A Leadership Lesson From Abe

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” Abraham Lincoln

This past weekend my family took a trip to Springfield, IL. For my non-history buff readers, Springfield is the capital of Illinois and the adult home of Abraham Lincoln.

Now truth be told, we primarily went to Springfield because they had a dinosaur exhibit in town and my 3-year old is dino crazy. However, I also wanted to show my daughters (13, 9, and 7) some history. It was actually Lincoln’s birthday that day and we went to his home and toured the neighborhood. It was a great experience and got me to think about all the great quotes by Abraham Lincoln.

One of the Abraham Lincoln’s greatest qualities was his ability to build consensus. In fact, as described in the great book, “Team of Rivals,” Lincoln brought some of his most heated rivals into his own cabinet. Why? Because even thought they had far different opinions, their insight made the team better.

Many business leaders today look to surround themselves only with others they agree with. If someone doesn’t agree with their viewpoints, they are quick to dismiss their ideas or simply dismiss that person altogether.

While you do need to surround yourself with like-minded people, you must also be willing to accept differing views and for ways to build consensus.

I have heard the definition of maturity described as, “The ability to think and act on behalf of others.” I think that’s a great definition and points out why many leaders struggle with consensus building because thinking and acting on behalf of others requires that you swallow your pride and ego.

Building consensus isn’t about abandoning your principles, but it does require that you look beyond your own needs.

As my mentor John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Being able to connect with others, even the people you don’t agree with, will increase your influence in every situation.

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Brent Kelly is the president of BizzGrizz and partner with the John Maxwell Team. If you are looking to unite your team, check out “The Leadership Catalyst Experience.”

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