“With malice toward none; with charity to all!” Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

In my coaching and consulting practice I often talk on the importance of being intentional about the legacy you want to leave for the time that you spend on this earth. How will things be different for you having lived? What are people going to be talking about at your funeral?

I had the opportunity to experience this first hand last week when I attended my Uncle Jim Getty’s funeral in Gettysburg, PA. My uncle was a very special man. I am extremely proud to have been his nephew and had the opportunity to learn from him over the years.

My uncle spent the last 40 years of his life as an Abraham Lincoln historian and re-enactor doing shows in Gettysburg and all over the United States. It is his voice you hear when you go to the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC and listen to speeches by Abe Lincoln. I have always held President Lincoln up as a model of servant leadership. Well I think it came natural for my uncle to impersonate Mr. Lincoln for 40 years, as he himself was an incredible servant leader.

Qualities of servant leadership that I observed in my uncle and heard numerous people share about at his funeral were:

  • Approachability – Just like President Lincoln, my uncle always allowed people into his space. Anyone he met became a friend. There were not many places my uncle could go without being recognized as “Abe Lincoln”, but he embraced that opportunity to develop relationships wherever he was. Servant leaders build relationships through their approachability.
  • Incredible storyteller – Like Lincoln, my uncle could share a story about anything. He had a mind like none I have ever seen for stories. Story telling is how leaders can make a desired culture come alive. Sharing stories is a powerful teaching tool for servant leaders.
  • Sense of humor – You would never leave a conversation with my uncle without having a few laughs. He was a die-hard Cubs fan so he had to have a sense of humor. Keeping the mood light as a leader can reduce tension within the team and aid you in getting through some challenging times.
  • Extraordinary listening skills – Like Lincoln my uncle had time for everyone. He not only had an open door policy, but people wanted to talk to him because they knew he would listen. This also aided him in his amazing knowledge of Mr. Lincoln and his ability to portray him in the 1st Person throughout his career. Servant leaders listen well to learn, to build performance, and to build relationships.
  • Teacher / Mentor – Hundreds of people from Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, and many other places came to pay their respects due to the impact that my uncle had on their life. They talked about his generosity and giving attitude in helping them become the people they were. My uncle always thought about the greater good of others over himself. This is a servant leaders legacy!
  • Passion for Personal Development – Even in his latest years my uncle never quit reading and learning about President Lincoln. I wouldn’t be surprised if his personal library had more books about Lincoln than the Library of Congress. When people would visit they would often find him studying in his library or talking to other scholars to continue to advance his knowledge. He performed his last show just a few months ago at the age of 83. Abe Lincoln was an intense reader. Servant leaders have it within their DNA to not rest on status quo, and constantly learn and improve.
  • Loving / Caring / Compassionate – These were behaviors that were constantly displayed by my uncle. You could feel his love and compassion when he spoke. He would give the shirt off his back for anyone in need. My uncle truly lived Abe Lincoln’s quote “With malice toward none; with charity to all!” At the end of the day, that is the true character of a servant leader.

Clearly when people are intentional about adding value to others, they live a life that is significant and impactful.

This was one of the most inspiring funerals I have ever attended. My thoughts leaving that day were: What a phenomenal leadership model Jesus was for us. He showed us what it meant to be a servant leader. Both President Lincoln, and my Uncle Jim Getty followed that model and impacted many people in an extremely positive way. All of these men were intentional with their practices and actions to become a servant leader, to live in this way, and to leave an amazing legacy.  What is my response in my life?

Mark Deterding

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!

His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.

Psalm 112:1-3