George Washington became America’s first leader when he accepted to command the Continental Army. He became America’s first great leader when he overcame countless adversities to win independence for our nation. Washington exemplified every leader attribute and competency required of an Army leader. We observe his lasting impact every time our nation elects a new president. Congress remains in control of the military since Washington resigned his commission. His leadership and deep sense of loyalty, duty, and selfless service contributed to my personal growth and leadership philosophy. I am proud to share in his legacy.
I stand on the shoulder of giants. The U.S. military has a long list of accomplished leaders. George Washington stands apart because he paved the way for all future American military leaders to follow. I believe in leadership by example. I cannot ask a subordinate to do something I am not willing to do. George Washington not only led by example, he set the example. As I approach the rank of senior noncommissioned officer and the latter part of my military career, I reflect on the legacy I want to leave. I want my legacy to reflect that I also served my country and fellow Soldiers with loyalty, honor, and respect.
Washington’s leadership proved essential in the foundation of our country. He set two crucial precedents which became engrained in our nation’s DNA. First, Washington resigned his commission after the war and returned the power of the Army to Congress. Secondly, he oversaw the peaceful transfer of power after his second term as President of the United States of America.
First in war- first in peace- and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting (p. 14).
Henry Lee (1800) best surmised Washington’s impact on our nation in his eulogy to the great late leader:
Leaders get results. Washington’s end state was independence from England. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 signaled the end of the American Revolutionary War and recognized American independence. Washington accomplished the daunting mission Congress set before him with minimal resources and the timely assistance of foreign allies.
Washington cared about leader development and esprit de corps. He made it a habit to dine with his officers at 3:00 each afternoon (Phillips, 1997, p. 93). The meal offered an opportunity for individuals to get to know one another, air their differences, share experiences, build trust, respect, and confidence (Phillips, 1997, p. 93). He also used this time to offer counsel, guidance, and instructions. (Phillips, 1997, p. 93). He involved his officers at all stages of the decision-making process. Washington’s professional development approach produced quality leaders of renown like Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene.