Have you ever doubted the leaders around you? Have you ever looked at your boss and thought, “you don’t get it, how can you not see what I see?” If you are like most people, you often wonder why your leader is so slow to do things that seem so obvious to you.
Great leaders understand that we doubt them. They understand that we get frustrated with them, and they understand that we just to have to get over it. They understand these things because they know we don’t have the vision or information they have. This is the lesson I’ve learned from reading about the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The book is Team of Rivals, and I highly recommend it.
Hard Decisions Need Perspective and Patience
I’ll give you this. Sometimes our leaders don’t know what to do next. Sometimes they are perplexed, confused, and even lost. This isn’t a sign that they are bad leaders. In fact, it may be a sign that they are great leaders.
The last thing you want a leader to do is to make a rash and uninformed decision. Great leaders make decisions when they have enough information and not before. They don’t wait for all the information, but they know how much they need before they can move forward. This patient deliberation is for your benefit and that of the organization.
Decision making is not always delayed by confusion. Sometimes leaders delay decisions because of perspective. They see and know things we don’t. Their expanded perspective helps them understand that, while the decision is the right one, the timing is bad. This was often the case for Lincoln.
Delayed Decisions Are Painful but Necessary
Cabinet members and political rivals maligned Lincoln at many points in his term. One story resonates with our topic.
General George B. McClellan was a terrible leader. Because he was more concerned about his popularity and image, he refused to advance against the enemy. He had superior numbers and resources, but he feared defeat. He was afraid that hard fought battles would cost him popularity with his army and the country. He was afraid the enemy vastly outnumbered him. As a result of his fear and pride, he squandered many opportunities to advance the Union cause.
Lincoln and his cabinet came to recognize McClellan’s shortcomings. But Lincoln delayed a change. His cabinet met in secret to plot a way to force Lincoln’s hand but failed. They grew frustrated and angry, but Lincoln persisted.
Lincoln understood what his cabinet did not. At that point in the conflict, the nation’s morale was low. A change of top command in the army would drive that morale even lower. The threat was clear to Lincoln. He needed the country’s continued support.
Moving to replace McClellan at that time would risk that support, so he delayed. When the time finally arrived for the change, the nation was ready. Lincoln made the change and retained the support of the people.
It was difficult for Lincoln to delay that decision. It was even more difficult for his cabinet to watch him delay it. They could not see what he saw. But soon many of his cabinet members came to recognize his keen insight. When the time came to trust his delayed response, they supported him fully.
Get Over Yourself – Trust Your Leader
One reason we find it hard to trust our leaders is because we think too highly of ourselves. We believe our insights are deeper and clearer. Often they are not. When tempted to doubt your leader and become angry at their decisions or lack of decision, get over yourself. Take a few minutes to entertain the idea that the person you follow may see things clearer than you.
Are you interested in learning more about the brilliance of Lincoln’s leadership? Then get yourself a copy of Team of Rivals today. You will enjoy learning from such a brilliant man.
[note style=”info” show_icon=”true”]Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”[/note]