Lincoln on Leadership and Its Styles

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Table of Contents

  • Thesis
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Servant Leadership
  • Authentic Leadership


Abraham Lincoln was a Transformational Leader. The following paper will demonstrate that Lincoln was a Transformational Leader through comparison as well as contrasting Lincoln’s style of leadership to other styles of leadership.

Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader empowers others to do their work. It is a leader who gives up power. Lincoln routinely gave up power. He expressed his faith in those he gave power to. They had the authority to act as they deemed necessary. While it is true that Lincoln empowered others, he did not give up the reigns of leadership. On the contrary, Lincoln would suggest a path to be followed and he did so while encouraging his followers. He was quick to praise and quick to accept blame for others’ failures. “When President Lincoln formed his cabinet, he did not fill the vacancies with like-minded individuals. In fact, President Lincoln appointed his detractors (Maxwell, 1998, p. 149).” Lincoln did not bring his enemies into his cabinet with Tsung Tzu’s famous ‘keep your enemies close’ ideology. In fact, Lincoln sought to change in his detractors by demonstrating that his trust and faith in their opinions would in the long term, bring about change in not only how they viewed the President, but how they in turn internalized the process of executing Lincoln’s wishes. He empowered his detractors by giving them a voice in government rather than attempting to shut them out completely. Lincoln placed the common good of the nation ahead of any personal beliefs. “A transformational leader connects with followers in such a way that they gain a new awareness and or insight into the goals of an organization or in this case a leader (Phillips, 1992, p. 172).” An example of how Lincoln was a transformational leader was the appointment of Edward Stanton to lead the United States War Department despite Stanton’s dislike for the President (Phillips, 1992, p.30).” Lincoln empowered Stanton to fix the problems with the War Department because he, Lincoln, believed that Stanton would do a good job. Lincoln’s faith in Stanton was rewarded and Stanton eventually became a close ally of the President. The following will examine Servant Leadership and how it compares to Transformational Leadership.

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Servant Leadership

“A Servant Leader puts others first. Importantly, the Servant Leader (SL) helps to develop a follower through careful guidance (Northouse, 2016, p. 226).” ASL does not follow a strict set of guidelines. It is, however, the method by which a follower is helped to become a better follower. The SL embodies integrity, ethical and moral behavior as a rule. Robert Greenleaf was the person who thought of the idea of SL. Greenleaf, a pacifist and member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was certainly influenced by his religious convictions. One of the overriding aspects of SL is the notion of helping others by lifting them or helping others through instruction. Greenleaf believed that educating followers so that in turn they could inform, instruct and teach was the essence of the SL. The SL strives to empower people through education and they, in turn, instruct and educate their followers.

In contrast, a Transformational Leader (TL) gave power to others and allowed them to lead. “ASL also gives power away, he/she instructs and elevates through education, the use of moral clarity, integrity, and ethics. One method is a teacher-to-student relationship and the other is giving away power to show faith and trust that the follower will succeed. The TL will influence and gently instruct as Lincoln did. Lincoln did not dictate, nor did he mandate courses of action, which is like the SL method. The SL will mold the follower.

Authentic Leadership

It is important to note that AL was a direct consequence of the public perception of events in the early twenty-first century. “There was great societal upheaval following the attacks on September 11, 2001. The country became involved in a costly war and coupled with a housing collapse, brought on ostensibly by corruption (Northouse, 2016 p. 201).” “Authentic Leadership (AL) is comprised of four parts which are as follows; self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency (Northouse, 2016, p. 202).” Self-awareness is simply knowing oneself through self-evaluation. In other words, what are my values, beliefs, motivations, etc? Internalized moral perspective is when a person uses their guiding principles to evaluate and make decisions. The AL uses a moral compass as a guide. Balanced processing means evaluating one’s own opinion as well as seeking outside input. “Further, the process includes objectively deciding the value of the outside input regardless of the source (Northouse, 2016 p. 203).” Finally, rational transparency means to be open and honest with those one interacts with. Put another way, it means to be open to the point of being vulnerable. The four factors comprise the essentials of AL.

In contrast to the TL, there are no aspects of empowerment. Rather, AL is a method of accepting that there are ideas that may be counter to what the AL thinks and that it is a good thing to hear them, evaluate them (the ideas), envision how they may or may not work, and then decide if the ideas should be incorporated into the action. That is not to say that when Lincoln empowered others that they (those given power) in turn did not evaluate situations and events utilizing a kind of AL. It is also worth noting that the concept of AL was not something that would have been considered at the time and particularly in the United States military which was and still is a top-down leadership where orders were mandates that would be followed.

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