George Washington was the first President of the United States and was known as the ‘father of his country.’ Before his appointment as President of the United States, he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army who drove out the British from America, and helped establish an independent United States of America. Washington was known for his character and his commitment to his soldiers’ welfare and discipline.
A Short Biography
George Washington was born in February of 1732, the third son of Augustine Washington. In his youth, Washington worked as a surveyor, an experience that deepened his understanding of his native Virginia. This is knowledge that became useful to him during the American Revolution.
His first brush with the military was when he applied for and obtained command of a small militia army at the age of 20.
He was later tasked with several military campaigns to drive out the French. He experienced his share of successes and failures as a military leader. He learned a lot about military strategy, training and how to deal with organization and logistical problems. Washington retired from active military service in 1758.
However, soon after, the American Revolution began and Washington was called upon to lead the American army to drive out the British forces. So began his stint as Commander-in-Chief. His excellent leadership was evident during this period. He won over many of his soldiers and gained the admiration and support of strong allies.
Eventually, with the help of the French, the Americans successfully drove out the British.
Although he was reluctant, Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States. He was an effective leader and administrator, bringing his country from a post-war state to unity, and put it on its first steps toward becoming the United States of today.
Awards and Honours
- Congressional Gold Medal
- Thanks of Congress
- General of the Armies of the United States
- The first President of the United States
Leadership Lessons from George Washington
1. Character builds credibility like nothing else
Washington worked hard to build an impeccable character. This won him a lot of support during his military career, the American Revolution and his tenure as President. Your character and actions speak louder than your words. Some people believe that great leadership is about being vocal and speaking your mind, but your character is the true anchor to your leadership.
When you have great character, people trust you and they want you to lead them. You don’t have to try to find an audience or a team; you will attract them naturally. This happened with Washington, who was reluctant to take on the presidency but was unanimously elected to the position.
So wherever you are in your life, focus on developing character because it builds your credibility like nothing else. Aim to be a leader that people can trust, respect and like. This can mean taking responsibility for your words and actions, treating others with respect (no matter their position) or putting the wellbeing of your team ahead of your own.
2. Take care of your people
One reason Washington was much loved was because he was known to care for the welfare of those under his leadership. For instance, during the winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge, in spite of the harsh conditions, he did his best to take care of his soldiers’ welfare and petitioned Congress for funding and urgent supplies. His caring attitude won over his army and allies, as they viewed him as a leader who respected his people as individuals and not just as a means to an end. This attitude aided him in his future endeavors as Commander-in-Chief and even as President.
The saying goes: people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Make it a point to care for your team and look out for their welfare. By genuinely caring for each individual, you win them over and create an environment of camaraderie and mutual trust.
3. Model the behavoir you wish to see
As the first President of the United States, Washington was acutely aware of his responsibility in shaping the future of the young nation. He knew that his values, actions and behaviors would set the standard for future leaders of the country and what the United States of America would stand for.
When you lead a team or organization, know that you set the standard for everyone to follow. Your character and conduct will shape the culture of your organization so be sure to model the values and behavior you’d like to see! A leader with integrity, respect for others and commitment to the cause will inspire the same in his team.
Books about George Washington
This New York Times bestselling biography by the famous Ron Chernow presents a captivating portrait of the first president of the United States. Shattering stereotypes and introducing a completely new, well-researched look into the life of George Washington, this book will take you on an adventurous ride full of heroic acts, and offer a glimpse of the true character behind the father of America.
For anyone familiar with the early American history, this book provides a dramatic outlook on the pivotal events that shaped the American Revolution. George Washington is a well known spy master, and Brian Kilmeade sheds light on the top secret group of the Culper Spy Ring that saved the American Revolution.
It takes a true virtuoso to present someone’s life in a book that genuinely captures the essence of one’s character and their life. Joseph J. Ellis, the acclaimed author, provides the readers with a thorough, exact, and vivid depiction of life and work of George Washington.
Quotes from George Washington
“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”
“Friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”
“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
“Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.”
“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”
“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”
“Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.”
George Washington Leadership Video
Hear George Washington’s First Inaugural address:
More Political Leader Profiles
For leadership profiles of other famous Political leaders, including George Washington, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Junior, check out our Political Leadership Profiles section.
Also check out our Leadership Profiles book series. In each book, we study 10 influential leaders in Business, Military, Politics and Sports.