Video: Steven B. Wiley interviews Lincoln about the importance of Executive Presence


Gettysburg PA, March 16, 2009 — Why is having an executive presence so important? Today Steven B. Wiley, president of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg, released a YouTube video about why, and how, to achieve the highest standard of leadership. In this video by Inkandescent Public Relations videographer Zach Starr of Starr Media, Wiley interviews Lincoln about what it takes to be as effective as the 16th president.

View the video on YouTube and read the entire transcript below.

Steven B. Wiley: We have it on good authority that when adults learn emotionally and intellectually, the lessons stay with them forever. We could talk about Abraham Lincoln and his thoughts on leadership, and we could tell you about his ability to engage those around him through executive presence. But we think it best to have this information come directly from Abe Lincoln himself (actually, he’s Jim Getty, the Lincoln Leadership Institute’s Lincoln expert). Following is our interview with the 16th President of the United States.

At the Lincoln Leadership Institute, one of our programs is communicating with executive presence, and you are our model. We talk and try to help executives from across the country and around the world engage those around them in such a way that they’ll never, ever be forgotten. We came up with five tenets of executive presence, and you exemplify all of them. I’d like to chat with you about your examples of these five tenets of executive presence. We feel it’s very important to be brief. No one wants to hear us go on and on and on.

Jim Getty as Abe Lincoln: As a lawyer, I can tell you that conciseness is an important matter. I tried to bring all the points together that the jury could grasp, and knew not to drag it out. Get it over with. Be concise. I didn’t always have that, but I grew into it.

Wiley: So we should understand that it’s not about us, it’s about our audience. Ultimately, we should know the audience.

Lincoln: Yes. I knew that part of the people I would be speaking to would have to be persuaded. I would know that somewhere in my camp, whether it was a cabinet meeting or a political meeting, or just working with the jury back in the courtroom. But what you didn’t know was what the intelligence level of that jury that had been chosen, and not to talk over their heads. Don’t use a four-syllable word when a two-syllable word will do.
Wiley: We feel strongly that story telling is more effective than just regurgitating information. The use of humor is also very appropriate.

Lincoln: Well, I used to tell stories just to kind of, out on the frontier, whistle down sadness. There were many sad times on the farm — family tragedies, many things that would bring about sorrow to the whole community. I figured that perhaps a little rejuvenating with a story would be good medicine for people. I could tell stories to people – some of them were made up on the spot. People that would come to me at the White House, and they would want a favor for a person; if not themselves, a relative. And I couldn’t give all those favors. In saying no, I would try to leave them with a little story so when they walked down the hall from me, they’re shaking their heads and they are also kind of smiling because they’ve heard something humorous. This approach can have healing qualities.
Wiley: Another important tactic is to be authentic.

Lincoln: Most definitely. If people think that you don’t stand like a rock instead of swimming with the current, a difference can be made. The current might take you in different directions, so you have to stand like a rock.

View the video now on