Why George Washington's Leadership Still Matters


I don't relate to Presidents very well. I can't connect with Generals or Founding Fathers either.

I love and admire their sacrifices and all they accomplished, but their stories seem big, audacious, and out of reach.  The best any of us can do is show gratitude for their efforts, right?

Not so quick.

If you now, or ever, hope to lead others,  it behooves you (and me!) to pay attention to Washington's story; it's surprisingly relevant today. (Check out Ron Chernow's book, Washington: A Life for great insights and stories!)

For instance, Washington was a hot-head with a HUGE temper, but he controlled his outbursts and emotions so well he was often thought to be stoic.  He endorsed the idea of "cultivating peace and harmony toward all" because he was practicing self-control daily.

At the same time, Washington wasn't concerned about being loved.  He knew tough decisions would sometimes make him unpopular.  This didn't bother him because he focused more on gaining respect than on winning friends. In short, his goal was to make wise decisions and let the consequence play out as they would.

For example, during the Revolutionary War Washington wrote,

"It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God."

But among Washington's many attributes, his tenaciousness to his priorities stands out.  Not only was his vision clear in a political sense, but also was unwavering in moral issues.  Washington demonstrated one of the most humbling of all character traits -  he willingly gave up power and wished for a legacy which would be, above all, marked by honesty.  During his farewell address he said,

"I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain, what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an 'Honest Man.'"

Self-control. Wisdom. Humility.

These are lofty, achievable, and relevant goals for any leader, don't you think?

Happy Presidents' Day to you.  Happy (early) Birthday, GeneralMr. President Honest Man Washington.