Archive for Presidents Day

The Leadership of George Washington

Posted in Leadership, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

George Washington

Happy birthday, George Washington!  On the occasion of George Washington’s birthday today, February 22, I thought it would be appropriate and interesting to explore his leadership philosophy through his own words.  I have compiled quotations that, I think, you will find fascinating and poignant to what we are discussing here at Command Performance Leadership.



George Washington Leadership Lessons –

  • Character builds credibility like nothing else
  • Take care of your people
  • Discipline is key

George Washington Leadership Quotes –

Require nothing unreasonable of your officers and men, but see that whatever is required be punctually complied with. Reward and punish every man according to his merit, without partiality or prejudice; hear his complaints; if well founded, redress them; if otherwise, discourage them, in order to prevent frivolous ones. Discourage vice in every shape, and impress upon the mind of every man, from the first to the lowest, the importance of the cause, and what it is they are contending for.

Letter to Colonel William Woodford, Nov. 10, 1775

Remember that it is the actions, and not the commission, that make the officer, and that there is more expected from him, than the title.

Address to the Officers of the Virginia Regiment, Jan. 8, 1756

An army formed of good officers moves like clockwork; but there is no situation upon earth less enviable, nor more distressing, than that person’s who is at the head of troops which are regardless of order and discipline.

Letter to the President of Congress, Sep. 24, 1776

Diffidence in an officer is a good mark because he will always endeavor to bring himself up to what he conceives to be the full line of his duty.

Letter to Brigadier-General Glover, Apr. 26, 1777

A person who is anxious to be a leader of the fashion, or one of the first to follow it, will certainly appear in the eyes of judicious men to have nothing better than a frequent change of dress to recommend him to notice.

Letter to George Steptoe Washington, Mar. 23, 1789

The true distinction … between what is called a fine Regiment, and an indifferent one will ever, upon investigation, be found to originate in, and depend upon the care, or the inattention, of the Officers belonging to them.

Letter to Major Thomas Lansdale, Jan. 25, 1783

Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.

General Orders, Jul. 6, 1777

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all.

Letter to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments

We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience. To enveigh against things that are past and irremediable, is unpleasing; but to steer clear of the shelves and rocks we have struck upon, is the part of wisdom, equally as incumbent on political as other men, who have their own little bark, or that of others, to navigate through the intricate paths of life, or the trackless ocean, to the haven of security and rest.

Letter to Major-General Armstrong, Mar. 26, 1781

The art of war is at once comprehensive and complicated; … it demands much previous study; and … the possession of it, in its most improved and perfect state, is always a great moment to the security of a nation. This, therefore, ought to be a serious care of every government; and for this purpose, an academy, where a regular course of instruction is given, is an obvious expedient, which different nations have successfully employed.

Speech to Congress, Dec. 7, 1796 (Establishment of The United States Military Academy at West Point)

 I shall make it the most agreeable part of my duty to study merit, and reward the brave and deserving.

Address to the Officers of the Virginia Regiment, Jan. 8, 1756

Be courteous to all but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to appellation.

Letter, Jan. 15, 1783

There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

Letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax, Sep. 12, 1758

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

Rules of Behavior

It is much easier at all times to prevent an evil than to rectify mistakes.

Letter to James McHenry, Aug. 10, 1798

It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.

Letter to James McHenry, Aug. 10, 1798

An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by an ass.

attributed, The Long Gray Line



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Other Resources –

George Washington Biography

Rediscovering George Washington | PBS

Happy Birthday, George! ( (

Happy Birthday President Washington (

Forget About the Cherry Tree (

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