Rising above the Fray: Abraham Lincoln’s Wartime Presidential Leadership

  • September 01, 2014
  • Lieutenant Colonel Amanda S. Myers

The unique convergence of personal qualities and leadership style made President Abraham Lincoln exactly the right man to lead the Nation through civil war and preserve the Union. Lincoln’s strategic leadership is assessed using the frameworks of presidential historians Fred Greenstein and Richard Neustadt. Greenstein identifies the attributes of public communication, organization, political skill, vision, cognitive ability and emotional intelligence as qualities that distinguish presidential performance. Studying Lincoln through these attributes highlights his uniqueness and extraordinary skill as a wartime president. More than any other one attribute, his emotional intelligence, characterized by his charity, empathy and magnanimity, separate him from his contemporaries and from other presidents. Neustadt uses a four-question framework to assess a president and the power he brings to the office in terms of personal influence and political leadership. Lincoln’s purpose, his use of his presidential power, how he handled the pressure of the office, and his legacy are all analyzed to assess the presidency of the sixteenth president. The same president who author Eliot Cohen has called, “the greatest of American war presidents.”