The Genius in Great Leadership
“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He preserved the Union during the U.S. Civil War and brought about the emancipation of slaves. The very essence of doing what one does best is that you will love doing it. Our natural talents and passions — the things we truly love to do — last for a lifetime. And that is the power that drives you to keep doing what you are best at until the end.
There is much to learn from Abraham Lincoln, widely regarded as the best president in America history. The reason behind his extraordinary accomplishments lies in the effective self-awareness Lincoln had of his strengths and the productive use of these strengths.
The excerpt below covers an analysis of the talent themes that was drawn out based on Abraham Lincoln’s biography. This serves the purpose of learning from our great leaders how to leverage our talents to lead a team to achieve excellence.
Lincoln was a lifelong learner. As a child, Lincoln grew up in abject poverty. Despite his circumstances, he took academics into his own hands. Being an entirely self-taught man, Lincoln reads any content that he could get hold of by candlelight in his boyhood home. He particularly enjoyed devouring in Shakespeare’s literature over and over again, so much so that he could recite entire passages from memory. Through avid learning, he mastered the trade of boatman, clerk, merchant, postmaster, surveyor and country lawyer in his lifetime.
Just like people with Learner StrengthsFinder Theme, you are constantly energized by the process of learning, developing yourself from a stage of ignorance to competence. Just like Lincoln, the genius of a Learner comes when you are a catalyst for change. When others are afraid of new changes and new rules, you are willing to take on this responsibility to spur others towards this change by continuously learning about the situation.
Lincoln’s unwavering belief in freedom and equal opportunity to work was fundamental to his political philosophy. Throughout his life, his political willpower came from this very belief that he had a purpose to fulfill. He wanted to “engrave his name in history” and to see his country preserves the very greatest democracy that the world needed. Through his conviction in his purpose, Lincoln created the genius in his leadership to keep the spirits of his cabinet up during the country’s most desperate hours during the height of Civil War.
Just like people with Belief StrengthsFinder Theme, you hold on to your values strongly and they give you your life meaning and satisfaction. You believe that everything you do must be meaningful and aligning to your core values. The genius of the Belief talent theme comes when you are able to give voice to your values. You are not only able to build trust easily, you are also able to cultivate others with the same value system to see your life mission being lived out. It is precisely this belief in you where you can lead a team to make great changes in the world.
Always put yourself in others’ shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too. One of the greatest asset the Lincoln brought to his career as the President was his enormous sensitivity towards others. His natural talent to experience what others were feeling and to understand their motives and desires was the key to his massive influence on his people. He was also able to apply his empathy in political diagnosis. This natural talent gave him the very power to predict with accuracy what his foes and antagonist were likely to do. Ask anyone what they know about Lincoln, and most would answer that his final Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves and ensured full citizenship to the ‘black race’. It was his constant drive to understand why people opposed to slave emancipation that led him to build rapport with opposers and made him the unlikely candidate to win the Republican nomination.
Just like people with Empathy StrengthsFinder Theme, you intuitively see the world through others’ eyes and share their perspective. You are able to anticipate the needs of others and find that other people are drawn to you. The genius of the Empathy talent theme comes in when you are able to use your talents to bridge understanding and mutual support. As a leader and a mentor, building trust is paramount to you and because of the genius in this talent theme, people are naturally comfortable approaching you with any need.
Not only was Lincoln a brilliant thinker, he was just as masterful as a writer and a speaker. Lincoln had a wonderful gift as a story-teller and his kind personal presence and quick wit was often used to soften tension and anxieties amongst his cabinet. In his many speeches, he spoke with great conviction as his words came from his heart. On June 1865, in American history’s best-known speech- Gettysburg Address, dedicated to the soldiers of the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln touched the nation by reiterating the principles of human equality and “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. The Gettysburg Address was many times references in other famed speeches, such as Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream”. Below is the recited piece of the Gettysburg Address.
Just like people with Communication StrengthsFinder Theme, you have the natural ability to divert people’s attention towards you and your use of dramatic and powerful word combinations not only pique their interest, but it also inspires them to act. The genius of the Communication talent theme comes in when you choose to speak about topics you are passionate about and through that faith in what you present, influence others to resonate with you and build consensus towards a change.
To be a great influential leader, you do not have to strive to be the one dominant leader who tries to do everything, but contributions by individuals from all four leadership domains will lead to a strong and cohesive team. However as an individual, the genius in using your talent themes- naturally recurring patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that can be productively applied- will surface when you use them and that is the power that drives you to keep doing what you are best at until the end. Everyone CAN be a great leader!
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