George Washington: The Man Who Didn't Want To Be President
By Sukh Singh, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International
Nowadays, if you turn on the news or read a newspaper, you’ll no doubt see the latest about what has become a political circus of personality games, buzzwords and debates with candidates who are trying to convince their country that they are the best choice for President of the United States of America.
Things were very different for the country's very first President. No fancy campaigns, no petty competitions... in fact, ironically for a man who had commanded the American forces in the Revolutionary War, George Washington was actually afraid of taking on the role of President. With such a political circus going on these days, I thought it would be worthwhile taking a look at the country's first leader...
The following is taken from 'Washington: A Life', by Ron Chernow...
He Was Intimidated By The Role
[George Washington] told his former comrade in arms and future Secretary of War Henry Knox, adding that his “movements to the chair of government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.”
...In a letter to his friend Edward Rutledge, he made it seem as if the presidency was little short of a death sentence and that, in accepting it, he had given up “all expectations of private happiness in this world.”
He Didn't Want The Adulation
Washington preserved a faint hope that he would be allowed to make an inconspicuous entry into New York [en route to Washington]. He had pleaded with Gov. George Clinton to spare him further hoopla: “I can assure you, with the utmost sincerity, that no reception can be so congenial to my feelings as a quiet entry devoid of ceremony."
He Was Nervous And Felt The Weight On His Shoulders
As Washington began his speech, he seemed flustered and thrust his left hand in his pocket while turning the pages with a trembling right hand. His weak voice was barely audible in the room... Those present attributed Washington’s low voice and fumbling hands to anxiety. “This great man was agitated and embarrassed more than ever he was by the leveled cannon or pointed musket,” said Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay
Nervousness, anxiety, imagining that leadership is like an execution...all the inspiring qualities you expect in a great leader, right??
To me George Washington is incredibly inspiring. Not because of his prowess and military greatness, but because of these very 'negative' qualities. Because despite feeling all of this, despite literally trembling with fear, he carried on. He mustered the strength inside him to take on a role that felt way too big for his boots to fill. This is the thing, legends don't just walk into a role knowing they're going to master it. They're scared. They doubt themselves...they're afraid of failing.
So How Do They Do It?
First, they work hard over the course of their lives to develop a personal, internal compass; A set of values that they draw upon in moments of decision, temptation and immense challenge. Those values outline the person they ultimately want to be, the best version of themselves.
But they are human, and won't always live those values - in fact especially these days, it is so easy to get tempted or distracted by anything on your screen or around you. That is why legends like George Washington keep very responsible, wise, caring people around them to take advice from when they feel like they can't trust their own decisions.