Lincoln on Honesty and Integrity
Integrity is one of the most essential virtues a leader needs to possess for effective management of people and organizing a nation. Simons (2008) defines integrity as adherence to moral values or ethical codes of conduct, which entails moral soundness, uprightness, incorruptibility, honesty, and being in a state of completeness (an unimpaired state of mind). The term ‘integrity’ is used synonymously with ‘moral’ since it is related to the values individuals uphold and believe to be pivotal in their lives. Some of the words used to describe people who possess the virtue of integrity include: strong character, steadfast and resolute, authentic, principled, congruence in behavior and values, committed, and accountable.
As the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln largely exercised the virtues of honesty and integrity. According to history, Lincoln was a man of integrity who always urged Americans to pursue the values of liberty. His love for integrity was so immense that his own merits and upholding of national values were referred to as the “nation’s integrity” (Philips, 1992). An effective leader is one with the ability to motivate his followers or subordinates towards achieving common goals. This was evidently seen in Lincoln, who led by example of practicing what he valued most. For instance, Lincoln was considered to be a sharing leader who helped other people to improve themselves, and to progress up the ladder by practicing the virtues of respect, trust and patience.
In the realm of leadership, honesty and integrity have been listed as the most significant merits. An effective leader is the one with foresight and ability to do the right thing at the right time. Lincoln was the man who received admiration from politicians and historians. He consistently demonstrated the attributes of an integral and honest leader by making key decision for the sake of the nation. For example, he publicly fired his secretary of war, Simon Cameron, for engaging in shady dealings that would have cost the nation a significant financial loss. This showed that Lincoln was a leader who could be relied upon in terms of security and ability to safeguard the nation’s interests (Philips, 1992).
Another vital component of Lincoln’s honesty was evidently portrayed in anecdotes, colloquial expressions and stories. For instance, Lincoln equated dishonest men to people who smile to you, and stab you at the same time. Leaders are supposed to be an example, they should not just talk about honesty but ‘walk the talk’ so that other subordinates can follow suit (Simons, 2008). During his time in the office, Lincoln ensured that ‘classism’ was not practiced; thus, all people were protected and treated as equals.
In conclusion, the virtues of integrity and honesty are likely to yield numerous positive results if they are well utilized. History describes Lincoln as a unique leader who practiced honesty and integrity with equal measure. As a result, he earned lots of admiration and trust from his followers and leaders of other nations. It is no wonder that many leaders around the world yearn to emulate his leadership style. Therefore, leaders should strive to emulate Albert Einstein saying “to become men of value, as opposed to becoming men of success” in exercising integrity in their work.
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