George Washington was the most beloved American of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is still regarded as one of our greatest leaders. There were specific qualities that defined Washington and that enabled him to become such a monumental figure in not only American, but also world history. What made George Washington a great leader? Here are five reasons why George Washington was a great leader:
- George Washington was passionate. When Washington committed himself to a task or mission, he was “all in.” There were no half measures with Washington. And even when things got rough, Washington remained committed because of his deep-seated passion. The Revolutionary War is a perfect example. Washington considered the American cause a “sacred cause,” and put his entire heart and soul into the fight. Great leaders are men and women of passion….just like Washington.
- George Washington was morally upright and trustworthy. While the “I cannot tell a lie” cherry tree legend is regarded as a myth by most historians, there is no dispute that Washington’s contemporaries regarded him as an honest and moral man. Thomas Jefferson would later write of Washington: “His integrity was pure…He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man.” Washington’s greatest act of integrity was his refusal to become king or dictator after the war and to instead resign his commission and go home. Even when called out of retirement to serve as President, Washington served only two terms and retired once again to Mount Vernon. Washington was, as King George III exclaimed, “the greatest man in the world.”
- George Washington was prudent. Jefferson considered this Washington’s strongest feature of leadership, writing that Washington never acted “until every circumstance, every consideration was maturely weighed.” Certainly there are situations where slow, deliberate decision-making isn’t always possible. As a battlefield commander, Washington understood this. But more often that not, leaders get themselves into trouble by saying or doing things before or without thinking those things through. Washington was careful and intentional as a leader. And America was better for it.
- George Washington was courageous. If more people knew of Washington’s bravery under fire during the French and Indian War and later the American Revolution, they would be in a state of perpetual awe. Washington defied danger. When one reads of his exploits, which included recklessly riding in between lines of British and colonial soldiers firing on each other by accident during the French and Indian War as well as deliberately exposing himself repeatedly to enemy fire during the Revolution, it’s amazing the man lived as long as he did! One might even argue that he was too brave with his life, but no one can question his courage. And it was a courage that inspired his men and won the respect and admiration of his country.
- George Washington was a man of prayer. While not all of my readers are people of faith (and I respect that), it would be unfair to not recognize that George Washington was a man of faith. Whatever the specifics of his faith (and there has been much debate on that subject), Washington believed in the power of prayer – and regularly practiced it. This shaped his view of the world, influenced his character, and made him recognize there was an Authority outside of himself.
If you’re a leader or wish to be one some day, there’s much you can learn from George Washington. The father of the United States is indeed one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world.
**For more on George Washington, check out The Religion of George Washington by Brian Tubbs