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3 lessons from George Washington

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

George Washington’s battlefield leadership legacy speaks for itself. Author and trainer Nick Tasler, however, says that today’s leaders can learn as much from Washington’s counterintuitive decision process as they can from the grit and initiative demonstrated in the face of very long odds. Incorporate these lessons into your own leadership legacy:

  • Give your subordinates some latitude. Tasler says that Washington meddled very little with his commanders. “Beyond [some] general strategic direction, and some basic tactical goals,” Tasler posits, “Washington let his young leaders make their own strategic decisions on the battlefield—capitalizing on the speed and agility advantage they had.”
  • Balance big decisions with small ones. Washington spent 1776, the most critical year of the war, deeply involved in the details of the renovations at his home in Mount Vernon. What at first seemed like a distraction was actually a confidence-boosting move, according to psychologists at UCLA and NYU, who proved through research that making benign decisions about everyday things boosts confidence.
  • Be magnanimous and humble. Despite his success and popularity following the Revolutionary War, Washington decided against making himself the supreme ruler of the new country. Instead, he imbued the electorate and its officials with the power to rule the republic in the best interest of all. Treat every decision “as an opportunity to reveal the high quality of [your] character,” says Tasler, and embrace humility as a key quality of leadership.

—Adapted from “Three Decisions that Defined George Washington’s Leadership Legacy,” Nick Tasler, Harvard Business Review, blogs.hbr.org.

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