Independence Day: The Results of Good and Bad Leadership

There are few holidays that represent leadership better than Independence Day. A holiday in which we celebrate the leadership of a few brave leaders who had a grand vision and the courage to pursue it. Additionally, I associate Independence Day with one of the greatest acts of leadership the world has ever seen.

But to see the incredible act of leadership, you must first look at the poor leadership of King George III. In fact, it was his poor and unjust leadership that drove the colonies to declare independence from Britain. His poor leadership was called out by the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence; “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” The written declaration also provides specific examples of how the king failed to apply principled leadership.

We celebrate Independence Day on July 4th as it is associated with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States….” In essence, the colonies had declared that they would no longer follow, but would lead. In just a few short generations following that declaration, 13 colonies transformed from a rabble to the leaders of the Free World.

The drafting and publication of the declaration by the Founding Fathers is an incredible example of leadership but hails in comparison to the act that follows. The act that I consider to be one of the most fascinating displays of leadership ever.

The leader was George Washington and the act of incredible leadership came on March 4th, 1797, when President Washington voluntarily handed over the power of the Presidency to John Adams. This peaceful transition of power was almost unheard of in history and set an incredible precedent for future presidents. Yes, this act of leadership happened nearly 11 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but every year I always reflect on the incredible display of leadership by President Washington.

On this Independence Day, amidst the cookouts and fireworks, take a minute to ask yourself these questions, “Could I do it? Could I voluntarily hand over the keys to nation? Could I hand over all of that power?” I am sure a lot of us say “sure, no problem” but is that true? How many leaders do you know that have held on to their position too long and ended up hurting their organizations.

In closing, I challenge you to reflect on these questions and think about your legacy as a leader, will you display the courage of the founding fathers or even better, the character of George Washington?


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