Leadership Lessons from Honest Abe: What New Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Abraham Lincoln’s Struggles and Successes

There was once a tall, lanky man from a small Kentucky town who dreamed of a better life for himself and his impoverished family. One day, the young man took a leap of faith and went into business with a friend. Despite having no prior experience running his own business, his natural leadership skills made him a top choice as the businessman’s new assistant. 

Unfortunately, the business failed just one year after its initial launch – and the man found himself jobless in his twenties. In this situation, most people would have felt ashamed or defeated after a business failure. That is not how this story ends, however; this particular man felt motivated after experiencing a failure. Armed with the new knowledge he had gained from this experience, he decided to pursue his dream career. Using his natural talent for public speaking, he entered the world of politics. Despite lacking money, a college degree, or powerful friends, he overcame every obstacle he encountered, and eventually, was elected President of the United States.

That man was Abraham Lincoln.

What does this true story about America’s 16th President have to do with you? As a new or up-and-coming business owner, there are lots of important lessons that you can learn from Honest Abe’s mindset and perseverance. 

Today’s business owners have very different needs and face their own unique challenges in a world of modern technology, a global economy, and a swiftly-changing internet landscape. Sure, Honest Abe never had to deal with things like figuring out how to run a business from home, deciding if he should hire employees versus contractors, or finding the right work-life balance. That being said, he still had his own share of headaches that he had to overcome – and many of them provide excellent learning opportunities for today’s entrepreneurs. By looking at Abraham Lincoln’s career journey as an example, there is much you can learn about overcoming obstacles throughout your career, including how to work your way through a potential business failure.

Abe Lincoln was a master at maintaining a strong customer focus while managing a new business. We’ve all heard of Abraham Lincoln’s nickname, “Honest Abe.” But have you heard the story of why he was considered to be so honest? The “Honest Abe” nickname originated during young Lincoln’s days of helping run a business with his partner. Customer satisfaction and honesty were top priorities of the new business. One day, Lincoln accidentally overcharged a customer and, as a result, he traveled many miles to return the customer’s money to her. His honesty and his desire to do the right thing led people to nickname him “Honest Abe” – and the rest is history.

Like many of today’s entrepreneurs, Lincoln had to figure out ways to make ends meet while managing a business. Although all businesses face struggles at times, it is possible to find ways to keep the lights on and pay your bills on time. Lincoln faced hard times (as we all do), but even when his business went under, he didn’t view those difficult times as failures; instead, he learned from them and found creative ways to further his career path. Just think: if Lincoln’s first experience managing his own business had ended differently, he might not ever have been elected president or become such an important historical figure!

Although he was faced with many obstacles during his years as a businessman and then as a politician, Abraham Lincoln never gave up. More than just an historic president, Lincoln is an example to all business owners for how to bounce back from potential failures and pitfalls, using difficult situations as motivation to move on to even bigger and better successes.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay by RachelBostwick