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Lessons in Leadership: How Lincoln Became America’s Greatest President

| April 22, 2014

by Jim Bruce


The Tuesday Reading this week is Lessons in Leadership: How Lincoln Became America’s Greatest President, an essay by Hitendra Wadhwa, Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of Business at Columbia University.  This essay appeared on earlier this year.

In his essay Professor Wadhwa examines how Lincoln developed the self-discipline to take one of his signature strengths – the mastery of language – and use it to serve the interests of the American people rather than his own.

Early in his career, Lincoln recognized the power of words to weaken and even distort opponents and did so with powerful torrents of criticism and mockery.  But, Lincoln changed when his anonymous attacks were found out and he was forced to apologize.  As these events unfolded over time , Lincoln became highly attuned to the feelings of others and how he communicated.  In today’s terminology we would probably say that he became more self-aware and empathetic.

Wadhwa makes it clear that this journey in how he used his strength was not easy for Lincoln and he did on occasion write very “hot” letters and then not send them.

Lincoln chose, as Wadhwa observes, “to use his strengths, strengths that he nourished and cultivated long before he was President, to serve others instead of for personal gain.”  This was a major factor in his work to shape his character.

What about you?  How aware are you of your strengths?  What are you doing to nurture them?  Have you ever misused them?  Has this led you to discipline yourself to use your strengths in more purposeful ways?  What story would you craft for yourself if you choose to do that?

Take the challenge.  Spend some time this week to reflect on your strengths, the story you want your life to write, explore the changes this would require, and begin to make those course corrections. 

.  .  .  .    jim