Thursday, December 4, 2008


Anything about leadership inspires all. There are number of articles on leadership across the world. It is basically because people love to read about leadership. Leadership is not a title or a position but it is the action of getting the things done by motivation and inspiration. Anything related to machine can be handled at ease. But anything about human beings can not be handled easily as it involves emotions. Here comes the role of leaders to get the things going as per their visions and convictions. Leadership is the ability and capability to lead from the front despite stiff opposition or hurdles. Leadership is the action where people have to be brought under one platform towards a common cause or goal.

Leadership is accepting the responsibility. In case of success the leader says “we achieved success because of the team behind me” and in case of failure the leader says, “It is me who is responsible for the failure”. Then only we can say that he is a leader.

Let us look at the leadership of Abraham Lincoln the first Republican president of America who rose from the ranks to the highest office. Let us link Lincoln’s leadership lessons with Eleven E’s. The Eleven E’s are the Energy, Enthusiasm, Expertise, Emotional Intelligence, Endurance, Edge, Example, Excellence, Empathy, Effectiveness and the last Eleventh E is Ethics.

Every leader should have Energy which is the first E. Energy does not mean physical energy but includes mental and spiritual energy. Lincoln had higher energy levels as it was evidenced in his life right from the beginning to the end. With his external physical looks he did not reflect energy levels to many of his critics. That is the reason why Abraham Lincoln was initially underestimated by many people. But he displayed his enormous internal energy levels by bouncing back from several failures number of times throughout his life. He did demonstrate his energy levels. Initially he was a wrestler which indicated his physical energy levels. Time and again he displayed his spiritual energies by referring to God.

Enthusiasm is the second E for any leader to possess. Enthusiasm is nothing but interest towards what one does. Lincoln showed enthusiasm in whatever the area he took up. Whether he was a success or a failure is the secondary thing. It was his enthusiasm towards education that led him to read number of books. His enthusiasm towards law and speaking made him as a good lawyer and an excellent motivational speaker. Whatever the endeavor he took up he did it with enthusiasm.

Expertise is the third E for any leader to possess. Expertise is having total command and confidence on ones own domain. Unless there is expertise the leader can not command any respect. When leaders are experts in their domains then only the followers would look up to them for their valuable suggestions and guidance. That leads to leadership. No follower would pose confidence in a leader who is not expert and competent. Lincoln mastered in whatever he took up. He did justify whatever he undertook whether it was in law profession or in politics.

The fourth E is Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman highlighted about the importance of Emotional Intelligence and he authored a book. It is the ability and the intelligence to manage the behavior of divergent people in a group. It is indeed a difficult and challenging task because people are basically different in nature with different emotions. And aligning them towards a cherished goal is indeed a Herculean task. It is one of the hallmarks of any leader. Lincoln had the flexibility and the intelligence to manage people effectively by way of his communication skills which are heavily laid stress on story telling techniques. He possessed Emotional intelligence and was able lead the teams successfully towards the goals of united America. He prevented America from getting disintegrated by managing the people as he knew the pulse of the people.

Endurance is the fifth E essential for effective leadership. Endurance is the ability to survive shocks and setbacks. Being unfazed and undeterred when problems crop up due to external forces and factors. In his personal, professional and social life Lincoln survived many failures and setbacks and demonstrated his endurance and resilience. Very few leaders possess this extraordinary quality of endurance. People give up when confronted with recurrent problems arising out in the external environment. But Lincoln was an exception who did not give up but endured all the times and all the ways through out his life.

The courage to take unfavorable and unpleasant decisions despite being stiff opposition from all quarters in order to pursue the cherished goals and objectives is known as edge. Even if the leader personally does not like to take such drastic decisions, but he has to take keeping in the larger interests of the cause because the situation calls for it. Edge is the sixth E essential for leaders. Abraham Lincoln took many a decision during the Civil War so as to keep America united. With regard to slavery too, he demonstrated edge which is revealed from his quote “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”

Lincoln always set an excellent Example which is the seventh E essential for any leader. There should not be any gap between what is preached and practiced as it would lead to credibility gap thereby losing the trust of the followers. Lincoln became a role model for his followers with his personal example. Whether it was about slavery or about unity of the country he strongly believed in what he preached that earned reputation as one of the most respected presidents of America. It was the issue of Southern land where he stood like a rock and that irritated and ultimately led to his assassination by a racist and Southern Sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth.

Leaders never believe in perfection but they believe in excellence because perfection is neither possible nor feasible except in theory and scientific experiments. Excellence is the eighth essential E for any effective leader. Leaders like to be at their best and strive for best results. Lincoln also strived for excellence in his chosen area of activity. Whether as a wrestler or as a lawyer or as a politician he gave his best and excelled and he proved as a leader par excellence. He aptly quoted, “I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

Leaders are good listeners and most of the time during conversation they listen more and speak less because they empathize with their followers. Empathy is the ninth essential ingredient for effective leadership. Leadership has no meaning without empathy. If followers display sympathy the leaders demonstrate empathy. That makes the fine difference between the followers and leaders. Lincoln was always empathic with his followers. Out of 100 percent conversation Lincoln listened 67 per cent and only 33 per cent he spoke. It was key to success during his debates as well as in winning the support of his followers.

Another E is Effectiveness which means the quality of work one puts in rather than quantity. Leaders stress on effectiveness while the managers on efficiency. While managers do the things right the leaders do the right things. Effectiveness is one of the traits that differentiate between managers and leaders. Lincoln rightly said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” His intention was to prepare thoroughly before execution of any task by way of smart work rather than hard work. The effectiveness in Lincoln helped him in his lawyer profession, and also helped him in winning number of debates.

And last but not the last E is Ethics, which is the Eleventh E the Lincoln possessed throughout his life. Abraham Lincoln adhered to ethics during his business career in his early twenties. He did not give up ethics even when he failed in business. In fact, it is during the test of time an individual’s integrity and morality is tested. He honestly paid back the dues to his lenders. And he maintained ethics and values in his lawyer profession and in politics also. We can learn the same from his quotation the importance he attached to ethics, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Abraham Lincoln lived in one of the most turbulent times in the history of America. It was time there were divisions between North and South and it was at this time there was a thorny issue of slavery. Although he was average in intelligence he managed the problems and crises with his strong character and leadership qualities. Lincoln will be remembered as a legend in the history of human civilization. To conclude in his own words, “And in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”


1 comment:

Alan J. Zell, Ambassador of Selling at Attitudes for Selling said...

Prof Rao. I liked your article on Lincoln's E's. I will adapt some of it in my work with small businesses and when I am a guest speaker in high school and college business & marketing classes. Thank you!

The "Lincoln" revisitations due to Mr. Obama's election has been very interesting. We've had more books published or reprinted, picture exhitions in galleries and museums, television programs of all kinds,that our minds are becoming overloaded with Linolnisms.

I also have a distant tie to Lincoln as I graduated from Lincoln High School here in Portland, Oregon and it is celebrating its 100 year anniversary on the 200 year anniversary of his birth. In addition, I am a member of the LHS Alumni Committee that raises money to invest and the interest gained goes to giving two college schoolarships.

Besides my "6 degrees of separation" to Lincoln, I have, in some ways, the same 6 degree with you because I have done many workshops and seminars for teachers, administrators, staff on why they, even if they don't want to admit it, are in sales.

At one talk, I greeted my audience of liberal arts teachers with "I'm please to be speaking to so many vocational education teachers." If they had rotten tomatoes or eggs handy, I would have been pelted with them. The theme of my talk was that every subject they taught have a direct relation to business and, whether they think it so, everybody goes into business. It is not a case of if, it is a case only of when. (For this event, I gave them several handouts related to the theme of my talk. Now I send it by ftp.)

Interesting, most educators do not realize it but there is more selling taking place in education than in any other field.

I will be interested in learning if you find any of the articles on my web site fit or augment some of the consulting and things you do.