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Leading with Character: Honest Abe

By leading with character, through the core values of honesty and humility, Abraham Lincoln earned the trust and respect of supporters and even some opponents.

February just may be my favorite month. What, you ask? In the dead of winter? OK, it’s cold. So what. I’ve operated on polar icebreakers in the Arctic and the Antarctic. I’ve commanded Coast Guard ships stationed in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Kittery, Maine. I’ve been frozen and thawed so many times I’m used to it. The cold, dark days of February make me appreciate the longer, warmer days of spring.

February is my birth month. And I’m in good company. Two of America’s most prominent leaders of character, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were born in February. This month we celebrate Presidents’ Day in honor of Washington, Lincoln, and all past presidents. Although I deeply admire George Washington, the focus of this blog post is the inimitable Abraham Lincoln.

Honest Abe

In my opinion, no one better modeled the way as a leader of character than Abraham Lincoln. By numerous credible accounts, he earned the moniker “honest Abe” by his actions – both in day-to-day living and in times of crisis. Our fledgling nation needed a president the people could trust to make the tough decisions leading up to and engaging in a civil war. By leading with character, through the core values of honesty and humility, Abraham Lincoln earned the trust and respect of supporters and even some opponents.

A Genuine Leader of Character

The Gettysburg address speaks to Abraham Lincoln’s character, and strength as a leader. With just 275 words filling a mere three minutes, President Lincoln captured the hearts and minds of Americans. Thus, he started the slow healing process following a war that pit friends and families against each other in a bloody ideological battle. By comparison, my blog is already at 350 words, and I’m struggling to make my point about the reason for President Lincoln’s greatness.

Once in a while, a truly great leader of character emerges. A humble leader who doesn’t need to make grandiose speeches; one whose actions speak for him or herself. A quiet, reserved leader who builds trust and earns respect by being honest. A genuine human being not afraid to admit failure, recover, and move forward. A leader who people are compelled to believe in, follow, and support. President Abraham Lincoln was that kind of leader who emerged at an inflection point in our history in the 1800s.

Here in the 2000s we’re at another inflection point in a differently divided nation. It’s once again a time that calls for the core values of honesty and humility. We need more leaders of character like President Abraham Lincoln to step forward to lead at all levels.

Look in the mirror. Are you doing your part by living and leading with honesty and humility?

Please join me again next week for more on Leading with Character.

If you enjoyed this post, please visit my website where you can buy my book, Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters, and sign up for my mailing list: https://sandrastosz.com/book/breaking-ice-and-breaking-glass/

Sandra L. Stosz
Vice Admiral Stosz, a Homeland Security Today editorial board member, started out in the U.S. Coast Guard as an ensign serving on polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Her 40-year career is filled with leadership lessons gleaned while breaking ice and breaking glass as the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a U.S. armed forces service academy. She finished her career as the first woman assigned as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, directing one of the Coast Guard’s largest enterprises. She has lectured widely on leadership, and has been featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast” named Vice Admiral Stosz to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. Proceeds from “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters” will be donated to the US Coast Guard Academy James M. Loy Institute for Leadership.

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