Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brief Video on Lincoln's Leadership

I had planned a formal mea culpa for my lengthy silence on this blog, but that is beyond my patience tonight. Instead, enjoy this video, courtesy of The Washington Post, in which Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn comments on Abraham Lincoln's search for meaning as the key to his effective leadership as president.

In particular, I like Koehn's opening comments about how Lincoln used the process of writing to carefully develop his ideas and understanding of the situation. Surely leaders may gain information and insight in different ways, but this was one of the central ways Lincoln gained his. Usually his best decisions emerge after he had carefully written about them, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, which Koehn rightly highlights.

Of course, Lincoln's process was not limited to a private act of writing. There is much anecdotal evidence that he liked to bounce ideas off of people as he was mulling them over. Perhaps the best of this is lost to history -- in particular the many private evening conversations he had with William Seward, who fancied himself a powerful prime minister in the early days, but who instead may have become a capable confidant and adviser to Lincoln -- unlike others, he seems to have told few stories about his evening chats with Lincoln in his home.

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