I came away from reading this article with the realization that both “relentless effort and emotional control” are important qualities I’ve observed in many exceptional leaders.
The Two Contagious Behaviors of a Great Boss
There are only two essential qualities for leading by example; George Washington mastered both
Over the last decade, I’ve studied scores of leaders who have achieved long-lasting success in business, sports and the military.
Among the many flavors of contagious leadership behavior I’ve observed, only two have consistently produced superior results—and George Washington was the embodiment of both….
The first was a combination of seriousness, courage, tenacity and outsize effort—I’ll call it relentlessness. Ron Chernow’s vivid 2010 biography showed that when Washington pushed his troops to the limits of their endurance, he was always right beside them….
The best example may be Washington’s actions at Princeton. After wheeling around to face his fearful troops, he beseeched them to keep fighting. Then, according to one account, he reined in his horse and faced the enemy directly.
Studies have shown that an extraordinary effort by one team member can compel everyone else to give more. It’s fair to say that Washington’s actions at Princeton infected his ragtag army of outnumbered amateurs. One young officer who witnessed them left no doubt. “Believe me,” he wrote, “I thought not of myself.”…
Washington’s second leadership posture was ironclad emotional control….
Again, it was Princeton that showed the depth of Washington’s emotional fortitude. After he’d rallied his army to victory, a teary aide approached him to express his relief that the general hadn’t been killed. Washington quietly took his hand and changed the subject.
“Away, my dear colonel,” he said, “and bring up the troops.”…
Leading others by relentless effort and emotional control demands immense personal sacrifices. The good news is that it doesn’t require exceptional talent. Washington had many gifts but he was a middling military strategist with a long list of defeats.
In the end, the source of Washington’s greatness was simple, even if it wasn’t easy to pull off.It was a function of the choices he made consistently, every day, in darkness or light.
Do you think “relentless effort and emotional control” are key behaviors of a great leader? What other qualities would you consider important and can you give examples? Should core leadership behaviors vary considerably depending on the situation? For example, would these two qualities be important for both a school principal and the head of an investment banking firm? What about other types of everyday leaders, like the head of a family or the key member of a sports team?