George Washington on Leadership

George Washington


George Washington was in the public eye for over thirty years setting a level of excellence in both public and private spheres. He faced difficult situations like becoming the CEO of a corporation but never had a college education, fights a hostile takeover, launching a unique product that had never been tested before, and retiring with a golden parachute before reaching the Peter Principle.

Lesson No. 1: Set High Goals by Having a Vision

George Washington came from a middle-class family but he had a desire for fame and fortune. He explored, surveyed, and settled western lands and displayed his courage in war. When he died in 1799, he was one of the wealthiest and most famous men in America.

Lesson No. 2: Set an Example by Becoming a Role Model

During countless battles, George Washington led the troops instead of issuing orders from the safety of the rear lines.

Lesson No. 3: Choose a Mentor

When George Washington needed a new skill, he got a new mentor. His first mentor was his brother Lawrence. Like him, he became a farmer, a soldier, and a politician. In turn, Washington as general and the president acted as a mentor to others.

Lesson No. 4: Be a Life-Long Learner

George Washington had a well-thumbed library in his youth. He continued to read throughout his life so that he was well informed on the issues of the day.

Lesson No. 5: Doing the Little Things Leads to the Big Things

George Washington did not become George Washington by doing big things. He started out by doing little assignments to the best of his ability. His experience as an officer in the French and Indian War provided the invaluable experience that he needed to become the head of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Lesson No. 6: Be a Great Communicator

During the Constitutional Convention, one of the delegates proposed that the army should be limited in size. Wash-ing ton joked that this would work if the enemy would also agree.

Lesson No. 7: Learn From Failures and Mistakes

Washington was forced to surrender to the French because he choose a poor location for a fort. After that, he always had a plan to retreat and to fight another day.

Lesson No. 8: Have the Courage of Your Convictions by Believing in Yourself

Although Washington suffered countless defeats on the battlefield, he never wavered in his belief America would win its independence.

Lesson No. 9: Know How to Make a Decision

George Washington was a flexible decision-maker as a farmer, as a business executive, as a warrior, and as a President. As an innovative farmer, he introduced alfalfa and mules to America. He as a businessman invested in factories and canals. He could make life and death decisions quickly in the heat of battle as a general. As president, he had the luxury of time in the slow transportation and communications of the day to take his time to make up his mind. He consulted his Cabinet on a regular basis.

Lesson No. 10: Be a Team Leader

George Washington was not afraid to surround himself with first raters. As President, he managed to get Thomas Jefferson, the farmer and Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton, the merchant and Secretary of the Treasury, the founder of two antagonistic political parties, to work together in his first Presidential administration for the good of the country.

Lesson No. 11: Show Compassion

President George Washington pardoned protestors arrested for resisting the collection of the whiskey tax. He wanted to avoid creating martyrs and enemies for the new government.

Lesson No. 12: Quit When You're Ahead

Like Seinfield, Washington decided to leave when he was in top form. Washington always knew when to quit before he reached the Peter Principle. He quit as dictator of America in 1776, resigned as the general of the Continental Army in 1783, and retired as president in 1797.


Washington's leadership never goes out of style. He offers standards and examples that are worthwhile imitating. Washington was in the public eye for over thirty years. If Washington's time-tested principles worked for him and our country, they can work for you. Col. Henry "Light Horse" Harry Lee," said upon George Washington's death that he had been "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." These words remain true today and his principles of leadership remain timeless.

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