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George Washington’s ’7 habits’

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

Who are we to argue with the assertion that America’s greatest leader was its first?

It’s all true: George Washington ran two major start-ups—the army and the presidency—in addition to his farm and other businesses. Not to mention the Constitutional Convention, which he chaired.

In a nutshell, here’s how Washington worked:
  1. He adapted. When he saw that his tobacco crop wasn’t making the grade, he tried something new, exchanging high-status tobacco for more diversified crops, including alfalfa, buckwheat and hemp.

  2. He guarded the troops. Even without modern-day knowledge of germs and sanitation,Washington kept a sharp-eye out to ensure strict sanitation in army latrines. He also threatened his men with court-martial for any unsanitary behavior.

  3. He valued intelligence. He always sent scouts to observe and report on the enemy, eventually developing a network of spies.

  4. He deferred to experts. Washington’s artillery commander, Henry Knox, had little experience but knew the history of heavy weapons. Knox added an artillery company to every brigade of infantry, an innovation that made the army more formidable.

  5. He went with the flow. Washington wanted the French fleet, headed by Rochambeau, to help him take back New York. Instead, Rochambeau ignored him and sailed south to Yorktown, eventually winning the war. Washington basically said: OK.

  6. He believed. In 1783, with a desperate, unpaid army on his hands, Washington so believed a turnaround was possible that he convinced his officers of it.

  7. He gave second chances. President Washington named as ambassador to France an out-of-control smart aleck. The president had to discipline his ambassador but also expressed the “fullest confidence” in his ability to improve. He did.
— Adapted from George Washington on Leadership, Richard Brookhiser, Basic Books.

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