I've been reading Team of Rivals, a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Lincoln's political genius and his outstanding leadership. It is also about a whole period and the lives of his main political rivals.
One of the things I find most striking is the amount of adversity, hardship, sorrow and disappointment that men and women of this era had to endure. Even the wealthiest had to contend with the premature death of loved ones, illness, disease, and separation. Others who were not as well off, such as Lincoln himself, had to contend with physical and material hardship that we can scarcely imagine today. Poverty and financial ruin were always close, as was physical violence.
Despite that they led productive lives, got over disappointments and depression (economic and personal), educated themselves, and developed enormously fruitful relationships with political allies, friends, and their wives, who were their consciences and primary moral supports.
Through all of this, we have the riveting portrait of Abraham Lincoln, one of most exemplary leaders in history. He led the United States during its most harrowing period and maintained a principled stance against the spread of slavery and in favour of the integrity of the Union.
What set Lincoln apart was the peculiar combination of characteristics and habits that made him a highly effective leader, a great statesman, and a superb commander-in-chief. A review of some these is highly instructive.
Lincoln was not the angel that he was portrayed to be in subsequent hagiography. He believed in the superiority of the white man and wished for some form of segregation between blacks and whites. But he also believed that slavery should be held to where it existed, in the hope that it would eventually disappear, probably out of economic necessity due to the need for “free labor,” and a gradual realization in the southern slave states that the practice was unconscionable in a modern country that upheld liberty for all and the pursuit of happiness.
Studying Lincoln’ leadership and his era is a highly instructive pursuit. Team of Rivals provides unparalleled insight that contributes to this end.Back to newsletters