We saw the movie Lincoln this week, and I was mesmerized by the personal power of this great President. I felt I got to know the man through this movie, and I want to take a few minutes to share how his character and approach relates to our work on influencing.
Remember, my definition of influencing is your “personal power to produce an effect without forcing or directing the outcome.”
Lincoln sets his mind to pass the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery, before the end of the Civil War. Passed in the Senate, he must garner all of his party’s delegate’s votes and at least a dozen from the Democrats. Lincoln expects an end to the war, but realizes that his goal is more likely achieved before that end.
Lincoln is masterful, with help from his cabinet and other key stakeholders, in successfully delaying a surrender and securing the votes he needs. What I saw in his person and approach were seven key leadership aspects:
- Leading with Good Intent sets the environment, pulling and keeping people in alignment. Lincoln knew that he was pursuing the right outcome, not just for his legacy, but for the nation and the generations to come. Some disagreed with him, others thought he was a tyrant. But, all those who changed their votes responded to his “right” decision for the nation (although with different interests and enthusiasm).
- Having a Strong Will may be required for the toughest of outcomes. Successful influencing is not just about strategy, you have to have a strong conviction and often must be quite demanding of others. Lincoln was unwavering in his expectations that his cabinet members take swift action. The task was unlikely to impossible. And yet, when questioned, Lincoln simply said it must be done.
- Executing an Order of Action can be critical to the probability of success. Lincoln’s race was on to secure the votes at the same time a surrender was under negotiation. He believed that the end of the war would postpone the amendment and most likely jeopardize its passage. Lincoln did not reveal this fact to all, rather letting those knows as they needed to know.
- Allowing the future to unfold, embracing that the present is all we have now. Lincoln was right there in the midst of the action and made and revised decisions as the current reality emerged.
- Using Knowledge of People, carefully and decisively to the good of a mutually beneficial outcome. Lincoln knew the Representatives he needed to influence. He knew what they wanted (or feared), and he made deals. For those who resisted him, he spoke to the heart of what he knew they cared about and posed a challenge to their thinking. He knew well how their vote would create tension (or worse) in their relationships and power. He made clear requests.
- Revealing Yourself, honestly and fully, so that people know where you stand and trust that stand. While appearing very intentional, Lincoln told stories and shared his views in ways that one must “know” him as a result.
- Giving to Get what you want, in the end recognizing that there may be costs to realizing your objective. Favors were given. Positions were re-shaped. And, lives may have been lost in delaying peace.Few of us will ever face this kind of challenge or achievement —thankfully, I am sure.