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3 George Washington Quotes Every Leader Should Know

When George Washington wrote the above the lines he was in his teens. They were scribbled out in Washington’s notebook under the heading: Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.

There is some contention as to the originality and authorship of said rules. The 14-or 15-year old Washington might have copied or paraphrased them from other sources. Still, it’s remarkable that he should care about his mannerisms and presentation so keenly. He must have felt that these things mattered and could, with attention, help him rise economically and socially.

It goes without saying that all leaders would be wise to follow the above rules.

3 George Washington Quotes Every Leader Should Know

1. “Be careful not to let saliva escape with your words, nor any spittle fly into the faces of those with whom you converse.”

2. “Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out of your Chamber half Drest.”

3. “Do not pare your nails in public, much less gnaw them.”

BLG Leadership Insights

A Noble Political Testament: When to Step Down

When we talk about the essence of pragmatic leadership we usually focus on the establishment and duration of leadership. By that I mean the majority of blogs and books deal with how to attain a leadership position and how to effectively lead once you are in a commanding position. Less attention is focused on transition leadership and power to another individual.

Even leaders as well regarded as Jack Welch and Sandy Weil have seen their prestige suffer as the result of the poorly executed transitional efforts. For an example of how to properly leave office, we can look to “the father of the country,” George Washington.

Washington released his farewell in the nation’s newspapers in September 1796. The President opened with a tribute to the people of the United States and offered an explanation as to why the time for his retirement had come. He emphasized the importance of union and the need to avoid sectional and factional divisions. He also warned the country against permanent alliances with foreign nations. By resigning voluntarily he was declaring that his allegiances were thoroughly republican. As Joseph Ellis in Founding Brothers notes, “Washington intended his address as advice to his fellow countrymen about how to sustain national unity and purpose, not just without him, but without a king.”

To date the United States of America is the most successful example of a colony transitioning into a successful democratic state. While I grudgingly give some credit to the influence of the English parliamentary system, I believe the success of our system lies in the effective transition initiated by Washington.

Replacing an executive doesn’t have to be a mystical process. In order to be most effective your team should get together and define the requirements of leadership, identify the key constituents who will participate in the process, articulate the context for the organization, and set a universally acceptable search criteria that accurately reflects a vision for the future.

Photo Credit: Wally G

BLG Leadership Insights

4 Mistakes Made By History’s Biggest Leaders

History’s greatest leaders have one thing in common. They were able to get things done. But sometimes they didn’t always do the right things. Leaders have the ability to move projects ahead, but they sometimes don’t have the experience or the expertise to evaluate and support the right ideas. In fact, some of the history’s favorite leaders made some pretty big mistakes.

Here are four mistakes that good leaders made:

1. Winston Churchill Charges Into Costly Turkish Fight: In 1911 Churchill was responsible for making the British navy more lean, efficient, and war-ready. On November 25th 1914, Churchill asked the British War Council to spearhead a naval campaign into Turkey in order to move German troops and supplies away from the Eastern and Western fronts. Churchill felt that British navy should enter the heavily fortified and dangerously mined Dardanelles strait and make their way toward Constantinople. The War Council was uneasy about the idea and ranking British admirals wanted to take more time to plan out the attack, but Churchill was persistent. He pressured Admiral Carden, a seasoned captain in the region, to draw up an attack plan which he then submitted to the War Council.

Churchill took the War Council’s indirect, half-hearted, and ultimately confusing non-committal reply as a resounding ‘yes’ and quickly ordered Admiral Carden and his small fleet into the strait. While the first attack was successful Admiral Carden and his men weren’t ready for an unexpectedly organized Turkish force and the strait’s huge collection of floating mines. Eventually, Admiral Carden fell ill and General Sir Ian Hamilton was appointed to lead a 70,000 strong military force into the region. After numerous failed campaigns, General Hamilton and the British navy were pulled out of the Dardanelles region by the War Council. The Dardanelles skirmishes led to over 200,000 British allied casualties. The Turkish forces lost nearly as many men, but the numbers are undocumented.

After the campaign Churchill was booted from the Admiralty and fell into a depression.

2. Mahatma Gandhi Signs Away Indian’s Lives in WWI: Gandhi, famous for his pacifism, wasn’t always peace’s biggest advocate. When the British Empire asked him to recruit Indian solders for World War I, citing his work recruitment work in the Boer War, he quickly agreed. Gandhi thought that that his actions and India’s support would warm Britain to the idea giving India more political autonomy. He was mistaken.

India received little thanks for the million plus troops they committed to the war other than 13,000 medals of bravery.  Over 45,000 Indian troops died in World War I. Sadly, Gandhi failed to negotiate any gain, compromise, or promise from Britain for the roughly 45,000 Indians who died abroad in the British Empire’s name. Gandhi signed away a lot for zero political gain.

3. George Washington Muddles Into a War: As Washington’s biographer, Joseph Ellis, states, “Instead of going to college, Washington went to war.” In April 1754 the Virgina House of Burgesses gave Washington command of a 300-man regiment with the orders to protect Ohio country settlers from encroaching French troops.  When Washington finally made it to the region his Indian ally, Tanacharison (Half-King), informed him that there was a 1,000 plus French army nearby. Washington, facing a dire situation, decided to hunker down in the bed of a valley and build what was to become Fort Necessity.

On May 27th Tanacharison informed Washington that there was a 32-member French delegation nearby. Tanacharison and Washington surround the delegation and they met violently. Ten died and 22 were made prisoners. It marked the first bloodshed of the French and Indian War. While Washington claimed responsibility for the deaths, it is more likely that Tanacharison executed the French commander while Washington helplessly observed.

Tensions rose and Washington’s weak and poorly equipped Fort Necessity was now a prime target for the looming  French force. Washington tried to make allies with the surrounding Indian population, but failed. They knew that Washington was backing a lost cause. When Fort Necessity was eventually attacked Washington suffered serious losses. The low-laying fort was an easy target for raised firing and the bad weather conditions made the fort a muddy puddle. Washington lost 100 men and the French lost 5.  Washington was forced to surrender and he had to sign a treaty that said the British were responsible for the “assassination” of the French regiment’s commander. While Washington argued he didn’t know what the treaty said, there was little else he could have done.

Washington poorly played his relations with the French and built a very necessary fort in the worst place possible.

4. Andrew Carnegie Listens to Henry Frick: In the summer of 1892 Andrew Carnegie was enjoying some rest at his Scottish castle as steel prices were plummeting. In order to make up for the losses Carnegie decided that steel workers at the Homestead plant, managed by Henry Frick, needed to take wage cuts.  Further, Carnegie and Frick agreed that they needed break up one of the country’s strongest unions, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers in order to bring up their bottom line.

Carnegie told Frick that he was allowed to shut the plant down until the workers swallowed the pay cuts. He further told Frick, through a letter, “We…approve of anything you do…We are with you to the end.” What Carnegie didn’t expect was the end would turn bloody.

Frick built a fence around the factory and hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency, a well-armed group of muscle, to control the 3,800 Homestead workers. The groups clashed in the middle of the night and 3 ‘detectives’ and 9 workers died. The state militia  had to be called in to establish a cease fire.

Carnegie mistakenly allowed Henry Frick, the same man who was partly responsible for the Johnstown flood, to lead negotiations in a very fraught atmosphere.

Even though all these leaders made large mistakes that ended in bloodshed, drama, and defeat–they still all managed to rally their abilities and accomplish great things later in their careers. Mistakes happen, but as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never give up.”