Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


The Habitudes Practiced by Abraham Lincoln


photo credit: Scott Ableman via photopin cc

I’m not sure if you had the chance to go see the movie, “Lincoln” at the cinema over this past week, but I saw it multiple times. I love history and I especially love Abraham Lincoln. Steven Spielberg did an outstanding job portraying the human side of this great leader and president, played by Daniel Day Lewis. This won’t shock you, but Lincoln was a beautiful model of several Habitudes. In case you’re unaware, Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes.

After viewing the film from both an entertainment and an educational vantage point, I noticed these Habitudes that Honest Abe practiced in his leadership:

1. Abe Lincoln was a Velvet-covered Brick.

In him, people saw a soft-side, who empathized with the south and the north, yet a principled leader who knew when he had to take a stand and be firm. He stood for what he believed, yet appealed to the conscience of people to persuade them.

2. Abe Lincoln practiced the Opportunity Statue.

Lincoln knew the 13th Amendment had to be passed urgently. If the war ended first, and the union was restored, congress may not have passed the amendment to free slaves for decades. He seized the opportunity and pushed the issue. Lincoln knew timing was crucial to make the move and free four million slaves.

3. Abe Lincoln was a Lightning Rod.

He actually hired adversaries on his cabinet, believing they were the best men for the job. Consequently, he drew criticism from all sides. Lincoln was brilliant at graciously receiving attacks, acknowledging their merit and compromising. Like a lightning rod, Lincoln attracted the hit and grounded it.

4. Abe Lincoln was a River not a Flood.

Lincoln knew he couldn’t get everything done during his presidency. He quickly narrowed his focus—like a river instead of a flood—and went after the two most important issues—restoration of the union and freedom for slaves. He recognized what was most important and stuck to it.

5. Abe Lincoln practiced the Thomas Nast Principle.

The film beautifully portrayed Lincoln influencing people not through powerful persuasive speeches—although he could make them—but through the power of stories and pictures. Just like the Habitude that reminds us of how images move people, our 16th president utilized images to disarm rivals and cast vision.

6. Abe Lincoln knew how to accumulate and use Pocket Change.

Over the years, Lincoln was fabulous at winning people over by making them laugh at themselves, then laugh at him. General Sherman, who originally said Lincoln wasn’t fit for the presidency, later called him the greatest man he’d ever met. By making wise decisions, Abe filled his pockets with credibility he would need later.

Are there other Habitudes you noticed in the movie?


  1. Joseph Lalonde on November 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I haven’t seen the movie but it sounds interesting after reading your post. May have to check it out with the wife.

    • Tim Elmore on November 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      I would definitely recommend!

  2. Joel Gannon on November 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

    As John Maxwell says, the price of leadership is criticism. Lincoln, at almost every point had criticism from all sides and yet, in the midst of it, he was able to come away with stunning leadership. He even invited it, as portrayed in Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin. Not to mention all of the personal tragedy throughout his life. The movie really showed how steady he was in spite of the storms and how to use the Law of Timing. Good post, Tim.

    • Tim Elmore on November 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Great points, Joel. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Scott Ableman on November 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Glad you liked the photo.

    • Tim Elmore on November 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks for making it available, Scott. That’s a great shot of Lincoln!

Leave a Comment

The Habitudes Practiced by Abraham Lincoln