He let them know truthfully and honestly what was expected of them, that the journey would be difficult, and that they would all be in the situation together. He was honest about the impending Civil War when he first took office, and he was honest with his cabinet about the difficulties they would face. This path-goal theory of management helped create a very supportive environment that is necessary when people are facing extremely difficult problems, such as Civil War. The leader must be strong and mature, but he must also be extremely supportive and nurturing, and Lincoln was, which commanded respect among just about everyone he dealt with. He worked very closely with his generals during the war, and he set specific goals for them, another aspect of the path-goal theory — offering specific leadership advice and goals, and expecting the followers to take the appropriate action. He was supportive, but he was also strong. For example, when he did not approve of General George B. McClellans handling of the Army of the Potomac and the Union Army, he removed him as general in chief, indicating he was not afraid to rethink his decisions. He gave his followers power, but would not allow them to abuse it.
In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln exhibited many of the traits of a great, knowledgeable leader. He had the emotional intelligence to guide the country through one of its most difficult times, and he exhibited several leadership skills that have stood the test of time. When he entered the White House, he had to develop strong leadership capabilities. Author Rawley notes, “The emerging leadership of Abraham Lincoln had identifiable elements. Foremost, perhaps, was his steadiness of purpose: his unswerving determination to save the Union” (Rawley, 2003, p. 52). As he grew into his leadership role, he represented several key aspects of great leaders. From his open-door policy in the White House, to his empathy and sympathy for the people, to his visits to soldiers in the field, he was an inspirational leader and statesman, and he truly cared about those around him and those he led. Biographer Rawley writes of a troop visit that indicates how his empathy and understanding gained him total support from the men in the field.
He writes, “Standing tall in the carriage that had brought him from Washington, he made, Sherman recalled, one of the neatest, best, and most feeling addresses I ever listened to” (Rawley, 2003, p. 61). This indicates his leadership qualities, but it underscores how important it is to take into account the followers, as well. To be an inspiring leader you have to know how to deal with the people you are leading effectively. You have to understand how to motivate and inspire them, and how to get them to become more efficient, more productive, and more excited about their job. Lincoln empathized with the people and their problems, and that made him a totally effective leader. He was also not promoting himself or his actions, he truly wanted to run the country effectively, and he cared about the outcome. He was a great leader because of all these qualities, and he inspired others to become better leaders as a result of his own leadership skills. Not everyone agreed with the president, and his administration did come under controversy, but the man himself was a great leader and president.
Elshtain, J.B. (1999, November). Abraham Lincoln & the last best hope. First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life 43.
Gienapp, W.E. (2002). Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A biography. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kumuyi, W.F. (2007, August/September). Seven communication tips an effective leader must have. New African 22+.
Rawley, J.A. (2003). Abraham Lincoln and a nation worth fighting.