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Daily Leadership Thought #94 – George Washington: The Man Who Wouldn’t Be King

February 18, 2022

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In America, we have a president, not a king, which changed the arc of history when one man made this decision.

We celebrate two very special presidents on Monday (2/21) in America: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  As a fan of both history and leadership, it’s hard to overstate my respect and admiration for both men.  I have referenced them in my work for many years.  In this Leadership Thought piece, I want to focus on George Washington and his unwillingness to become our king.

At a time when he could have grabbed as much power as he wanted, he resisted this temptation.  When our new nation was still finding its way politically and philosophically and yearning for decisive leadership, he preferred to share power and work collaboratively with his contemporaries.  Instead of lining his own pockets and benefiting financially from his power and influence, he ended up forgoing financial gain to serve in his leadership roles.  Even though he had the full weight of a battle-tested military behind him, he voluntarily gave up command of these forces at the end of the Revolutionary War.  And, as president, he discouraged the use of the military as a political tool.

George Washington truly was a great man.  His leadership character will be etched in the annals of history books forever.  There is much to study and learn from the man and his actions (or lack thereof).  Up until that point in human history, no individual had ever walked away (he did it more than once by the way) from such power and influence.  He could have been our king and willingly chose not to.  The world was never the same after that.