Summary of George Washington on Leadership

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Richard Brookhiser, a National Humanities Medalist, is a popular author, journalist and biographer. Considering his stellar previous work about America’s founding fathers, as well as his deep knowledge of George Washington, you would expect his book about the first U.S. president’s leadership traits to be good. And so it is, interesting and full of well-told stories. Yet, it does falter sometimes. For example, the opening chapter lauds Washington’s prescience for installing latrines in his soldiers’ encampments. Such praise overlooks the fact that the Roman Army routinely dug latrines for its soldiers 2,000 years ago. Overall, Brookhiser usefully translates episodes from Washington’s life into management lessons for today’s executives, though it may strain the use of metaphor to rename his Mount Vernon plantation WashCorp and to classify the presidency as a start-up. Despite such small lapses, Brookhiser works many intriguing anecdotes into his narrative and demonstrates vividly just how Washington became such a significant leader. getAbstract welcomes his history-based examination of how to use Washington’s leadership lessons.

About the Author

Richard Brookhiser is a journalist, historian and biographer. A senior editor at National Review, he is the author of What Would the Founders Do?, as well as popular biographies of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.



A Leader in Full

George Washington was an exceptional leader. He was the ideal man to head the American Continental Army and later to become the United States’ first president, its “founding CEO.” Washington became a leader early in life. At 21, he was commissioned in the colonial militia. After a notable, eventful career as an officer, he left the military. He then ran his Mount Vernon farm, a huge 2,500-acre enterprise in Virginia. He oversaw the 300 people who lived and worked on the giant estate. Washington did remarkably well as a gentleman farmer, and as a real-estate owner and speculator. He eventually became the wealthiest man in America. Washington’s life is a soaring lesson in the vital, even ennobling nature of leadership – what it is, what it entails and what it requires. The primary leadership lessons from Washington’s inspiring life include:

  • Heed “the power of the obvious” – George Washington became commander in chief of the American Continental Army in 1775. His first General Orders forbade “cursing, swearing and drunkenness.” He insisted that all soldiers attend “divine service.” He instructed his officers to have their men install latrines...

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