Blog, Operational efficiency

What do Abraham Lincoln and a QSR franchise owner have in common? We know this sounds like the setup to a joke, but it’s not. They’re both great leaders!

You see, Abraham Lincoln was a talented leader. He was well-known for it, actually, as noted by Pulitzer-prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book Team of Rivals. You may not be leading a country, defeating the Confederacy, or abolishing slavery, but your decisions impact others. So, this President’s Day, don’t just focus on the Lincolns in your cash drawer but take note of Honest Abe’s top 5 leadership qualities. It will help you grow yourself and your business.

1. Know your own weaknesses

“An adult friend of Lincoln’s: ‘Life was to him a school.’”

Knowing your weaknesses helps you combat them and set up systems to prevent them from affecting your QSRs. Lincoln recognized that he gave people too many chances. This knowledge made him set deadlines and if expectations weren’t met by the deadline, he’d be forced to take action.

Maybe your weakness is that you’re not efficient at paperwork. In this case, you should hire someone with a talent for it and focus your energy on areas where you can make a difference. When you know your weaknesses, you can take action to improve on them and specialize on the things you do well to improve your business.

2. Listen to different points of view

“The powerful competitors who had originally disdained Lincoln became colleagues who helped him steer the country through its darkest days”

Lincoln’s cabinet members were allowed to express themselves freely without fear of reproach. This allowed him to learn from a variety of perspectives and make better decisions.

As a QSR owner, you can do the same. Make it clear that no one will be ignored or get in trouble for bringing forward an idea or complaint. Go beyond an open door policy and actively seek out guidance from your lowest-level employees all the way up to management. This improves morale and will help you make better decisions.

3. Communicate your vision and goals

“Lincoln stood where he thought he was right and crushed them with his candid logic.”

Sometimes, the hardest thing to explain to employees is your reason behind a vision or goal. Lincoln did this almost effortlessly in crafting the words of his speeches, rallying citizens and officials behind shared ideals and goals.

While you may not give the Gettysburg Address, you can still inspire employees to action. Make it your goal in every team meeting to show employees the big picture. It’s not just about hitting numbers. It’s about growing your business, exceeding your customer’s expectations and being the very best operators you can be.

4. Take the blame

“Lincoln refused to be provoked by petty grievances, to submit to jealousy, or to brood over perceived slights.”

Lincoln wasn’t afraid to take the blame for his own mistakes and those of others. Why was that? As a leader, he was ultimately responsible for everything his people did. Recognizing how he could have prevented mistakes made him more likable and easier to follow.

When a mistake happens at your QSR, do you focus the blame on one person? When you imitate Lincoln, you’ll be more likable and responsible toward your job.

5. Know when to take a break

“Lincoln, as would be evidenced throughout his presidency, was a master of timing.”

Abe liked to keep the mood light whenever it was appropriate. He even encouraged laughter during cabinet meetings. This gave him a balanced attitude as a leader and made him more relatable.

As a QSR owner, you need to show everyone that breaks and relaxation are OK. Let employees see that you take a balanced approach to work and play. This will keep you refreshed as a leader and will give employees a good example to imitate.


“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

This is beautiful advice from Abe because it applies to everyone in the world. So, as you manage your franchises, be intentional about the type of leader you want to be.

Improving your own leadership style and skills first can have an amazing impact on your company and your team. Everyone will benefit when you make better decisions. So, take a few lessons from Honest Abe and be a good leader.

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