A True Values-based Leader: George Washington
I am often asked for examples of true values-based leaders. Given my focus on the four principles (self reflection, balance, true self-confidence and genuine humility), it is a very high bar. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia and watch Pope Francis speak at Independence Square…..an experience I will never forget. I believe Pope Francis is an amazing values-based leader.
Little did I realize another opportunity to study a true value-based leader would occur the following week! I was invited to give a leadership talk at the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon, VA. I had always known (like most Americans) that George Washington was the “Father of our Country”, but I had no idea of the history of Mount Vernon and the amazing library that was built there just a few years ago.
After my leadership presentation at the library, Curt Viebranz, the CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, took me on a tour of the estate and gave me a fantastic tutorial on George Washington. The history of Mount Vernon is quite fascinating. I learned that a group of women purchased Washington’s home in 1853 when it was in extreme disrepair and established the “Mount Vernon Ladies Association”, to preserve it for all future generations. The association, which consists of women from 25 different states, is the governing body for the estate. To understand the background, take a look at their website.
Additionally, I learned how perfectly Washington lived the four principles:
Self Reflection: Washington wrote more than 130,000 letters during his lifetime (many of which are at the presidential library).
Balance: He clearly took the time to seek to understand all sides of issues. He realized it was important to have strong states rights AND a central government to hold the colonies together.
True Self-confidence: Washington knew his strengths, and the areas in which he was weak. He admitted his shortcomings, and surrounded himself with people like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams.
Genuine Humility: Despite the requests of the America people to have him continue to serve as president, he was very focused on avoiding the creation of a monarchy and insisted on stepping down in 1796 after serving 8 years as President of the United States. He died three years later in 1799.
Mount Vernon is an amazing place. If you have never been there, I encourage you to make the trip.