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10 Leadership Lessons From George Washington

Our Mobile Ministry Forum team met in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania at the end of the summer. Several of us had the chance to visit Valley Forge, the winter encampment that nearly broke the resolve of the American Army. I wanted to learn more than I knew from field trips and elementary school textbooks so I read George Washington: A Life, a biography by Ron Chernow. You'll see me and George hanging out below at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.

Here are my top takeaways from General George, the Father of America.

1. He lead from the front. He did not expect others to do what he was unwilling to do himself. His aides would try to coax him away from the front line because he made such a large and significant target. For some reason, he was never wounded. In one battle he had two horses shot from under him and several bullet holes in his clothing.

2. He got the right people on the bus. He attracted talent and he nurtured it. As general he had Nathaniel Green, Benedict Arnold (great combat leader...he did have some loyalty issues), Lafayette, von Steuben, etc. As president he had John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Knox in his cabinet.

3. He solicited different points of view. He knew his cabinet was divided...and that it would allow him to weigh the various sides of an argument. 

4. He was patient with his mother. Apparently, his mother Mary was the one great, enduring thorn in his flesh. No matter what George accomplished, he never measured up. Bummer for George.

5. He did not seek fame and adulation (though he was America's first celebrity). That's not to say he avoided the crowds (he couldn't). He was very ambitious, but he waited for opportunities to come to him.

6. He understood brand. He was very aware of how he was perceived by the general public. He was very particular in how he dressed and how those around him were dressed (including his slaves). He wrote detailed letters to England requesting particular styles of clothing. When traveling, he would ride in a carriage in between towns. But when it came time to ride into town…he got out of the carriage and mounted his regal white horse. The crowds loved it.

7. He knew the devil was in the details.
 He kept meticulous notes. He kept an eye on the details of his estate as well as the army and the presidency. If there was not enough food, clothing or supplies, his army would be unable to accomplish its task.

8. He improvised. His army was perpetually short of funding, materials and personnel. He always found a way to use the limited resources he had around him. 

9. He understood the power of precedent. He realized he was making history and that most of his decisions would establish patterns that would outlast him. It was truer imagined. Even though there was no limit, no other president served more than two terms until Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It wasn't until after FDR that the 22nd amendment was passed limiting the U.S. president to two terms.

10. He was intentional about his legacy. He kept all of his correspondence, military records and personal records in secure trunks. He assigned one of his most trusted lieutenants to be responsible for their security. Most of us will not be studied like George Washington, but there is a good chance that our children and grandchildren will be interested in our thoughts, accomplishments and spiritual developments. I think every believer should make sure that his or her testimony, journals and key effects should be preserved for those future generations.


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