents of Lincoln’s saw their eloquently presented arguments forgotten by the audience after Lincoln followed up their speeches with a homely story or anecdote. In another instance Lincoln got a tremendous laugh from the audience when he said one of Senator Douglas” arguments was “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”
When Lincoln became president, he used his jokes for a different purpose. He would frequently use them to get rid of visitors that had over-stayed their allotted visiting time. In these situations he would use a funny story to illustrate a point he was trying to make, and then while the listeners were laughing it would ease them out the door.
As the responsibilities of the office of president became more unendurable, Lincoln used humour for self-therapy. He wanted to lessen the tensions in himself and those around him, and he frequently pointed fun at pompous generals when doing this
One cannot truly appreciate Lincoln without understanding his humorous side. Lincoln certainly deserves the credit he’s received for what he accomplished in the way of preservation of the Union and freeing the slaves. But Lincoln had a lighter side, also, and he used his jokes and stories both for the purpose of winning over his audience and relieving the tremendous pressure he experienced as President during the terrible Civil War (Leidner).
Resilient: Lincoln’s mother died when he was seven; it was one of many personal and political reverses that Mr. Lincoln suffered in the five decades before his election to the presidency in 1860 – ranging from the death of one son in 1850 and another in 1862 to two defeats for the U.S. Senate. Other reverses included crushing debts from the failure of his attempts to run a general store, the death of a woman he hoped to marry and the breakup of engagements to two other women. Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote that “perhaps it was the tension between his Calvinistic ‘melancholy’ and his bourgeois aggressiveness which acted as the best mutual restraint, which gave him the depth and resiliency that everyone who knew from the 1850s onward remarked upon as his greatest resources, and which became his most valuable character assets during the war. His confidence in the direction of providence kept his determinism from collapsing into helplessness in the darkest hours of the war, and it was his determinism that prevented his bourgeois optimism from soaring into arrogance in victory (The Lehrman institute).
Decisive: while it’s helpful to get more than one opinion, strong leaders know when and how to make decisions. Cabinet members could have argued forever, but Lincoln had the ability to know when he had all of the information he needed. Walking away to seek solitude, he was able to determine the best solution and make a decision without wavering.
Good leaders clarify their decision criteria, says Lepsinger, identifying musts and wants, and using that as a guide to compare options. “Assess the risk of each option as well as the benefits,” he says. “These practices will increase confidence that you’ve selected the alternative that is the best balance of risk and reward (Vozza).
Grower and a learner: Growth was a key to Lincoln’s personality. Like the child of progress, Lincoln’s character grew and developed in obedience to its surroundings. His was a life of growth and expansion from the cradle to the grave. Lincoln learned from his mistakes, from his debt problems, from his courting problems, from his problems with language, from his problems with friends. Lincoln was not so focused as to close his mind to possible sources of wisdom. Lincoln displayed great eagerness to learn on all subjects from everybody. When he was introduced to persons his general method was to entertain them by telling them a story, or else cross-question them along the line of their work, and soon draw from them about all the information they had. His learning found expression in words and language (The Lehrman institute).
Forthright and unassuming: It was noticeable that Mr. Lincoln’s keenest critics and bitter opponents studiously avoided his presence; it seemed as though no man could be familiar with his homely, heart-lighted features, his single-hearted directness and manly kindliness and remain long an enemy, or be anything but his friend. It was this warm frankness of Lincoln’s manner that made a hard-headed old hunker leave the hustling where Lincoln was speaking.
Lincoln did not change in the presidential role and continued to come across as a modest, down-to-earth, ordinary Westerner who was struggling to do the best that he could in the face of a fearsome burden. As always, he remained self-depreciating, speaking of being ‘an accidental instrument, a mere accident, a humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty. Despite the burden of constant complaints, Mr. Lincoln managed on most occasions to keep his temper. Not all complaints were justified (The Lehrman institute).
The life of Abraham Lincoln is full of appeals to the imagination; its dramatic quality absorbs attention. The humble beginnings, the early poverty, the slender opportunity for even the simplest education, the swift rise from the ordinary lot to the heights of station and of power, the singular absence of those aids by which personal ambition commonly seeks its ends, the transcendent moral quality of the cause which he came to lead, the desperate struggle, the triumphant success, the tragic ending, the startling contrast between the abuse and ridicule to which he was so long subjected, and the honor and glory for all time which he achieved–all these tend completely to fill the minds of those who read or listen to the story of Lincoln.
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