Essay Example: George Washington's Leadership during the American Revolution

Published: 2022-11-01
Essay Example: George Washington's Leadership during the American Revolution
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  George Washington American revolution Leadership style
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 957 words
8 min read

Perhaps, it may not be too exaggerated to state that at first glance, George Washington looked like a leader. Judging by his superficial traits and physical stature, one may quickly conclude that this man owed his legacy to his physique, which made him an expedient figurehead upon which people have been hanging romanticized virtues for centuries. However, there is more to George Washington than his physical figure. His life and legacy can be summed up as a man who rose from humble beginnings to reach the apex of military and civilian realms during a period when America was in its formative phases (Wood, 2011). Right from a tender age, he started developing valuable skills that laid the grounds for a man who would in due course command the American defense forces against the British colonialists during the American Revolution. This event is of importance to America since its birth and independence were a result of the Revolutionary War. At the center of this historic moment was George Washington who cut out the figure of a well-grounded leader through his astuteness that was pivotal in America's victory over the British. In this line, this paper explores the exceptional leadership depicted by George Washington by arguing that against all odds, it was Washington's strength manifested by his audacity and confidence that catapulted America to victory in December 1776 and ultimately proved to be the defining moment of his legacy.

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One of Washington's most implausible decisions was how he approached the Revolutionary War where he chose not to execute a head-to-head battlefield strategy on his ground commandants. Going by an assertion made by Wood (2011) that George Washington was neither highly-educated nor trained with military skills, it is puzzling to think how a military leader would call upon his illiterate common soldiers to go on a mission that was, arguably, America's last throw of the dice owing to a string of miserable disasters that characterized the country's earlier efforts to trounce the British imperialists.

On December 26, 1776, at the Trenton garrison, in what turned out to be the day that shaped America's destiny, Washington embarked on the most daring offensive move throughout the Revolutionary War (Tucker, 2016). He gave his largely inexperienced commandants the free will to apply either a quick attack and quick retreat strategy or a head-to-head battle. Washington, with his general tactical direction, had opted to build a team of young militiamen who would capitalize on their agility and speed to conquer a better-trained and larger British army (Tasler, 2014).

Nonetheless, Washington's plan seemed to be mission impossible. His soldiers were to cross the wide, ice-clogged Delaware River from eastern Pennsylvania to western New Jersey, trek south via an unfamiliar territory and attack the Trenton garrison from the north. On reaching Trenton, Washington's soldiers were to ambush the well-trained British troops and ultimately seize the strategic Trenton town. Miraculously, this apparently far-fetched strategy that was devised by an untrained military leader who had the audacity to turn America's ill fortune on the battlefield ended in an unexpected victory. The young American soldiers were able to launch concurrent attacks from two separate wings and caught the formidable British soldiers by surprise to seal America's triumph over colonial rule (Tucker, 2016).

Reflecting back on how the battle at Trenton was won, Washington's brilliance in implementing an unprecedented fusion of the elements of stealth, speed, shock, and surprise as the cornerstones of one of the most ingenious battle plans during the revolutionary war was entirely responsible for the reversal of America's cruel fate (Tucker, 2016). However, another baffling quality that Washington portrayed throughout the entire war was his confidence and composure when no one would dare to think that a 45-year-old man from Virginia would actually resurrect America's utopian vision and egalitarian dream of rebuilding the world afresh. Washington's mission to capture Trenton town looked irrational on paper. His soldiers were utterly unskilled, under-resourced, and outnumbered by British opponents (Tasler, 2014). Yet, against all these unfavorable conditions, Washington was confident enough to send them to a perilous battlefield where failure would result in being sent to the gallows for treason.

Washington trusted his call of civil-military surroundings more than anything else (Saslav & Braun, 2017). The Trenton attack was a mere gamble. In fact, some of his soldiers did not reach the garrison due to the precarious conditions they encountered while crossing the Delaware River. However, Washington remained calm and composed with the only motivation being that the fate of a New America needed this triumph. Ultimately, the outcome was not only a tactical victory for George Washington but also a significant strategic victory for America. It was the success of this surprise attack on Trenton that aided in spurring the country's support of the revolution. Virtually all of the then 44 newspapers in America supported the revolution following the capture of Trenton town, whereby they urged Americans to be proud of their soldiers (Saslav & Braun, 2017).

All in all, to encapsulate the above account, Washington's most valuable leadership trait during the Revolutionary War and his presidency thereafter, was his ability to stir the coordination and confidence needed to gather political and monetary support from a range of stakeholders such as his soldiers, the French government, the public, and the Congress. This attribute enabled Washington to maintain an influential frame of mind required in his leadership position.


Saslav, L. C. A. O., & Braun III, W. G. (2017). Civil-Military Relations: George Washington, An Example for Today's Leaders.

Tasler, N. (2014). Three Decisions that Defined George Washington's Leadership Legacy. Retrieved from

Tucker, P. T. (2016). George Washington's Surprise Attack: A New Look at the Battle That Decided the Fate of America. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Wood, M. E. (2011). George Washington: A Grounded Leader. MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLL QUANTICO VA.

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