ABRAHAM LINCOLN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR. SURROUNDED BY RIVALS.
Secretary of State William Seward. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. And Edward Bates as Attorney General.
Lincoln declared that because the country was in such a time of peril, it needed the strongest leaders, and that he could not deprive the nation of that.
Lincoln thought that to solve the nation’s toughest problems, he didn’t need people who agreed with him all the time, but people who instead challenged him and disagreed with him and forced him to see new perspectives. It was an unprecedented political move that took a lot of vision and self-confidence. Back then (and even now) presidents appointed people who thought the way they did.
By putting rivals in the cabinet, Lincoln had immediate access to a wide range of opinions, which made his own thinking much stronger. And despite their differences, the goal was singular: saving the Union. Without that unity, the war would have been lost.
One of Lincoln’s greatest gifts was the gift of empathy. That became the foundation of his political genius: treating people – even the enemies who hated him – with respect and kindness, seeing things through the eyes of others. When things went well, he shared the credit. When things went to shit, he shouldered the blame.
In the end, his rivals ended up not only respecting him, but loving him. Seward, his biggest rival, wrote: “The President is the best of us.”
While you might want to ditch the stovepipe hat, you want to do what Lincoln did within your own democracy: surround yourself with a group that won’t agree with you all of the time; a group that will:
Argue. Fight. Defend. Challenge. Engage. Listen. Reconsider. Grow. Resolve. Innovate.
It worked for Lincoln. He saved the nation.
“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” — Abraham Lincoln