George Washington was a political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Prior to that he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation’s War for Independence against Great Britain. He presided over the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the “Father of His Country” for his leadership in the early days of the new nation. So, what can we learn from Washington’s leadership?
Hire People better than you
One of the key elements of George Washington’s leadership is that he surrounded himself with talent. He was a leader who knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go, but he sought out the best and brightest to ensure that the vision became a reality. It took incredible self-confidence to hire Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay as his first cabinet officers. They were widely recognised as great men who were smarter than he was. A lesser leader would have feared being overshadowed by ambitious rivals. However, Washington believed that much more able people than himself were needed to achieve the larger mission of uniting the country following independence. Many corporate managers and leaders in the modern day fall in to the trap of trying not to hire anyone who could overshadow them. This thinking is a mistake many make, and they never achieve their vision as a result.
There is a famous story of George Washington attributed to his childhood known as George Washington and the cherry tree. For those who are unfamiliar with the tale it goes as follows:
When George Washington was six years old, he received a hatchet as a gift. He took the hatchet and as a young boy is likely to do, he used it on one of his father’s cherry trees. When his father found out, he was upset and confronted George about what had happened. Young George owned up to his transgression and said “I cannot tell a lie… I did cut it with my hatchet.” His father rejoiced in his honesty and stated that it was more valuable than many trees.
The most effective leaders are generally viewed as being honest by their employees. They will keep their people up to date with what is going on within the organization whether good or bad. Transparent leaders are much more appreciated than leaders who conceal information. Honesty is the foundation of any relationship that has to be built either with your own team, or others within the organisation. You simply cannot have trust without honest, and without trust you cannot work successfully with others. Its why micromanagers are despised, as their leadership style is all about lack of trust. People need to be able to trust that the information they receive from others is accurate in order to do their jobs correctly, and that others are doing what is expected of them in order to complete the work.
George Washington was a very good example of a servant leader and part of being a servant leader is listening to those around you. He purposely surrounded himself with people who were willing to tell him the truth instead of advisors who simply said what he wanted to hear. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, to which Washington was unanimously elected president, he formally spoke just three times during the entire convention, spending the rest of his time listening to what others were thinking. This allowed him to make informed decisions and ensured those around him felt heard.
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