[December 23, 2016] The U.S. War of Independence and its conclusion was something that we can study to learn more about great senior leadership. War had not gone well for the Patriots and many expected defeat in their battle against the British Empire; out of desperation, pushing the Continental Congress to empower General George Washington, Commander of the Army, with near dictatorial powers.
But when the war was over, the Continental Army’s commander in chief, Washington, willingly resigned his position on this date, December 23, 1783, when he could have easily taken solitary control of the new nation. Some very prominent politicians had wanted Washington to become the new nation’s king.
The fact that he declined the offer and resigned his military post at the end of the war was instrumental in setting the conditions for a more balanced nation. In doing so he proved his opposition to dictatorship as a form of political control and his commitment to American republicanism which stresses liberty and unalienable individual rights as central values.
The peaceful transfer of powers were to later become a key element in the democratic institutions of the United States when, after two terms being elected President, George Washington left office and peacefully turned over the position to John Adams, a Federalist. Washington then and now is referred to as the father of his country, having been one of its Founding Fathers.
Washington had been long admired for his strong leadership qualities, success in battle, and ability to sway opinions his way. Fortunately for us all, his desires focused exclusively on the new nation and not upon himself or dictatorial ideologies of the time. During his time, both as commander in chief of the Army and as president of the United States, he worked to unify rival factions for the betterment of the country.
That is why he is one of the most famous, and rightly so, historical figures of not just the U.S. but the world. When George Washington retired from the presidency in 1797, his farewell address became a primer on civic virtue; warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.1
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