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Leading with Character: Honest Abe

February just may be my favorite month. What, you ask? In the dead of winter? Ok, it’s cold. So what. I’ve operated on polar icebreakers in the Arctic and the Antarctic. I’ve commanded Coast Guard ships stationed in Sault Ste Marie, MI and Kittery, ME. I’ve been frozen and thawed so many times I’m used to it. The cold, dark days of February make me appreciate the longer, warmer days of spring.

February is my birth month. And I’m in good company. Two of America’s most prominent leaders of character, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were born in February. This month we celebrate President’s Day in honor of Washington, Lincoln, and all past presidents. Although I deeply admire George Washington, the focus of this blog post is the inimitable Abraham Lincoln.

Honest Abe
In my opinion, no one better modeled the way as a leader of character than Abraham Lincoln. By numerous credible accounts, he earned the moniker “honest Abe” by his actions—both in day-to-day living and in times of crisis. Our fledgling nation needed a president the people could trust to make the tough decisions leading up to and engaging in a civil war. By leading with character, through the core values of honesty and humility, Abraham Lincoln earned the trust and respect of supporters and even some opponents.

A Genuine Leader of Character
The Gettysburg address speaks to Abraham Lincoln’s character, and strength as a leader. With just 275 words filling a mere three minutes, President Lincoln captured the hearts and minds of Americans. Thus, he started the slow healing process following a war that pit friends and families against each other in a bloody ideological battle. By comparison, my blog is already at 350 words, and I’m struggling to make my point about the reason for President Lincoln’s greatness.

Once in a while, a truly great leader of character emerges. A humble leader who doesn’t need to make grandiose speeches; one whose actions speak for him or herself. A quiet, reserved leader who builds trust and earns respect by being honest. A genuine human being not afraid to admit failure, recover, and move forward. A leader who people are compelled to believe in, follow, and support. President Abraham Lincoln was that kind of leader who emerged at an inflection point in our history in the 1800’s.

Here in the 2000’s we’re at another inflection point in a differently divided nation. It’s once again a time that calls for the core values of honesty and humility. We need more leaders of character like President Abraham Lincoln to step forward to lead at all levels.

Look in the mirror. Are you doing your part by living and leading with honesty and humility?

Please join me again next week for more on Leading with Character.

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