Bob Cordery explains why he believes George Washington was the greatest leader of all time
Leadership is something that many aspire to, but few achieve in full measure. It has been defined as being a combination of charisma, integrity, determination, flexibility, resourcefulness, creativity, self-confidence, a sense of responsibility, the ability to communicate, and consistency. George Washington had all these qualities, and it is therefore somewhat ironic that although he was truly a great leader, he never aspired to be one.
Washington’s greatness can be judged by the way in which he fulfilled three important roles during the foundation and early years of the United States; Firstly, as commander in chief of the Continental Army, secondly as president of the Constitutional Convention, and thirdly as the first President of the country. Washington was unanimously elected by the delegates to the Continental Congress “to command all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised for the defence of American liberty.” on June 15, 1775.
The reasons given can be gleaned from the writings of those who were there, and in the main they appear to be George Washington’s character, his trustworthiness, and his reputation as being the best colonial military commander. Washington created the Continental Army; his organisational and administrative skills, coupled with the trust of his citizen soldiers, enabled him to weld them into a fighting force able to take on the British … and win.
Had it not been for Washington, a large part of the Continental Army would have left at the end of their enlistments just after the Battle of Trenton, and his leadership on the battlefield was never better demonstrated than at the Battle of Monmouth, when he took command and not only stopped the American retreat but forced the British to fall back to New York. In the end, Washington’s determination to win the war was greater than that of the British not to lose it.
As president of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington exhibited the same leadership qualities he had shown on the battlefield, and it is little wonder that his ideas – a written constitution, a strong union with an elected legislature, an executive with the power to enforce the rule of law, the supremacy of national laws over state laws, and the creation of a permanent army controlled by the civil power – became central to the creation of the United States. It is small wonder, therefore, that Washington was unanimously elected to be the first President of the United States of American, and that four years later he was re-elected.
But in some ways Washington’s true greatness can be measured by what happened afterwards. He retired to his estate at Mount Vernon to resume his career as a farmer and, with the exception of a short period when President John Adams asked him to serve as commander-in-chief of the United States Army, Washington took no further part in national affairs. Only a truly great leader would have done that.
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Why you voted for George Washington
My hero is George Washington. Unfortunately, Washington’s name has become so familiar that we forget what a great person he was. He commanded a ragtag army of volunteers against what was then the mightiest force in the world: the British empire. He did so not from the comfort of a Manhattan townhouse, but from shared quarters in the frozen fields of Valley Forge.
His leadership managed to fight a far more superior better trained army because of passion and the need for freedom from the crown.
Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon could have beaten him on the battlefield, but Washington was the most principled of all of them. Not simply power hungry, he voluntarily relinquished command after defeating the greatest military power of the day, and declined to rule his new country as king.
Successfully transitioned the American people from hereditary to electoral rule. By stepping down after his second term ended, he set a precedent for a peaceful transfer of power that did not depend on a leader’s lifespan.
He could have been a king, instead became the first president of what would become the greatest modern nation. He was a brilliant general who fought against The military superpower at the time with Militia and won. He also chopped down a cherry tree.
George Washington was the first President of the United States and he will always be remembered and was a hard act to follow
George W. risked his neck to lead a ragtag militia to a victory that inspired revolutions all over the world (France to name one) and then became president. A job he promptly quit and went back to become a wealthy farmer again just like nothing happened. He was already wealthy, he didn’t want the power or fame. Most of the other canidates here wanted to be king or even a God.
He called morality “a necessary spring of popular government”.
I WOULD PERHAPS ADD ACCOUNTABILITY TO THAT STATEMENT..
HE BELIEVED IN A PERFECT UNION. AND DROVE THE BRITISH OUT OF AMERICA TO GAIN INDEPENDANCE
Acclaimed as the father of his country he developed the forms and rituals of government that have been used ever since, and built a strong, well-financed national government that avoided war, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. he is the man!!!!
He was the first president of USA and in my opinion the best. A National Treasure that no-one will forget
Even through adversity and almost being replaced Washington never faltered. Without him the greatest nation on earth would not be as we know it.
His example set the standards for future US leaders.
Founded one of the most powerful countries in the modern world, and fough against large odds.
In all reality the biggest underdog fight in history, is England against the Colony’s. Therefore to win when at a disadvantage you must have an exceptional leader, or the best. It was nearly impossible to wage war on the country who supplies you with weapons, and with boats, and horses, and everything.
Against great odds he bravely fought and succeeded which resulted in the world’s first truly democratic country.
Was the presence that molded a small number of ill-equipped militia into a force that defeated the greatest power on earth at the time. After securing the military victory, he had the foresight to realize that US leaders should not be in office for life, as he declined being named / elected such office and left it for others to continue after his 2 terms of service.
In my opinion the Greatest Leader of all time would have to go to Jesus. But since he’s not on the list I vote for George washington as the best all around leader. Coming from the bottom up was not handed some special birth right kingdom or prince of any kind and rose up to become the founding father of the greatest nation in the world not only in military might , Technology, but ideas that have spread across the world people from all over the world come to America because of freedom because of a dream that can become real cause one man stood up and lead a new nation or should i say colonies and united them to go on and achieve what no other country would even think would be possible at the time the birth of an independent and powerful nation. These top 3 leaders u guys got posted on there did not measure up to george Washington. Yeah, they might of lead larger armies or had more battles and so on but he not only lead in the battle field but also created from nothing a new form of government which is still to this day the best form of government in the world and am guessing will continue to be till one day a global government is created.
Washington is great because he knew how to give up power for the greater good of his nation
Although his early military campaigns did not succeed, George Washington was able to overcome the early failures and lead a ragtag group to relative success over the British empire. He negotiated treaties and then when the war ended, he voluntarily stepped down from power. He reluctantly agreed to take on the mantle of leadership again as president, but despite all of this, he remained humble to the end.
I believe he is the greatest simply because he had no initial intention of becoming such a great leader, because those who fight for power usually end up abusing that power, this is my opinion.
He wasn’t the greatest general but was tenacious and he was a very wise president who set the standard for nearly 100 years (and beyond for some people).
If I had choices not on your survey I’d probably choose either Genghis Khan or Solomon.
George Washington won a war that, by all accounts, he should not have won. He was fighting against an enemy who had superior training, equipment, and numbers, and yet, he led 13 colonies who were not even united yet to their independence. Even after this amazing feat, he became the first president, who set precedents that almost every president to this day has followed. He pulled a few small British colonies together into a nation that would one day become the greatest superpower in the world. And, throughout all of this, he never wanted to be the leader of this nation, and yet, he did so anyway, because he knew that he was the most qualified to be the leader who all future presidents would look to as the model leader.
George Washington wasn’t a very talented general in warfare, but what he lack in military strategy he made up in courage. He would inspire soldiers to fight for him for the sake liberty. There was no one at the present time that could fill his status at that time. For without Washington I don’t think the United States would have existed.
When Washington was the President of the United States, he had the opportunity to remain “permanent,” since many Americans wanted him to. His wisdom and intelligence led him to say no to this, since he knew that to do so would be counter to all the Americans had just fought for.
He did not get full of himself.
I truly admire this man
Whereas most leaders had a vast empire to lead, Washington had to make do with a makeshift army of farmers.
George Washington was not only a great general who fought the most powerful nation of his time and succeeded, but he developed guerrilla warfare and as the first president of the United States he set forth a strong tradition for other presidents to follow.
After leading the underdog Americans to victory, he could have taken over the country, and could have ruled as King. Instead he step down, and stepped aside; which established the model for future US Presidents.
Washington was a combination of a soldiers General, and a capable diplomat, with a drive to succeed and not let those beneath him down. He did not crave power or influence, but rather shied away from it.
Because he could have been King of America, but instead chose to make the U.S. a democracy thereby ensuring that the “great experiment” (democracy) would flourish.
Washington’s part in creating a new nation and then stepping down from all that power laying at his feet. This character trait gives Washington the edge in my book.
Voluntarily gave up power after two terms setting a precedent for peaceful transition of power.
George Washington is the greatest, because he alone knows that for an empire to be truly great, it cannot be confined to himself.
George Washington, at his peak days, could have became president of America for many many terms, perhaps even for life, like many dictators would do. Instead, he refused to run for third term, and starting the trend (later to become law) that presidents serve only two terms.
George Washington was a brilliant military strategist who helped liberate his fellow peoples from THE world superpower of the day. In addition, upon gaining independence, Washington could have ruled with absolute power. His virtuosity to abstain from that power makes him the greatest leader. Alexander would have been my choice for best military leader.
George Washington was not the great military leader, like Augustus, Alexander, or many others on the list. But every other leader on the list ruled. While there were great moments in each leaders civilization they were undoutedly despots. Washington, however, governed; and only for 8 years. What makes his so remarkable is even while he was the most popular man in America in the 1790’s and could have easily been president as long as he pleased, he stepped down to allow the next generation of Americans to govern themselves. Knowing full well the legacy he was leaving, one that didn’t involve monarchy.
George Washington was a great general and statesman, but there are probably others on the list that were as good as or better. What makes Washington such a good leader is this: He had the chance to become a tyrant, but instead he resigned his post and really wanted to live peacefully, away from politics. But instead he stepped up to lead the young United States through its first few years. He gave up his power and avoided turning America into a dictatorship. As George III said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
Not only was General George Washington a fighter and leader in the American Revolution he also set the bar for all following presidents. Such greatness is obvious in modern texts, but also in the fact that many in his own time wanted him to be King! His refusal of absolute power and his understanding of the greatness in liberty and self determination by the people is what many civilizations have striven for in their leaders.
Not only was George Washington an inspiration to everyone in the country he is on of the only leaders in history to voluntarily give up their power and set a great precedent for American presidents that prevented any one president from being in power for too long, if only we had term limits for Congress.
George Washington overcame political and military challenges. Moving troops, timing, and giving then taking ground was brilliant. The country that he helped form is still standing strong and he was wise enough to step away from power and let the people lead themselves.
Led an obviously and painfully underequipped and undertrained group of rebels to victory against the world’s undisputed superpower.
George Washington is the father of the United States of America, which is the greatest country in the world.
The USA is the first country to put men on the moon. Before this decade is out, the USA will sending men (along with new advanced science equipment) to the moon again (this time the spacecraft will land close to one of the poles). It is the USA where the internet was started. If not for the internet, this contest for which I am now a contestant could not exist right now. I also predict that the USA will be the first country to have human beings set foot on the planet Mars.
Before GW was our first president, he was a general, and before that, he rose through the ranks of the military as results of his merit.
The United States of America was an underdog in the war known as the American Revolution. Had it not been for the brilliance and bravery of General George Washington, the USA and all previously mentioned achievments might not exist right now.
The United States of America is not a perfect country. No country is. I am not a perfect human being. No human being is. Human beings are corruptable. Power is one of the things that can corrupt. Absolute power can corrupt absolutely.
The Constitution of the USA has checks and balances that can prevent power from corrupting too much. Although GW did not sign the Declaration of Independence or the Articles of Confederation, GW was involved with creating and did sign the US Constitution.
In short, once again, George Washinton as the father of the greatest country in the world is the greatest leader of all time.
Leadership Qualities of George Washington
Without question, George Washington stands in history as one of its greatest leaders. How many leaders could have pulled off what General George Washington did in the American Revolution? Under Washington's leadership, the ill-equipped and typically outnumbered Continental Army endured countless hardships and many disappointments and yet it came out on top! In addition, Washington helped navigate the infant United States through its most formative years, refusing opportunities for dictatorship, championing civilian authority over the armed forces, presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and serving as the nation's first President of the United States. There's never been an American leader quite like George Washington!
Washington's Military Leadership
Washington's record of military leadership began in the French and Indian War, a conflict he helped ignite. While his eagerness, ambition, and lack of experience got him into trouble (such as at Fort Necessity), other qualities emerged which would foreshadow George Washington's rise to greatness. These qualities included:
- Toughness - Washington was, in every respect, a rugged frontiersman from an early age. He endured hardship on the frontier and survived several health challenges, including a major bout with dysentery. Washington was as hardy and downright "tough" as they came.
- Persistence - A lesser man would've resigned himself to failure and ignominy after the terrible debacle at Fort Necessity. Not Washington. He politically and painstakingly maneuvered his way back into the war as a member of General Braddock's staff, which gave him an opportunity at personal redemption and to showcase the next quality of his leadership....
- Incredible bravery - Washington repeatedly exposed himself to danger, at one point even charging his horse between lines of his own men who were mistakenly firing volleys at one another! During Braddock's infamous march and defeat, Washington was among the only mounted officers to emerge unscathed. Four bullet holes in his uniform and two dead horses were ample testimony to his courage and providential protection.
- Organization - Following Braddock's defeat, Washington was posted in western Virginia to protect citizens from Indian attack. Though these years were frustrating for him, Washington had to contend, on a regular basis, with matters of supply, morale, discipline, and communication. He developed critical experience in organizing and managing troops under his command.
By the time of the American Revolution, George Washington was widely respected as a proven soldier, charismatic leader, and accomplished military expert. In spite of his actual record as a battlefield commander (which included one minor skirmish victory and one embarrassing loss), Washington was the perfect choice for command of the Continental Army.
In the course of the American Revolution, Washington's qualities of personal bravery, toughness, and organization shone through, as did his mixed record in actual battlefield command. He had a tendency to leave his flanks exposed and, at times, tragically failed to reconnoiter the ground. Nevertheless, he maintained a firm grasp on the overall strategic situation and ultimately achieved success.
Washington's generalship during the Revolutionary War has been scrutinized by pundits and scholars, who often regard him as a mediocre tactician. They point out that he lost more battles than he won. Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father and George Washington on Leadership, argues (correctly) that war is "not the World Series." Says Brookhiser: "It's not the best out of seven."
Brookhiser is right. Washington was an extraordinary leader, regardless of his battle record. Brookhiser is not the only one who has written on Washington's leadership. James Rees, the executive director of Mount Vernon, published a similar book recently. George Washington's Leadership Lessonsis a good primer on leadersip and an excellent introduction to Washington's greatness as a leader.
Washington's Political Leadership
As the war entered its final years, Washington dealt with enormous fatigue in the ranks of his army. That his troops were underpaid (if at all) and poorly supplied took its toll in morale, creating dangerous situations of unrest. Washington's charismatic presence, moral strength, and political maneuvering kept the Continental Army from rebelling against the weak civilian government and the Revolution degenerating into civil unrest.
After the war, Washington was called upon to head the Constitutional Convention. His presence was indispensable to the document's ratification. And then as U.S. President, Washington navigated the nascent country through turbulent waters, positioning it to become eventually the world's leading superpower.
Washington's Moral Leadership
Washington's greatest leadership quality was probably his high moral character. In spite of the opportunity to seize dictatorial power during and at the end of the war, Washington refused. Even when it seemed that seizing full power would be the only way to keep the Continental Army from revolting, Washington forcefully declined and maintained his support for the official government of the United States. When the peace treaty with Britain was finally sealed, Washington resigned his commission in December 1783, formally handing control of the military to the United States Congress. It was one of the very few times in history that a person with such immense power voluntarily walked away from it.
Years later, Washington was of course called back to service as President of the United States. And yet again, Washington voluntarily gave up power by declining to seek a third term as President. Sadly, the years of service to his country took a toll on his health, and he died roughly a year and half after retiring to Mount Vernon.
The character of George Washington remains his greatest quality and it was fundamental to setting the United States on the right path.
It's hard to picture the United States of America existing today, without George Washington being at the center of its birth. So many things in our founding period could've gone terribly wrong, but they didn't, because Washington was there to lead the nation in the right direction. Remove Washington from the picture, and the picture gets very dark indeed. George Washington was truly the indispensable man.
In your opinion, how great a leader was Washington? And what qualities made him so?
Editor's Note: This post was revised February 9, 2011, to incorporate new content. Originally, it was written simply to recommend some leadership books focusing on Washington, but in light of some feedback, I edited it to include more content. Additional information on Washington can be found by reading my blog post titled "Important Facts About General George Washington."