Lincoln's Lessons: Think Things Through

Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Certainly the study of exemplary leaders is one way to learn the lessons. Michael McKinney provides a good analysis of a lesson to be learned from Abraham Lincoln.

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In Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he said, “Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be any object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it.”

Lincoln is not advocating indecisiveness; rather he is encouraging us to get all of the facts before deciding a matter. Especially in a time of crisis, calm, measured thought is important. Lincoln demonstrated the will to make tough decisions and without hesitation when necessary. But he insisted on getting all of the information available before making a decision. Often this entailed going out personally to get the facts firsthand. He took the time to consider all available solutions and their consequences. Furthermore, by selecting a solution that was consistent with his values and objectives, he was able to weave a theme through his decisions – connecting them – and build trust and authenticity in his leadership.

Too often issues are examined only in one dimension, or by considering only the loudest voices. Rarely is that enough. It often leads to unintended consequences and inconsistent behavior. When you have taken the time to think a thing through, you will be better able to have the courage to stand behind your decisions and accept the consequences. You will possess a determinism born of conviction and not stubbornness.

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