To select George Washington as an important senior leader for this profile was important. I wanted to select Abraham Lincoln originally but eventually decided to go with Washington because of his link to key American events. President Lincoln’s senior leader profile will be saved for another day.
To understand how George Washington operated as a senior leader, it is important to know that his leadership experience intersects with three key times in American history: the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention, and election as the first President.
In the readings1 on George Washington, we see his development throughout this period but there are some constants. What were the key attributes that Washington possessed that are most often cited as the reason for his success as a senior leader?
- High moral character (moral courage)
- Exceptional leadership (charisma, charm, decisive, people smart, etc.)
- Intellect (ideological debates with Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, etc.)
- Incorruptibility and trustworthiness
- Physical courage on the battlefield
- Commitment to his soldiers’ welfare and discipline
- Reputation as a patriot
While we can see Washington’s development, starting with the French-Indian War where he earns a reputation for physical courage on the battlefield, the attributes listed never really changed.
What did change during his time as commander of American military forces, was his success on the battlefield – from a nearly defeated Continental Army to a victorious one.
Many of these attributes are very similar to General Douglas MacArthur; with the latter being a bit more egocentric.
So, without much analysis we start to see some trends with our profiled senior executive leaders.
George Washington, like all of us, evolved his leadership abilities over time, from the French-Indian Wars to the time he became the first U.S. President. His high moral character was the bedrock of his success. A lesson we should all remember.
 Ron Chernow. George Washington: A Life, Penguin Books Ltd, England. 2010.