Team of Rivals

Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Pulitzer Prize winner, has written a superb biography of Abraham Lincoln.  When you read this book, it is clear why Abraham Lincoln was considered our greatest president and such a great man.

Abraham Lincoln came from the humblest of circumstances.  He found books wherever he could and devoured them.  He educated himself and then trained himself to become a lawyer.  But his real love was politics, and despite numerous failures, and against all odds, he eventually was elected President of the United States, when he was the compromise candidate of the Republican Party in 1860.

No one expected much from a Lincoln presidency in 1860.  And the situation was dire, because states began seceding from the Union even before his inauguration.  People thought Lincoln was crazy for filling his Cabinet with his main Republican rivals for president, men like William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates.

Lincoln’s five years in office were consumed with Civil War.  The war began as he took office and ended only two days before he was cruelly assassinated.  No one was happier than Lincoln that the war was over and the country preserved.  It is sad that he could enjoy the victory for only two days.  Unquestionably, Lincoln contributed to the Union victory and the end of slavery more than any other single individual.

Lincoln was not only a political genius, but he was also a literary genius.  He wrote words, especially in the Gettysburg address and in his second Inaugural Address, which are unforgettable.  What were his greatest strengths?

He combined deep personal humility with a resolute will to achieve the mission.  He epitomized the Level 5 leader of Jim Collins.

He was a learner.  Self-taught, he learned from books and people all his life. He loved life.  He loved to laugh and tell stories.  He loved to be with people.

He was kind and big-hearted.  He was a remarkable forgiver.  He cared about people. He was a great friend to people.  He valued friendship.

He consistently took the blame and gave others the credit.  This was natural for him. He was an extremely hard worker.

He was a man of integrity and honesty and character. He loved his wife and his kids and they loved him. He was an incredible speaker.

He refused to give up.