Lessons in Leadership – George Washington

“But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”

George Washington

After the revolutionary war was completed, the soldiers were set to ambush the government building over unpaid dues from the war. There was little doubt that this would destroy everything that the soldiers themselves had fought for. General Washington was sent by government officials to read a letter to the soldiers; trying to convince them not to take action. It was clear that this would not do any good and an uprising was soon to follow.

After listening to the group make the case for rebellion, General Washington took out the letter and began to read. He struggled mightily with the words, and in what seemed incredible at the time, he paused for a moment to pull out reading glasses from his pocket. Placing them on his eyes, he said: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” He then proceeded to finish the letter. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, as the soldiers realized this ‘indispensable man,’ who was larger than life, had given so much for the cause they were about to betray. This one single act prevented the rebels from marching on the government.

Once the government was in place, the now President George Washington did two things that I think deserve mention. The most famous is that he could have stayed in power longer than he did, but he walked away. The second is that when he hosted dignitaries he paid for it out of his own pocket. He left the office penniless, because he didn’t want to put that burden on the American people. Contrast these events with our leaders today. How different our country would be if others followed after the integrity of George Washington.

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