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Lincoln and discovering commonality


I recently gave a Tedx talk on our country’s need for a new narrative (link here) and the three underlying qualities we see in successful cities we work with are civility, humility, and commonality.

When I think of commonality, I continue to go back to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals, a biography of Abraham Lincoln. This biography focuses on the unique structure of Lincoln’s cabinet and how almost all of them at one point or another opposed him in a political election.

Yet, Lincoln knew the inherit power and intellect of each of his rivals, and instead of kicking them to the curb, he did just the opposite and made them his team to lead our nation through the Civil War.

It wasn’t always easy. There were power grabs and jostling within the ranks, but Lincoln always had a knack for keeping one eye on what was happening amongst his core team while always navigating what was happening nationally.

Goodwin writes, “[Lincoln’s] success in dealing with the strong egos of the men in his cabinet suggests that in the hands of a truly great politician the qualities we generally associate with decency and morality—kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty, and empathy—can also be impressive political resources.”

It is easy to identify differences in each other, it takes time and effort to discover commonality.

And the reality is, we will never be able to collaborate with others if we are never able to see past what we disagree on.

On the other hand, if we can find commonality and focus on what we do agree on, we can plant the seed of relationship that over time can grow, mature and produce fruit that actually accomplishes something useful and beneficial in the places we live.