Leadership: Abraham Lincoln, His Vision and Values

Abstract

Abraham Lincoln raised himself from an obscure beginning in a log cabin and a youth of subsistence farming through ambition and persistence into visionary leadership. With an acute desire to learn, Abraham learned to read and taught himself law. With politics as Lincoln’s great love, he won state and national elections with persistent campaigning. Abraham was a raconteur who loved talking to common people and practicing his persuasive oratory on political issues of the day. Abe’s integrity, reliability, predictability, fairness, faith, and devotion to honesty earned him a reputation that attracted followers. In severe national emergency, with the United States divided between North and South, President Lincoln tenaciously lead the country and saved democracy and freedom. Though an established leader, Abraham always relied on morals and values to bolster his persuasion and to do the right thing.

Leadership: Abraham Lincoln, His Vision and Values

Abraham Lincoln is an example. For those who are born poor with little or nothing in circumstance to elevate them from the simple state of existence, Lincoln is the transcending model of persistence. As a human, Abraham Lincoln is not without foibles and infallibilities. Yet, in the milieu of leadership, Lincoln leaves a legacy of surmounting Sisyphus-like struggles confronting not only leading himself, but also leading a country, and perhaps the world. Lincoln’s vision spans the forsaken, the common, and the universal man as revealed to Congress in July, 1861:

This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether…a democracy…can, or cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own domestic foes. (Gienapp, 2002, p. 84)

This purpose of this paper is to capture the attributes and the vision of Abraham Lincoln. First, I will discuss the childhood and environment that Abe was raised in. Second, I will show Abe educated himself in furtherance of his goals. Lastly, I will present the leadership of Abraham Lincoln in the pinnacle of his life, the Presidency.

© Neal Huffman 2014 all rights reserved

More on urgency levels

Improvements

Qwest and other leaders use empowerment and divide strategic performance tools into leadership positions and management positions. The executives and the leaders keep the vision in sight with repetition and guidance leaving operations to managerial employees. Management means delegating routine daily activities and subordinating lower priority work. Employees can readily see the importance of priorities and improvements. The result is that new ideas and improvements can induce the next wave of change.

Behaviors

Finally, change leaders, such as Qwest, are able to derive the new behaviors desired to take advantage of new opportunities or solve problems. In alignment with the ever present vision, staff is motivated and eager to keep moving forward to the ultimate goal. Qwest is one company that sees the future state as a separation from the past. The CEO of Qwest has even declared that most of its services are now a commodity. Only through the vision and behavior in tune with the vision can Qwest distinguish its brand and service as a leader in a commodity industry.

Opportunities and threats are constantly examined. Not just external threats, but internal threats are always on the radar to reinforce which behaviors are needed more and which behaviors must be left behind. As a whole industry, telecommunications companies do recognize similarities. Best practices are sought after and adopted. Such as the new Qwest billing practices imitated from industry leaders. Qwest knew that its invoices to customers were hard to read and understand. Qwest made over its bills by thoroughly analyzing many other communications companies invoices and adopted methods, appearance, layout, and billing tools designed to be customer friendly. The billing project is just one example of short-term goals, visibility, vision alignment, complacency fighting, and persistent urgency that sustain competitive advantage for the long term.

Conclusion

Until the vision is satisfied, complacency and low urgency may hurt progression to the goal and may ultimately defeat the transformation process. Because companies cannot stop, cannot let up until the vision is fulfilled, which may take years to complete, organizations have to keep complacency at bay. Urgency is one method to counteract complacency, yet the ultimate end is embedding enough unrelenting behaviors and unbroken shared values to anchor the culture for sustained achievement.

References

Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Kotter, J.P. (2004). The heart of change website. Step 7. Retrieved June 23, 2004, from http://www.theheartofchange.com/

Kotter, J.P. & Cohen, D. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

© Neal Huffman 2014

All rights reserved

Industry Leaders Keeping Up Urgency Levels

Industry Leaders Keeping Up Urgency Levels

Pride

Change leaders in telecommunications have repeatedly shown how false pride can destroy an entire market. Once dominant providers watched as new entrants ate market share with nimble thinking and acting. When MCI exploded on the scene in the 1980’s, giant old industry leader AT&T bled long distance customers to MCI. MCI adopted the method of wave after wave of change by constantly listening to customers and providing them with the service they wanted at the cost they could afford. In large part, MCI kept up urgency levels by subordinating any sense of pride or success to the needs of customers. Moreover, MCI kept on until the whole organization understood the importance of this business idea, never really declaring any victory. MCI always held that they were number two or number three in the business sector.

Continual Performance

In the telecommunications industry, the leaders and the emerging new companies seem to adopt short-term goals with an eye toward the future state. While new products and niches always emerge in telecommunications, the wave method is common among successful companies. In other words, a firm achieves a short-term goal and celebrates mildly. However, the win is used to keep moving forward and produce other new products or innovative service enhancements. Always, these thriving companies promote, reward, and align the smaller wins with the vision and strive to make performance that achieves a cultural normative behavior.

Show the Way

While data, markets, competition, and financial performance are important, the competitive winners in the industry demonstrate reality and lead by example. For instance, Qwest has adopted the honest posture of showing market and service position of Qwest in relation to competitors, even one measure where Qwest is dead last. While letting employee feelings determine the necessary behaviors to achieve the goals of improving lethargy in customer service. One move toward improving service is the one call doctrine. Instead of putting customers on hold, rerouting their calls, or directing them elsewhere, the new process is escalated on one call until resolved. This empowers workers and eliminates duplicity.

© Neal Huffman 2014

Opportunities: Innovation, Risk Taking, and Collaboration

Abstract

The search for opportunity comes through a leader’s willingness to challenge the process and the status quo. Leaders seize the initiative and proliferate initiative taking among other constituents. Ideas and resourcefulness flow in open ways as everyone seeks opportunity to improve and change. Part of challenging the process is a sincere desire to experiment and tolerate risk. Small steps and small wins garner support and help move beyond challenge and risk in the negative connotation. Collaboration and interdependence further enable other constituents to act on shared values. Reciprocity comes from the realism that the leader cannot do everything on his/her own. Cooperation and trust guide constituents to higher goals.

Opportunities: Innovation, Risk Taking, and Collaboration

Leaders, especially in the present hyper-competitive, global, rapid change world today, constantly seek opportunities to do new things to maintain and build success. They do this by taking initiative, approach challenges with inspiration, innovate, and stay open to ideas both internally and externally. The purpose of this paper is to examine open approaches to seeking opportunity, dealing with risk, and auditing collaboration interactions. (Kouzes & Posner, 2003)

Open Approach Model in Seeking Opportunity

Nature of Opportunity

Change is constant and is increasing in speed and frequency of occurrence. Today, businesses trusting in the status quo find that competition and change can quickly destroy market share and revenue. So, leaders can improve the likelihood of sustained performance and life by dealing with change in positive ways. Leaders can look to the future, be proactive in seeing opportunity, and create and listen to new ideas. There are methods to help increase the proactive examination of opportunities by creating an open approach to growth. (Kouzes & Posner, 2003)

© Neal Huffman 2014 all rights reserved

Conclusion

Conclusion

Until the vision is satisfied, complacency and low urgency may hurt progression to the goal and may ultimately defeat the transformation process. Because companies cannot stop, cannot let up until the vision is fulfilled, which may take years to complete, organizations have to keep complacency at bay. Urgency is one method to counteract complacency, yet the ultimate end is embedding enough unrelenting behaviors and unbroken shared values to anchor the culture for sustained achievement.

References

Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Kotter, J.P. (2004). The heart of change website. Step 7. Retrieved June 23, 2004, from http://www.theheartofchange.com/

Kotter, J.P. & Cohen, D. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Vision metrics

In addition to reinforcing the vision and using waves of change efforts, measurement strategies help deflate self-satisfaction. More broad performance oriented goals that reflect the overall performance from a vision standard may prove that the small successes are still not a complete fulfillment of the main objective. Again, as the PE story points out, narrow measurements focus on narrow functions, while the true objective sometimes escapes accurate measurement. An overarching index correlating to the objective measurement of the level of achievement on the vision is a more accurate measure of the entire change process.

External Variables

Measurements are necessary internally, yet may be more valuable when obtained externally. An excellent strategy employed to enhance momentum is turning of short-term wins into repetitious and continuing waves of momentum. The small win in a change process provides proof that change is a good thing and has strategic value. It also provides a reward for those who support the efforts and emotional approval of their sacrifices. The win helps keep alignment with the main vision and shows that the vision is working. Importantly, the win helps to depose powerful skeptics who oppose any change effort. Even more importantly, wins build support, understanding, and additional believers into the core concept. Companies can seek out consultants, analysts, customers, constituents, and even competitors for feedback on small successful changes and their meaning to industry patterns of transformation.

Industry Leaders Keeping Up Urgency Levels

Pride

Change leaders in telecommunications have repeatedly shown how false pride can destroy an entire market. Once dominant providers watched as new entrants ate market share with nimble thinking and acting. When MCI exploded on the scene in the 1980’s, giant old industry leader AT&T bled long distance customers to MCI. MCI adopted the method of wave after wave of change by constantly listening to customers and providing them with the service they wanted at the cost they could afford. In large part, MCI kept up urgency levels by subordinating any sense of pride or success to the needs of customers. Moreover, MCI kept on until the whole organization understood the importance of this business idea, never really declaring any victory. MCI always held that they were number two or number three in the business sector.

Continual Performance

In the telecommunications industry, the leaders and the emerging new companies seem to adopt short-term goals with an eye toward the future state. While new products and niches always emerge in telecommunications, the wave method is common among successful companies. In other words, a firm achieves a short-term goal and celebrates mildly. However, the win is used to keep moving forward and produce other new products or innovative service enhancements. Always, these thriving companies promote, reward, and align the smaller wins with the vision and strive to make performance that achieves a cultural normative behavior.

Show the Way

While data, markets, competition, and financial performance are important, the competitive winners in the industry demonstrate reality and lead by example. For instance, Qwest has adopted the honest posture of showing market and service position of Qwest in relation to competitors, even one measure where Qwest is dead last. While letting employee feelings determine the necessary behaviors to achieve the goals of improving lethargy in customer service. One move toward improving service is the one call doctrine. Instead of putting customers on hold, rerouting their calls, or directing them elsewhere, the new process is escalated on one call until resolved. This empowers workers and eliminates duplicity.

Improvements

Qwest and other leaders use empowerment and divide strategic performance tools into leadership positions and management positions. The executives and the leaders keep the vision in sight with repetition and guidance leaving operations to managerial employees. Management means delegating routine daily activities and subordinating lower priority work. Employees can readily see the importance of priorities and improvements. The result is that new ideas and improvements can induce the next wave of change.

Behaviors

Finally, change leaders, such as Qwest, are able to derive the new behaviors desired to take advantage of new opportunities or solve problems. In alignment with the ever present vision, staff is motivated and eager to keep moving forward to the ultimate goal. Qwest is one company that sees the future state as a separation from the past. The CEO of Qwest has even declared that most of its services are now a commodity. Only through the vision and behavior in tune with the vision can Qwest distinguish its brand and service as a leader in a commodity industry.

Opportunities and threats are constantly examined. Not just external threats, but internal threats are always on the radar to reinforce which behaviors are needed more and which behaviors must be left behind. As a whole industry, telecommunications companies do recognize similarities. Best practices are sought after and adopted. Such as the new Qwest billing practices imitated from industry leaders. Qwest knew that its invoices to customers were hard to read and understand. Qwest made over its bills by thoroughly analyzing many other communications companies invoices and adopted methods, appearance, layout, and billing tools designed to be customer friendly. The billing project is just one example of short-term goals, visibility, vision alignment, complacency fighting, and persistent urgency that sustain competitive advantage for the long term.

© Neal Huffman 2014

Alternative methods to keep momentum ahead of complacency

Ladders of Success

In today’s environment with rampant and fierce competition in the economy, a series of transformations leading up to an overall change helps to drive momentum. By continually rolling smaller changes toward the overall vision of the major transformation, a persistent urgency remains to fight off contentment. Each wave of change is tied to and contributes to the success of the overriding change effort.

© Neal Huffman 2014

Never Lose Sight of the Vision

One of the remedies suggested by Kotter (1996) is a sort of continuing pressure. He states that, “In successful change efforts, executives link pressure to urgency through the constant articulation of vision and strategies” (p. 127). Persistent urgency is a strategy, not a hammer, “…urgency does not imply ever present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent, in which people are always looking for both problems and opportunities, and in which the norm is “do it now” (p. 162).

The main idea behind recognizing short-term victories and building upon the achieved momentum is the awareness of the possibility of complacency regaining in personal and organizational attitudes. The transformation process has many stages leading to the end game of cultural change. Until the goal is finished, the vision is the primary driver of change. Repetition and reaffirmation of the vision helps to combat nearsightedness.

© Neal Huffman 2014

Keep momentum going: Complacency creep

Kotter’s The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations (2002) illustrates the premature victory declaration syndrome in the story “PE Ratios” (p. 144). In “PE Ratios”, the firm does recognize the creeping resurgence of complacency. The change agent looks for other crises or performance measures to show employees that the job is not done and they must not stop. The hub is moved to focus the investor’s point of view with a different goal related to external business factors because the other goal is achieved and without this shift workers are feeling victorious and satisfied. Smaller projects should continue until the complete vision is fulfilled. New entrants, competitors, lean players, and internal smugness can temper competitive advantage.

Tersely stated, “Past success provides too many resources, reduces our sense of urgency, and encourages us to turn inward. For individuals, it creates an ego problem; for firms, a cultural problem. Big egos and arrogant cultures reinforce the nine sources of complacency…” (Kotter, 1996, p. 41). Whether a sports team or a business organization, complacency is exaggerated by the sense of victory, while the ultimate goal may be lost.

© Neal Huffman 2014

Transition: Momentum and Persistent Reinforcement Displace Contentment and Reversion

Transition: Momentum and Persistent Reinforcement Displace Contentment and Reversion

The Colorado Avalanche hockey team seemed to be destined for another Stanley Cup in 2003. The team signed several talented players and earned enough wins during the regular season to gain some home ice advantage in the playoffs. Success continued in the post season playoffs toward the championship series. The Avalanche won three straight games against newcomer Minnesota Wild in a seven game series, needing only one more win to take the series and advance. Avalanche fans suffered a devastating letdown after the Wild won the next four games and defeated the Avalanche in a shocking upset. The apparent success followed by stunning defeat for this hockey team is similar in nature to an organizational phenomenon of complacency to a future vision because of past success. The core concept in stage seven (making change stick) of the multistage transition process outlined by John Kotter is the ability to continue cycles of change and not letting up until the vision is a reality. (Kotter, 1996)

© Neal Huffman 2014