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Evidence-Based Comparison of the Two Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump

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Political leadership has been studied since antiquity of human existence; prevalent through the distinct characteristics of certain leaders their actions, and rise to power and how they conduct their leadership. The question of leadership remains important due to the connection between those in power and the society in which they govern. This essay will critically evaluate the leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump, in a comparative standpoint. The central premise of this essay is to examine their traits as political leaders and to indicate the progression of leadership styles of the presidents of the United States (U.S.).

In terms of leadership styles Abraham Lincoln exhibited traits correlated with a transformational leader; he was considered as a master of paradox. This is a highly devoted trait of leaders, as asserted by Galli paradoxes are crucial elements leaders must use, as they ‘set conventional management wisdom on its ears’ (Galli 2017). These paradoxes enable leaders to strive and achieve their goals; Lincoln administered these paradoxes in a proactive manner, rather than a reactive manner enabling an optimal outcome. Lincoln’s ability to recognise these paradoxes distinctively states his strong and decisive hand (Turner 1995). He was also highly pragmatic in his desire to preserve the union.

Evidently, Lincoln manifested three vital elements as a transformational leader; acquiring trust, loyalty and respect of followers, ability to inspire and make sacrifices, distinct appeal to followers ethical values – aimed to inspire them to pursue a ‘higher morality’. The first element was administered due to his common man attitude asserted by William Seward ‘There never was a man so accessible to [both] proper and improper persons’ (Turner 2002). His level of courtesy and level of respect of his followers – with no regard to social and economic hierarchy showed his noble attitude. Soldiers referred to him as “Father Abraham” “Honest Abe” and other respective nicknames. His commitment to the first element is portrayed through his 2,000 interviews with soldiers across the nation (Turner 2002). Through this, he was able to personify and exert his influence in a direct manner and portray his understanding and respect for their dedication. The war horrified him and for long periods it did not result in positive gains for the Union, he needed to remain steadfast in his approach. The second element is exemplified in the 166th Ohio Regiment, his continual speeches interested the soldiers – conveying his ability to inspire and praise their sacrifices. For instance, Lincoln states – ‘We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection’ (Perry 1911). The third element was addressed through the second element alongside his ability to be a transactional leader – an intriguing method involving ‘give’ and ‘take’ methods (Turner 2002). Overall, his collectively of elements 1 and 2 resulted in the success of his third element.

Donald Trump exhibits key notions of a highly-dominant leader in his leadership styles; with strategic altitudes. A case study in India signified Trump’s tactician attitude – he instils this throughout his leadership; through deliberatively stating what he needs to survive in the dynamic political environment, even if utility of coercion is required (Kelkar 2019). In an leadership attributes study collected by personologist Theodore Millon from 150 media reports coherently analysed temperamental features that drive Trump’s political leadership behaviour and observed three core features (Immelmann 2017) . Firstly, an outgoing histrionic pattern was found implying Trump is susceptible to poor impulse control which that can lead to impulsive/pervasive tendencies; visible on his social media platforms. Secondly, an ambitious and narcissist pattern was identified as he perpetuates elements of optimism and perversely responds to criticism. Lastly, Trump exhibits dominant and aggressive patterns; signifying his erratic temper and lack empathy despite his dominant character; unlike other presidents he does not actively try to hide this pattern.

In recognition of presidential temperament, Trump aligns most similar to James Barber’s active-positive presidential character scale, his presidential character is most compatible with leaders such as Bill Clinton. Clinton upheld values of self-confidence, optimism when pursuing and achieving their political objectives. Through Trump’s dominant assertiveness and confidence, he exhibits traits of a task-orientated leader due to power motivation. Evident in his inter-relations amongst the congress, members of the cabinet and senior government officials. His behaviour exhibits notions of demanding and competitive in regards to achieving political agendas. Imperatively, Trump exhibits traits of a transactional leader displayed through his mindset of issues being prisms and deals of transactions. For example, U.S commitments to him must adhere to cost-benefit analysis and pursue national interest. Trump states ‘NATO is obsolete and needs to be readjusted – America should no longer be the police of the world’. This implies the U.S. alliance with NATO is not profitable and is not pursuing their national interest and if they should continue their relations with NATO, imperative improvements are essential; displaying his transactional leadership trait (Dodo 2016).

Abraham Lincoln exhibited strong contemporaneous circumstances relevant to the ideals of nationalism. He was regarded as the supreme nationalist in US history and his ideological traits were correlated to earlier thoughts of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster; alongside Francis Lieber and John W. Burgess (Rawley 1963). Lincoln was naturally a nationalist and committed to preserving the union. He was strong minded with a strong political agenda for slavery; eloquently signifying his rise to power. Lincoln portrayed the Constitution as a critical tool to derive opinions for his objectives of economic growth, internal growth and anti-slavery constructs. He held the belief that freeing slaves was crucial in order to save the union and in 1862 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation; to free slaves in Southern states – as a triumph of nationalism over racism and the constitution (Neely 2011).

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Lincoln’s centric belief in the U.S. and admiration of universal principles it embodied remained a pertinent analogy for his rise to power. Alongside, his prominent role in state politics which generated his reputation as a respectful man. Lincoln’s appraisal for the law and the constitution remained stagnant through his presidency, a trait which his followers strongly admired. The emancipation debates were appraised by the nation as they strengthened the exceptionalism ideology with coherence to traits of liberty and equality for the nation. Furthermore, his transformational leader characteristics upheld superiority above congress and courts and he transformed the presidential role as a commander in chief to a chief executive amongst all. His desire to strive and achieve his goals despite other entities approval was recognisable when he expanded the army, spent approximately $2 million without regard to congress, blocked southern ports and closed post offices as of offensive correspondents (Burlingame 2019). His ability to mobilise the parts of the U.S. and preserve nationalist identity, was correlated to his rise to power. His key accomplishments include; preserving the union, the exoneration of democracy through strategic power play and abolishment of slavery and these are recognised as the most phenomenal achievements of a president facing multitudes of issues. His coherency and personality can be critically analysed in a conflict and empathy cycle; elevating his rise of power; this cycle is highly efficient when administered.

In assessing Lincoln we can see he utilised this balancing loop through his avert focus. For instance, when conflict increased, empathy for other parties began to increase, when conflict decreased, focus would be diverted to a different agenda. Lincoln’s ability to adhere to a conflict/empathy cycle was advantageous – his sensitiveness and understanding of others gave him pure insight. His persona was not exploited, he was resilient enough to de-escalate conflicts (exception of the Civil War) and generate valuable relationships. For example, his former rival running for presidency in 1860 Salmon P. Chase continuously campaigned himself despite being part of Lincoln’s cabinet. Eventually, Chase resigned but Lincoln did not allow his reassignment. Instead, Lincoln promoted him as chief justice of the Supreme Court. He received harsh criticism for promoting Chase, as Chase was not seen as desirable for the role by his colleagues. Lincoln responded to this criticism by stating ‘Chase is, on the whole a pretty good fellow – only trouble is that he has ‘The White House fever’ a little too bad, I hope this may cure him’ (Pruyn 2005); an unusual series of actions in the political arena.

Trumps’ rise to power was highly unexpected against almost all odds. His political style and prose during election captured attention in an adverse manner, as his speeches, press released and overall campaign was significantly incorrect, his level of misleading was much complex than other politicians. Instrumentally, there was an underlying level of insults against Mexicans, Muslims, Women, African Americans, Immigrants, and respective Military generals (Campbell 2018). Trump supports anyone who supports him and attacks anyone he sees fit; This makes him hard to work out understand as a leader. Trump’s highest regard of appeal that led to his rise to power were his campaigns upon immigration including mass deportations, banning Muslim immigration, and borders for Mexico. His campaign was successful due to economic anxiety in the U.S as of unemployment and stagnant wages. This financial crisis was prevalent to voters, and led to Trump’s rise to power as voters were afraid of cultural displacement; most prominently amongst white working-class individuals in the U.S. (Newburger 2018).

In terms of comparison of these two leaders, it is a centuries apart debate due to the differences in time, political trends and awareness of voters. Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump have been recognised as the two presidents to declare war on half of the country and both were Republicans (Boritt 1994). Trump has been facing tremendous challenges as of the changing political, economic and social dynamics between the nineteenth and the twenty-first centuries. As examined previously they also have distinctively different leadership attributes; as Lincoln as been recognised as a transformational leader and Trump as a dominant leader. For instance during the Civil War (1861) Lincoln addressed the internal crisis with his efficient use of leadership. Whereas, Trump through examination has close correlation with the growing rates of racism in the U.S. due to his comments regarding the manner (Woods 2012). Another vital distinction between them is that Lincoln was a product of poverty and poverty gave him meaning towards life (Lincoln 1999). Whereas Trump can be perceived as a product of wealth and privilege. In cultural aspects, Lincoln entered politics during times of racial discrimination and was inclined with the idea to colonise American Blacks in Liberia and West Africa, as this was supportive of the white mass vote in the U.S. Similarly, Trump is enforcing laws upon pushing the Mexican and Spanish individuals out of the nation.

Amongst all individuals who have changed the political agenda and dynamics of the U.S. Lincoln can be perceived as the most influential individual. This can be supported by anchoring of his leadership styles even enacted by Barack Obama as he stated that apart from the bible the other book he would take with him to the white house would be the Team of Rivals book about Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War (Coutu 2009). In today’s society Trump can extend his leadership qualities through understanding the role of language in different forms i.e. religion and the detrimental factors that build relationships between leaders and followers (Scott 2014). Through cultivation of Lincoln’s leadership traits, Trump would be able to execute stronger relationships with countries that are affiliated with the U.S. (Holzer 2015). For instance, Trump has economic disagreements with the Republic of China; this dispute needs to be resolved in order to sustain world order (Santiso 2007). The immense challenges Trump is facing at internal and external levels would greatly benefit from Lincoln’s transformational leader attributes.

From the critical analysis of these two leaders, the core leadership lessons that can be learnt include; the elements of a transformational leader Lincoln exhibited and utility of conflict and empathy cycle. Transformational leader traits that Lincoln exerted fundamentally acquired him to gain the trust, loyalty and respect of his followers. These lessons are crucial to implement at a personal bias, and provided me with a strong understanding that the notion of leadership is to not only lead a nation and achieve objectives. But to also be an influential leader and leave a legacy behind. The conflict and empathy cycle is another altitude of leadership which has enhanced my knowledge; as it indicates that understanding of others in crucial in effective leadership; without empathising with others, effective leadership cannot be achieved. As low levels of empathy is linked to not being a multi-minded thinker and low levels of observant behaviour; both inefficient traits of a leader.

Through evidence-based comparison of the two leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump examined in this essay, their distinct elements of leadership and multitudes surrounding these elements have been demonstrated. The behaviours and actions of Lincoln resided with the ideals of a transformational leader; whereas Trump’s actions portrayed dominant altitudes. Both of these leaders have different contemptuous circumstances; with Lincoln having struggles during war time and Trump’s ideological beliefs which impose racial comments. Overall, through analysis of the over-arching behaviour of these two leaders, their key political differences have been identified.

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Evidence-Based Comparison of the Two Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/evidence-based-comparison-of-the-two-leaders-abraham-lincoln-and-donald-trump/
“Evidence-Based Comparison of the Two Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/evidence-based-comparison-of-the-two-leaders-abraham-lincoln-and-donald-trump/
Evidence-Based Comparison of the Two Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/evidence-based-comparison-of-the-two-leaders-abraham-lincoln-and-donald-trump/> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
Evidence-Based Comparison of the Two Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/evidence-based-comparison-of-the-two-leaders-abraham-lincoln-and-donald-trump/
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