Our 16th President was probably one of the most revered and the most hated figures by his contemporaries.  We sometimes think we have things so rough.  Abraham Lincoln was elected by what was then the lowest plurality in an American election to date, the country was disintegrating, military and cabinet members questioned his leadership, and there were numerous threats on his life.

He persisted right up until his assassination.  Lincoln had an amazing talent for Coaching and Oratory.  His methods for providing feedback to wayward subordinates would be the envy of any board room today in firms big or small.  Lincoln kept them engaged while delivering “challenging” news.  How did he do this?

He used his Lincoln Thinkin’ approach to people and to running the business of the nation at the most turbulent of times.  We would do well to learn from his experience the next time we are frustrated because our copier malfunctioned or a colleague has let us down.

Outline of Lincoln Thinkin’ (adapted from Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips)


  1. Get Out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops
  2. Build Strong Alliances
  3. Persuade Rather than Coerce


  1. Honesty and Integrity Are the Best Policies
  2. Never Act Out of Vengeance or Spite
  3. Have the Courage to Handle Unjust Criticism
  4. Be a Master of Paradox

Endeavor (aka Running Your Business)

  1. Exercise a Strong Hand - Be Decisive
  2. Lead by Being Led (Asking the Right Questions)
  3. Set Goals and Be Results-Oriented
  4. Keep Searching Until You Find Your General Grant
  5. Encourage Innovation


  1. Master the Art of Public Speaking
  2. Influence People Through Conversation and Storytelling
  3. Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm it

Lincoln’s approach to managing people and circumstances fostered innovation and engagement.  If this is something that your organization could benefit from, I promise you it would be time well spent learning from the 16th President of the United States.