Lincoln is described as an introverted leader. In this great NY Times piece called Abraham Lincoln, Management Guru some of his introverted strengths are highlighted.
I am also lucky enough to have a friend and speaking colleague, Dr. Gene Greissman, who is the author of two books on Lincoln and an uncanny Lincoln impersonator. I asked Gene to share his thoughts on the great man and he shared the concept of Lincoln’s geekiness. Take a look at what he wrote.
Abraham Lincoln Was A Geek
Lincoln seems to be everywhere these days. A Spielberg movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, repeated references to Lincoln in Obama’s speeches, renewed interest in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magisterial “Team of Rivals,” and even a ridiculous movie called “Lincoln the Vampire Hunter.”
Naturally I’m pleased. For almost three decades I’ve told audiences all over the world that Lincoln is the quintessential high achiever, worth studying by anyone interested in career success. One important lesson we can learn from this magnificent historical figure is the importance of possessing deep knowledge. That’s the reason I gave this piece the title “Abraham Lincoln was a Geek.”
Let me explain. The word “geek” means someone who is immersed in a particular subject to an extreme that is beyond normal. We speak of “sports geeks” or “social media geeks” or “political geeks.” The word always indicates deep knowledge.
And that describes Lincoln beautifully. By the time he became President, Lincoln had already acquired deep knowledge of a specialized field of law: patent law and copyright law. In Illinois, Lincoln was regarded as the lawyer to get if you went to court over a patent infringement.
Besides this, Lincoln also had acquired a deep knowledge of voting behavior. If Lincoln were alive today, he would be giving interviews to the media, and a TV guest on election nights. He had a firm grasp of voting patterns, turnout, and trends.
Here is how Lincoln comported himself the night of the 1860 presidential election. He, along with several companions, spent the evening in the second-floor office of the Illinois & Western Telegraph Company. One of the people in the room–a journalist by the name of Thurlow Weed–described the returns that were coming in as “Greek to me…but Mr. Lincoln seemed to understand their bearing on the general result in the State and commented upon every return by way of comparison with previous elections. He understood at a glance whether it was a loss or gain to his party.”
And here is the way one authoritative biography–Nicolay and Hay–describes Lincoln’s geek-like ability: “He was completely at home among election figures. All his political life he had scanned tables of returns with as much care and accuracy as he analyzed and scrutinized maxims of government and platforms of parties. Now, as formerly, he was familiar with all the turning points in contested counties and ‘close’ districts, and knew by heart the value of each and every local loss or gain, and its relation to the grand result.” Obviously, not just a small-town lawyer at work here.
There’s a fundamental truth for all of us in this account. It’s an achievement factor: If you intend to become a high achiever in any field, you need to possess deep knowledge of at least one thing.Bear in mind that deep knowledge and communication skill need not be mutually exclusive. You really don’t have to choose one or the other. Put another way, it’s important to be able to tell what you know, but it is equally important to know what you tell.
You can find more articles about Lincoln and Lincoln quotes at Gene Griessman’s websites: www.presidentlincoln.com and www.whatyousay.com. Check out his live presentations: “Lincoln Live” and “The Language of Leadership.” For information about a presentation for your organization, call 404-435-2225