A Persuasive Leader:
Abraham Lincoln's honesty and trustworthiness undergirded his effectiveness as a leader -- even his enemies conceded he was an honest man. A key to his persuasiveness was logic. He constantly sought occasions to make his case in writing, weighing his words carefully in order to define the terms of the debate. Lincoln persuaded by his generosity, his refusal to take offense, his insistence on bipartisan military and judicial appointments, his focus on the common cause, and his quick comprehension of his opponents' arguments and points of view.
Lincoln's generous consideration and understanding of others, grounded in his own upbringing and rise in life, led him to defend the right to self-improvement for all, including those who were enslaved. And, finally, though he was not formally religious, a sense of the divine will upheld him as he strove to preserve the Union.
Whether going to the front to consult with his generals or dropping in the War Department to read the latest telegrams from the front, Lincoln wanted to see for himself. When the Confederate general Jubal Early attacked the capital in 1864, Fort Stevens was unprepared. Government clerks and wounded soldiers were called to help until reinforcements arrived. Lincoln twice rode out to the fort, becoming the only president to put himself under fire during wartime.
"[The President] is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the union, all at once. I never knew with what Tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important things he decides & there is no cavil, I am growing more and more firmly convinced that the good of the country absolutely demands that he should be kept where he is till this thing is over." -- John Hay to John Nicolay, August 7, 1863. ...
Some observers perceived Lincoln as unrefined upon his arrival in Washington. In political cartoons, he was often depicted as a hayseed, even when the cartoons were "on his side." Nevertheless, he became known for his wit and used storytelling to his own advantage to make political points.
"It has been said that Lincoln is only a straw man, a puppet whose strings are pulled by Seward. On the contrary, it appears that, under his rough exterior and naive good humor, Mr. Lincoln is a true statesman, more supple and more adept at political intrigue than many a veteran of behind-the-scenes political warfare. He has been able, without ever departing from his own principles, to keep his balance between the two hostile factions of the Republican party."
-- Ernest Duvergler de Hauranne, December 24, 1864