Abe Lincoln – An Extraordinary Leader

Perhaps noted as one of the greatest United States presidents of all time, Abraham Lincoln’s early life may not have reflected his potential greatness. He failed in business. He lost election to the state legislature, Speaker of the House, nomination for Congress, appointment of land officer, U.S. Senate twice and nomination for Vice President. After those eight major failures, Lincoln was elected President of the United States. How many of us would have kept going like Lincoln did?

Many problems that we think of today pale in comparison to what happened in the late 1850’s and middle 1860’s. Lincoln dealt with eleven southern states that had seceded from the Union. Eleven states formed the Confederate States of America during his presidency.

Americans may think that there are divisions among our country today. There was an enormous division during the Civil War era. Americans literally died on both sides of the war: North and South.

There were several key challenges that Lincoln faced as U.S. President:

1. Lincoln was president during the American Civil War, which lasted four years

About five weeks after Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th United States President, the American Civil War began. Lincoln was president when the country was literally falling apart.

Division may exist between families. Unfortunately, some family members may go years without talking to one another. Are problems within families really that terrible compared to the unrest during the Civil War? Some families were divided so much by the war that one son may have fought for the North while another son of the same family fought for the South.

2. The most American casualties happened during the Lincoln Administration

600,000 to 700,000 Americans died in the Civil War. The American Civil War casualties exceed the United States’ losses in all of its other wars from The American Revolution to the present.

Do any of us think that we have such an enormous responsibility? Lincoln had an insurmountable responsibility of having the most American casualties during his term as president. More Americans died from war during Lincoln’s presidency than all of the other American presidents combined.

3. Lincoln suffered from Depression

Lincoln, who lived in the nineteenth century, did not have access to antidepressants, such as Prozac, to take as prescription medication nor could he go to a drug store and purchase St. John’s Wort over the counter.

Lincoln never had the luxury of having access to modern treatments. Lincoln’s job was to deal with a country that was divided by war. At times, your problems may seem as monumental as Lincoln’s struggles, mainly because you are the one who is currently enduring a particular problem. All of us have common and unique problems. Can you imagine if you weren’t so lucky and had limited access to treatments like Lincoln? Fortunately, we do have the luxury of modern medicine.

4. Lincoln was assassinated

The North, The Union, defeated the South, The Confederacy. The South surrendered to the North on April 9th, 1865. Lincoln was assassinated five days after the Civil War ended and died the morning after he was shot.

Do you think you feel unappreciated by the work you’ve done? Lincoln united his country as president, issued the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery, inspired numerous people while suffering from depression, was one of the most kindest and good-hearted presidents our nation has ever had and what was the thanks that he got? He was killed.

Numerous times, Lincoln was a leader. He kept America together so we could still be called “The United States of America.” He led by example. In his second inaugural address, Lincoln said that he wanted “malice toward none” and he wanted “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” Unfortunately, Lincoln never got to see any of his efforts and results implemented. The United States owes Lincoln a huge debt of gratitude.

Like Lincoln, every one of us has overcome problems and has achieved greatness in our own way. You may not remember some obstacles that you overcame, such as when you learned to walk or talk. There are challenges you overcame that you probably do remember very well, such as finishing a project, winning a race, graduating from school or establishing a career. Every one of you has a potential for greatness like Abe Lincoln. It is up to you to find the greatness within yourself.

The House to Recess After Two Major Tax Bills Pass

Before breaking for a five-week summer recess, the US House of Representatives has passed two major tax bills. The first bill couples a minimum wage increase with estate tax reductions. The second bill looks to reform pension laws. According to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the bill represents “the most sweeping changes to America’s pension laws in more than 30 years.”

The pension bill, which is likely to pass Senate this week, would force employers that have fallen behind in payments into defined-benefit pension schemes to catch up within seven years. Pension plans with under 80% funding would not be allowed to increase benefits during contract negotiations. Companies with poorly financed pensions would be restricted in increasing executive compensation. The bill will also strengthen 401(k) plans and give a legal basis to various “hybrid” defined benefit plans.

The minimum wage/estate tax bill is considered to stand little chance in the Senate, as Democrats have vocally spoke against the bill. The bill passed by 230-180 votes. It combines a $2.15 increase in the $5.15 hourly minimum wage over three years with increased exemptions and lower rates for estates.

The current estate tax is set to phase out in 2010, but will return at a 55% tax rate on estates larger than $1 million in 2011. The new bill would increase the exemption to $5 million, while taxing estates up to $25 million at capital gains rates. Estates over $25 million would be taxed at double the capital gains rate. The bill also includes an extension of the Research and Development credit for small businesses. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that Democrats will likely kill the bill in the Senate, which has an additional week until summer recess.

“The Senate has rejected fiscally irresponsible estate tax giveaways before and will reject them again,” Reid said. “Blackmailing working families will not change that outcome.” The two bills had been combined into one bill earlier in the week. However, the House/Senate reconciliation negotiations broke down, leading to two separate packages.

What If a Renegade Leader Ran the Country?

Leaders today face unprecedented challenges. Economic downturns, change in workforce demands, an ever increasing competitive market combined with the need to do more with less makes for trying times for the best of leaders. Those leaders that stand out, take a stand, and make a difference are what I define as renegade leaders.

A renegade leader is a leader who drives results, instills trust in their organizations, allows innovative thinking and creates a bond with their people through credibility, as well as vulnerability. The attributes of a renegade leader are spelled out in the word itself. They are leaders who are Responsive, resilient and willing to take responsibility. They are Energized and passionate about their business or the organization they work for and holding a high bar for themselves, accepting No excuses. Failing forward is preferred instead of falling short. You won’t find these leaders at the end of conference room tables. They are Engaged with their people, understand the needs of their customers, and influence the direction of their industry. Growth and Achievement oriented, they are quick Decision Makers even when the decision is hard to make. Most importantly, their influence expands beyond that of their four walls. They are Externally focused, they care about the success of their people as individuals, that of their community, their industry, and the world in which we live. They are a rare breed.

In the United States, lack of accountability is a virus in most organizations; employee loyalty is low and employee engagement has a rating of less than 29% in most organizations at an estimated cost of over 240 billion dollars a year. Current studies indicate a growing need for an evolved style of leadership, one that meets the top employee engagement drivers and builds success through collaboration versus command and control. The Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study indicates when employee engagement rises, performance increases by 30% or more, the high cost of turnover is reduced as 87% of employees remain loyal to their employer, 68 % focus on and reduce costs, and 72% of employees work harder to produce customer service excellence.

What would happen if a renegade leader led the country and achieved those results in government? Knowing that a full blooded renegade leader is as elusive as the hundred and fifteen pound weight number I see on my scale periodically, I could only image what might happen.

As a transplanted New Yorker, I understand that here in New Hampshire people take their right to vote as seriously as their live free or die mantra. A registered republican who last voted democrat, I was curious to see where republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney rated on the renegade meter.
Here is what I learned; at least what I was told.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney entered into an organization in chaos, the budget was in deficit and the 85% majority democratic House and Senate were not so pleased with their newly elected republican official. Instead of shying away, Romney stepped into responsibility, he evaluated the data to illuminate their current position and created a vision of what was possible. He energetically took on the climb with surefootedness. Obstacles were not going to stop him. He refused to accept the budget as status quo, and instead, he looked for ways to solve the deficit, reducing taxes over 19 times and creating solutions to long term cost problems. He was successful.

Looking at his casual presence on stage, he appeared to be engaged and comfortable with the goals of the nation, the business owners in the room, and knowledgeable about the concerns affecting various industries. His campaign had a clear message, three simple objectives instead of tons of glossy marketing words used to secure a vote. Obviously achievement oriented, he worked his way up the ranks and focused on growth no matter what position he held. The impact he outlined would touch all individuals and put decision making back into the hands of the individual. He admitted he didn’t work alone; he prefers collaboration. As Governor, he sat down with those who had differing opinions, holding regular meetings, both on his campus and that of the democrats to understand each other’s perspectives, and to agree upon the decision making criteria. He claims not to have all the answers, but expressed a perseverance to find them. He shared his heart and his commitment to do his best.

As I watched, I checked the boxes on the renegade assessment and discovered he has a winning score. Now review the other candidates. It just might be possible to have a renegade leader in the white house.