There are a few things that I noticed as I read through Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin over the past couple of weeks.
First, you don’t always have to be the best… all you can do is your best today. Goodwin suggests that Lincoln made the decision to be a second choice nominee for supporters of each of his competitors. Isn’t that fascinating? I don’t think that I’ve ever encountered anyone who thought this way. No one wants to be a second choice, but that might give someone the opportunity to be genuine. Sometimes surrender is the best option.
Second, pain and disappointment are often the main fertilizers that need to be added to life in order to make a person the kind of leader that will cause change, not maintain the status quo.
Third, as leaders, our goal should not be to make people agree with us, but rather to learn from those who we disagree with. Disagreement doesn’t have to mean division.
Fourth, when you believe in something, fight to the bitter end to make it happen. The Thirteenth Amendment passed by a narrow five-vote margin, which was entirely arranged by Lincoln himself. Goodwin says that five Democrats were pressured to change their minds and vote for the amendment. I can’t imagine how many more years it would have taken for slavery to be abolished if Lincoln didn’t do everything in his power to make a change.
I can’t help but think of Mordecai’s words to Esther in Esther 4:14. He says, “for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Maybe this is what leadership is all about… stepping up at the right time and doing the right thing even if the desired results seem impossible.
It seems to me that Lincoln was just a humble person living his life with integrity. I don’t mean to minimize him at all, but he shouldn’t have been president, and he shouldn’t have had the influence he did, but he did because he was steadfast and kept living his life and doing what was important to him. That’s encouraging.