Jones: Leading Like Lincoln

Oct. 5, 2023
Regarded as one of the greatest presidents in American History, Abraham Lincoln mastered many forms of communication.

Two hundred seventy-one words.  

That’s the length of the Gettysburg Address in its entirety. Known as one of the best orators of all time, President Abraham Lincoln mastered clear, impactful communication in fewer words than a Star Wars opening crawl. 

But that was Lincoln. He understood the impact of words and how they could convey a vision and inspire action. As commander-in-chief of the Federal Army, Lincoln was known for visiting the battlefield and being amongst the tents talking to the soldiers. He would have late-night debriefings in the White House with his secretaries on the war and other matters. His correspondences to his generals were clear and their directives unmistakable. He hired and fired generals until he found a fighter in Ulysses S. Grant (a little encouragement for those trying to install the right manager). He led from the front, gave clear communication and expected the same in return. One of his most scathing criticisms of an uncommunicative leader came when relieving General John C. Fremont from command on September 9, 1861, when he said, “His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself and allows nobody to see him; and by which, he does not know what’s going on in the very matter he is dealing with.” 

In “Talking Points: Becoming a Clear Communicator,” we dive into the nuances of what a great communicator looks like on the shop level. You’ll hear from Dana Nkana, Ph.D., the chief education officer at Scott’s Automotive in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Dan Taylor, a coach with Transformers Institute. They discuss how to improve your verbal communication skills, prevent miscommunication and how nonverbal cues speak louder than words. 

Our Case Study, “Changing Places” shares the journey of Christie Briggs Black, a longtime service advisor who became a foreman. She shares the challenges of switching roles in the shop, picking up new skills and how leaning on her existing skillset—customer service—helped her win over her technicians. Another example of how good communication can change situations. 

Speaking is an important skill. The more you do it, the better you become. Become a great communicator, but most importantly, become a great listener first. As the late Stephen Covey once said: “Empathic listening takes time, but it doesn't take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings when you're already miles down the road; to redo; to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems; to deal with the results of not giving people psychological air.” 

About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

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