An unusual tribute was paid to Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg. The poet wrote, “Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.”
Lincoln demonstrated then and now how a person can possess both a will of iron and a heart of tenderness. Nothing deterred the president during the American Civil War from his “noble” cause, and few persons have ever endured more criticism and detractors than Lincoln. Yet he was no more a man of steel than one of velvet.
When General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army, Lincoln sent an unexpected message to the enemy commander. “Tell your men they may keep their horses; they’ll need them for plowing,” said the president. Then this: “Tell your men they may keep their rifles; they’ll need them for hunting.” When Lee read those words he wept.
This is why Lincoln was a statesman. He was not a mere politician.
What’s the difference you may ask?
A cheap and mere politician thinks, plots, manipulate for the next election. But the noble statesman thinks, plans and prepares for the next generation.
This is what leaders need to understand.
When a leader takes the time to impact people in even the smallest way, it can have repercussions that last for a lifetime for after all leadership is never about positions, it is all about influence.
This magnifying or multiplying effect has a lot of power in it. It can do great good or great damage.
You may be thinking, “But I am not in any government position…” “I am just a secretary fixing files for my boss…” This does not mean that you do not influence others. You impact people in positive ways with your words, actions, inactions, attitudes, language, demeanor, vocal tone, examples, and many other ways. Whether you like it or not all of us are inter-connected in ways beyond our understanding. An influential leader who takes personal time out of their busy schedule to help an undeserving person in need can cause a big positive multiplying effect over time.
Now here is the downside of leadership. The same model also works when a leader does something in a negative manner that ends up having long lasting negative repercussions that can be hard to shake.
Losing one’s temper, a harsh word spoken. An insulting remark. Just imagine how all of these can stick in one’s head after its first stinging bite. It can do a lot of damage and have very negative repercussions.
Can you think of some small examples of leadership that you have set that really impacted people for the positive? Continue with it and you will be amazed at how one small act leads to a greater one as people put their trust in you.
Can you think of some small negative things you’ve done that have caused unintended damage? Stop doing it and replace it with a better act of positive impact that can make a difference in a person’s life.
I have a better idea. Lead by serving and be amazed how far this can take you towards the path of nobility and joy.