Leadership & Knowledge

Look to George Washington, Our First President, as a Model for being a Great Leader.

Be a visionary. In today’s information-rich world, people will not follow arbitrary directions given by authority. We will instead follow a cause, a dream, a vision that is compelling. Don’t just give us direction, give us inspiration, and we will be your agents of change. That was how Washington was able to lead his troops when Congress did not have money to pay them. His troops weren’t soldiers for hire, but rather they were revolutionaries for a better tomorrow.

Do what you say and say what you mean. “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.” Washington was held in the highest regards by his fellow politicians and was the only President to ever be elected unanimously. He was among many great politicians during that time, but Washington stood out from the rest because of his integrity.

Don’t make decisions based on popularity; base them on principles. According to Mark McNeilly, author of George Washington and the Art of Business, Washington always put the country first. People could trust him to stand above the politics, stand above the fray, and keep the interests of the country in mind. Make sure your decisions stand the test of time.

Be a keen observer. Washington first made his mark in the world by being a geographer. His curiosity with the uncharted regions in Virginia led to his first missions in the military, and eventually gave him tactical advantage as an officer. Good leaders must be aware of the environment in order to to adjust strategies accordingly.

Be balanced. At that time, you had to choose sides. Either you were a Federalist - one who agreed with Alexander Hamilton and believed in strong central government, or you were a Jeffersonian - one who agreed with Thomas Jefferson and believed in a smaller central government. Although he had his opinions, Washington did not choose sides and decided to have both Hamilton and Jefferson as part of his government. To be a good leader, you must understand the merits of both sides.

Foster relationships. I get by with a little help from my friends. The Beatles may have sung these words about 200 years later, but Washington probably said this as well when talking about France. Without the help of the French Navy, the British would have likely won the war. Great leaders know how their party affects the others, and such leaders constantly reach beyond their specific areas of influence.

Learn from your defeats. General Washington only won three of his nine battles. He was persistent and continued battling and learned from his mistakes, which prepared him for the third and most important victory, the Battle of Yorktown. It was the last major battle before the end of the war, thus illustrating that defeat is merely a set-up for the more important victories in the future.

Be humble. You are not greater than the cause that you represent. Washington was elected for two straight terms and would have easily won his third, but he felt that too much power would have been rested on him. He walked away from power for the good of the country. If you want to be a true leader, know the difference between benefiting yourself versus benefiting the greater good.

Courtesy of 7P Productions