Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Educause Day 2

(I attended a preconference session yesterday that was so bad, I'm not going to spend the time to summarize it. I did get some very useful materials that will help ETS in its planning. The materials, however, had nothing to do with the topic that had been advertised. --ok, maybe with some extreme stretching....)

The opening session featured Doris Kearns Goodwin. The first time I heard her speak was on Ken Burns' Baseball documentary on PBS. I'd heard of her because of her writings, most notably her biography of Lincoln Johnson. Her speech here at Educause was about leadership qualities. Her most current work is on the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Her speech outlined some of the qualities of Abraham Lincoln that made him one of the best U.S. Presidents and how his leadership held the U.S. together during the Civil War.

  • A capacity to listen to different points of view. Lincoln encouraged dissenting opinions, and his cabinet knew that there would not be retribution for them being outspoken. He wanted to hear dissenting opinions, yet also realized that consensus could be paralyzing.
  • An ability to learn on the job. Lincoln admitted when he made mistakes. He felt that failures don't hurt us, it's the inability to learn from those failures that are most hurtful.
  • A willingness to share credit. Lincoln felt you can accomplish anything if you don't worry about who gets the credit.
"The path to success is wide enough for more than one person to walk it abreast."

  • A willingness to accept blame for subordinates.
Early on in the Civil War, one of Lincoln's cabinet was called to the Capitol to testify about why the troops were getting such shoddy supplies. Congress was blaming the problems on the Cabinet member. Lincoln took the blame for the failure, stating that he had made decisions in the early days of the war, when everything that was so chaotic, that had led to the shoddy supplies.
  • An understanding of one's own weaknesses. Lincoln had a temper, but felt that anger would not be helpful in getting through the Civil War. When he was angry, he would write a letter to a member of his Cabinet, but never give it to him. He was able to redirect his anger into the letter, and then use it as a way to talk to his Cabinet without his temper.
"Letting resentment fester is poison."

  • A strength to adhere to his goals. At the end of his first term, the war was not going well for the Union and Lincoln was starting to lose popular support. His party told him that he would not win the election unless he gave up his stance on abolishing slavery in the hopes of pulling the South back into the Union. Lincoln refused, and a few weeks later Atlanta fell, considered to be the turning point of the Civil War.
  • Leaders have to be able to relax and renew. Although Lincoln was in the throes of leading the country through the Civil War, Lincoln still spent hours with his friends and was a frequent visitor to the theatre. He had a great sense of humor and always had stories to tell his Cabinet.
"Upon hearing someone call him two-faced, Lincoln responded, 'If I'm two-faced, I surely would not have picked this one."

  • Refusal to hide from adversity. Even though Lincoln was getting criticized for continuing the Civil War, he still made sure he met with as many people as possible. He frequently visited the troops on the front line.

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