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Leadership and Its Characteristics

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Leadership is described as being a person who has the ability to have people follow them. There are many characteristics for being a leader or holding a leadership role. In order to be a good leader one must be able to be trusted. They must also be a person who is a visionary and knows when to be & not to be tough. You would need to be organized and be able to organize other people. You also need to be a risk taker but in a strategic way. When I look at the leadership style and characteristics of George Washington he possessed all of the above and more.

I want to first take a look at why he was considered to be such a trustworthy person. George Washington who was an ethical person of high moral character refusing to yield to temptation. With these characteristics, people had no problem following him, his charisma commanded people to follow rather than demanding them to follow. A visionary leader has a vision into the far future, can develop an effective organization and can attract others to strive also for the attainment of his/her vision so that it becomes a shared vision and they all work together in an organization that sustains the vision, its beliefs and its values. Washington was a great visionary he was able to see the big picture when it came to creating a plan of action.

On June 15, 1775, the delegates to the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, unanimously elected George Washington “to command all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised for the defense of American liberty.” His commission, dated June 19, 1775, designated him “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies”. He received it on the twentieth and he started for Boston on the twenty-first. Several factors led to his selection: his character, they knew that they could trust him; he was the best-known military person in the colonies; he was a Southerner and the delegates believed he could unite the forces of all the colonies; he was a man of wealth and presumably would be less tempted to corruption and he was known as a fearless, determined and competent leader. Another factor of great importance, although not stressed or perhaps even acknowledged by many historians and commentators, was that his ideas regarding British and colonial relations were well known and were representative of ideas shared by the delegates and those whom they represented. They shared a common vision.

Consider just three of Washington’s major ideas as the General. First, he must win the war, no matter how long it took. Second, it was a war for independence, liberty. Third, the purpose of this independence from Great Britain was to establish a republican, constitutional government. Being a republic, its form of government and its ruling officials would all be determined by the people. Washington, more than anyone else in that period, understood the full implication of these ideas regarding all aspects of his functions as the military leader – strategy, operations, tactics. He revealed himself as a genius in leadership as the “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies.”

George Washington was also seen as a tough leader. One of the reasons was his ability to pick himself up after failure i.e. Fort Necessity. He was also able to push his way through several health issues including dysentery, which during those times could have been fatal. Washington was a great statesman and this helped him to gain followers in politics. He was a very persuasive person because he could gain the trust of the politicians as well as the troops. One can list many things that make a person a great leader and when it comes to military leadership George Washington’s style is still look to today. In my opinion if a person can remain relevant and admired for their character so many years later they must be a true leader in all of its forms.

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