There are two principle sources of wisdom and knowledge –
1. Those from your own experiences and observations.
2. Those from the observations and experiences of others.
I always advocate reading good biographical material because from it we learn the lessons from #2. We let other people struggle, fail, try again, and succeed, leaving a trail of clues for us as to what works and what does not.
This month the Books2Wealth Book of the Month is Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This is a fantastic book. Goodwin traces the life of Abraham Lincoln and how he interacted with the men who would be his chief political rivals during the election of 1860, how he then named them to his cabinet once he was elected, and how he turned most of them from foes who had little respect for him to friends who grew to love and admire him.
Lincoln had the massive job of uniting a nation that was torn asunder by various extreme factions. Even in the North there was no unity. People were divided over slavery, the war, the draft, the role of currency and money and a hundred other things.
Lincoln, who had grown into a masterful politician, had to unite this varied mass of people who could not agree on much enough to sustain his government and the war effort to achieve victory and reunite the nation. Not since George Washington had any president faced such a challenge and none has since.
In Team of Rivals you see how Lincoln brilliantly did this. You learn his masterful lessons in leadership. The lessons are powerful and are as valid today as they were 152 years ago. There is a great deal to learn from Lincoln’s work during this period and Goodwin devotes over 700 pages to explain it so I cannot summarize it here and give it justice. But just to whet your appetite here are a few of Lincoln’s strategies that will work for you just as they did for Lincoln so long ago:
1. Be sincere but use discretion. Say what must be said and say it truthfully, but avoid saying what need not be said and what may injure others.
2. Maintain personal integrity in your private and public life without exception.
3. Be warm and personable. Remain humble no matter how much power you have or think you have. Allow others to flex their egos if it will serve the common good.
4. Seek the counsel of others, especially those whose judgment you trust. Reflect carefully and thoroughly on a problem and weigh the advice you get. Make a well-considered decision and then remain resolute unless circumstances overwhelmingly dictate a change in course.
5. If you wish to make a man your friend, treat him as a friend. Be loyal to others even when their loyalty is in doubt.
6. Avoid rash or impulsive decisions.
7. Take action against someone only when there is no other course open to you.
8. Understand and fully develop the guiding principles that underlie your policy or mission and remain consistent with them.
9. Be kind to strangers, loyal to friends, and merciful to enemies.
10. Never allow your ego to get in the way.
Lincoln did all these things and he did them consistently throughout his presidency. Men like Edwin Stanton and William Seward, who considered Lincoln a fool and a danger to the nation in 1860 came to love him and wept at this death five years later. They went on to lionize his memory. They did that because of the way Lincoln treated them and treated everyone else.
Lincoln understood so well that the first and most important element in good leadership is how you treat other people.
I highly recommend this book. You will not find a better source of leadership lessons that anyone and everyone can use throughout life to be more effective than you will in this work on how Abraham Lincoln built a Team of Rivals.
Daniel R. Murphy
Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.