First sergeants’ perspective on Lincoln’s leadership lessons: Part I

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ina Peeples
  • 90th Security Support Squadron first sergeant
Lincoln had three principles he followed when it came to people. Know your people, build strong alliances and persuade rather than coerce; these same leadership methods continue to be taught today.

Knowing your people and their abilities is the foundation of being an effective leader. It is said that "the foundation of Abraham Lincoln's leadership style was an unshakable commitment to the rights of the individual."

One hundred years after Lincoln's presidency, his leadership style has been dubbed Managing by Wandering Around. It is also referred to as "Roving Leadership," "Being in Touch" or "Getting out of the Ivory Tower." Whatever you want to call it, it's simply getting out and interacting with those that you lead.

To obtain the most up-to-date information, one must get out of the office and visit the very people getting the job done. Not only is getting to know your people important, but also letting them know that what they do is important and appreciated. Creating that human contact with your subordinates, therefore, creates the sense of commitment, collaboration, community and access to vital information necessary to make effective decisions.

As a leader you need to gain the trust and respect of your subordinates, building strong alliances on both the personal and professional levels. Spend time letting your subordinates learn that you are firm, resolute and committed in the daily performance of your duty; this allows you to earn their trust and respect. Sometimes as a leader, your personal feelings need to be set aside for the betterment of your subordinates' development. Showing your compassionate and caring nature will help forge that alliance.

Leaders must strive to work with and through people while always driving toward the objective. It is essential to possess an outgoing interest in people and the ability to gain the confidence and respect of a wide variety of individuals. This allows a leader to persuade, not coerce, people to follow you toward the objective.

Leadership by definition omits the use of coercive power. When you start using coercion to reach the goal, you then move into managing instead of leading. Always try to persuade your subordinates to compromise whenever you can. Remember, they generally want to believe that what they do is their own idea and that they make a difference.

Empower your people to make decisive decisions. Ask questions frequently and consult with those in mid-level leadership to make the best decisions for your organization. A good leader avoids issuing orders; they prefer to request, imply or make suggestions.

To be an effective leader you must know your people, build their trust and respect and lead by persuasion not coercion. Lead from the front.