The first keynote speaker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, spoke about leadership through examining the leadership qualities of Abraham Lincoln (whom she biographied in her 2005 work, Team of Rivals, the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
She described leadership qualities, as exemplified by Lincoln, as including the following:
- Capacity to listen to different points of view. People felt free to disagree without fearing consequences, but once a decision is made, the discussion is over.
- Ability to learn on the job through and from one's mistakes.
- A willingness to share credit for success.
- A willingness to shoulder blame for one's subordinates.
- Awareness of one's weaknesses so one can compensate.
- Ability to control emotions when angry or anxious.
- Strength to adhere to fundamental goals. Not reacting to short-term problems in ways that would undermine long-term goals.
- Knowing how to relax and replenish energies to reduce anxieties.
- "Managing by walking". Actually seeing what is going on on the ground with front-line workers. Apparently Lincoln would walk out amongst the soldiers on occasion to see what was going on.
I think these altogether, while challenging to achieve, are worth striving for.