A business professional talks about Honest Abe’s influence on business

This article was originally posted Oct. 3, 2011 by the Huntsman School Blog.

I had the opportunity to see Jerry Bussell’s presentation on leadership skills at the Partners In Business Operational Excellence Conference that the Huntsman School put on.

His whole lecture was based on Abraham Lincoln and his influence on Toyota. I never knew this, but apparently Lincoln is very popular in Japan, and it’s because of his leadership skills and integrity. After Mr. Bussell’s presentation, he came and talked with a couple of students.

Mr. Bussell told us that while scholars and politicians have gone back and forth praising and criticizing Lincoln, nobody has ever been able to attack Lincoln’s honesty and integrity. He said that only about a third of employees trust their employers. And unfortunately most employers don’t merit it; Bussell also said that three-quarters of employers have done or saw a colleague do something unethical. I think it’s ironic that I just saw a great example of integrity.

Mr. Bussell said the key to good, ethical business is mentoring everyone in the company, not just mandating from the top down, and he uses Lincoln as his guide. Just like Socrates taught Plato, Mr. Bussell said he never gives any answers, he just asks more questions. It makes everyone else earn the answer, because they have to think it through for themselves. Mr. Bussell doesn’t have 200 employees who work for him; he works for his 200 employees. By putting the organization before himself and by remembering that he serves others, Mr. Bussell said that he strives to maintain ethical leadership. Just like Lincoln.

Now all he needs is to grow Lincoln’s chin curtain.

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