The Joseph Group

3 Timeless Lessons from Honest Abe

February 17, 2017

Presidents’ Day has long been a time to reflect on the many achievements of the United States’ greatest leaders, thinkers and architects of democracy. Originally celebrated on February 22nd to coincide with the birthday of the country’s first head of state, George Washington, Presidents Day was later shifted to the third Monday in February as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington and Abraham Lincoln, many now view this day as one to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

Our country’s leaders have all taught us valuable lessons. We share with you today three simple considerations from ‘Honest Abe’ reminding us honesty seeds trust in our homes, workplaces, worship spaces, and communities, and most importantly, is the keystone of our credibility as leaders.

Always be Truthful: “Once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.”

Honesty is the key to trust and trust is required to improve your relationship with others. Although it’s not much in fashion these days to talk about the benefits of honesty and decency, the benefits are there nonetheless and warrant discussion. Honesty, as we’ve seen in the example of leaders like Abraham Lincoln, is characterized by truth and sincerity. It’s consistently demonstrating in word and deed you are someone who values integrity over popularity; who prefers candor to slander; and promotes selflessness rather than selfishness.

Be True to You: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.”

In simplest terms, honesty helps reveal the true nature of your character. After all, if you can’t be trusted in a small matter, how can you be trusted to be honest in bigger things? Hence, being honest means being true first and foremost to yourself. It’s about being real and honest––and accepting––of yourself. If you don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, then people already know what they can expect from you and you can spend more time focused on having a compassionate outlook toward other people instead of worrying about how you come across.

Expect the best by Resolving to Be and Do Your Best: I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

Ambition can either be the fuel that propels you to your goals or persuades you to cut corners. Fight the urge to achieve success at any cost. Set the bar high, but don’t become so enamored with the prize that you risk what matters most—your reputation. Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Insist on expecting the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to legitimately make it a reality.

As these three simple lessons from Honest Abe remind us, honesty seeds trust in our homes, workplaces, worship spaces, and communities, and most importantly, is the keystone of our credibility as leaders. Being trustworthy in word and deed is indeed a powerful way to demonstrate our understanding that character cannot be developed merely in ease and quiet. But rather, only through the occasional experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.