In her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin details Lincoln’s gift for bringing opposites together. She says Lincoln possessed an “array of personal qualities that enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him; to repair injured feelings...to assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates; to share credit with ease; and to learn from mistakes.”
Lincoln’s Civil War cabinet was similar to groups of people everywhere: families, churches, boards, workplaces, juries, neighborhoods. They all contain a variety of people who have the same goal but want to get there in different ways. Of course, in Lincoln’s case, the stakes were higher than most — the fate of the Union hung in the balance — but the group dynamics were like any other. His brilliance lay in his resolve to respect his team, learn from them and honor the mission by using all of their talents.
Can you think of a time when you were determined to do a job in a certain way but had to work with someone who was equally set on doing it differently? I can; it’s happened more times than I can count. How did you find common ground? If you’re like me, there were times you struggled to find any value in others’ points of view.
Paul went through this too, and he addressed it often in his letters. In Philippians, he challenges us to know the goal but to learn how to let our differences become our collective strength.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-5, ESV).
Why “count others more significant?” Because it’s a spiritual connection that breaks down barriers and brings people together. It helps us think outside the box like Jesus did. When we bring the mind of Christ into all that we do, the job becomes easier, the load lighter and we might just learn something in the process.