Friday, October 7, 2011

Learning from Washington

Effective leadership solutions emerge around problems - change comes from a shared sense of urgency. George Washington’s visionary leadership emerged during the time of America’s birth. He was a great uniter and was crucial in bringing together diverse groups of people and establishing a new nation, where none stood before. Washington’s role became synonymous with the cause of America. He drew on his popularity and symbolic importance to bring unity to a disparate collection of interests and political outlooks. Drawing on lessons learned during the war, when Washington forged the Continental Army into what he called “one patriotic band of brothers,” Washington promoted political unity during the war by mediating the disputes among the army, the states, and the Continental Congress. He continued this work of unifying even after the war as President.
Some of the main lessons that I drew from my research on Washington include:
a. The need and importance to take responsibility for one's own life by controlling one's emotions; Washington had a volcanic temper which, with rare exceptions, he kept under control. Washington was able to control so much externally because he first learned to control himself from within.
b. The importance of constant learning by observing, listening, reading and reflecting; Washington spent much time reflecting or pondering.
c. The importance of civility – essentially basic respect for everyone.
d. The role that morality and emotional maturity can play in enhancing one's natural intelligence and understanding of situations.
e. The inextricable relationship in a democracy between public and personal virtue; the absence of one will always cause a diminution in the other and vice versa.
f. The need in a democracy for all citizens to be good citizens and for the government to be administered in such a manner as to merit the trust of the citizens.
Of all the Founding Fathers of the United States, George Washington alone demonstrated fully the characteristics of a visionary leader and the intellectual and moral capacity, over a long period of time and in the course of manifold difficulties, to maintain coherency between long range ideas and goals and short term actions. The future of society, to a large extent, depends upon citizens and leaders both personally and publicly developing the kind of character so fully and brilliantly seen in George Washington's personal and public lives.