Top 37 George Washington Quotes & Leadership Tips

Today, I’d like to share my top 37 George Washington quotes.

When we consider George Washington, we know that he was the first President of the United States; he was a General of the Continental Army, and he helped us gain freedom from the English Crown. But, do we ever really consider the man? Do we look at how and why he was such a great leader? There is so much we can learn from the first President of the United States.

When George Washington spoke, people listened. Many of the words this great man spoke were remembered and written in diaries and journals. By doing this, even now we can learn from his words and his actions.

Top 37 George Washington Quotes

This list of George Washington quotes was compiled from online research, articles, books, YouTube videos, and other sources. Each quote is in bold and italics. After each quote, I provide my two cents on the topic.

# 1: The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.

Realizing that the United States Constitution was written with many wise men involved, and that it would be the base of liberty for United State’s citizens, George Washington vowed to protect, defend and never forsake it. As Soldiers, the Constitution should always be our primary guide. When we list or accept our commission we swear to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

# 2: Have faith and trust in Your Higher Power.

George Washington was a leader who had great faith in God.

When he took the Oath of Office to become President of the United States, he even added the words: So Help Me God, which have been used ever since.

I know that this may not set right with some people who believe there needs to be a separation, but if we truly look back, the greatest leaders all had trust and faith in a higher power.

I believe everyone has a higher power of some kind, even if they claim they don’t.

# 3: It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.

I have discovered in my years that almost every excuse is a bad one. As a matter of fact, it is often said that excuses are like poop holes: everyone has one, and they all stink.

# 4: Have faith in your soldiers.

George Washington believed in the men who fought under his command. If we don’t have faith in them, what good is the whole process?

We need to trust that our soldiers will follow, fight and win! And, by having faith in our soldiers we are having faith in ourselves, because we are the ones who prepared them.

# 5: Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.

No matter our circumstances, we always have something, or someone to be thankful for. I love this quote, because ingratitude is a detestable thing. I challenge you right now to think on 10 things you are grateful for.

# 6: Be punctual and follow the plan.

The best leaders are always on time, every time! George Washington was always on time.

It is said that he would have the evening meal at 4 PM every day, and if guests were invited, and were late, George would bluntly tell them that in his home, punctuality is always followed.

George would also follow plans to the letter, just as he believed in punctuality, he believed in following the plan. As a leader, you should take this advice to heart.

# 7: If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

I have heard people saying that certain journalists should not be able to say the things they say.

I have heard others say that groups such as Westboro Baptist Church who protest at military funerals should be stopped, but one Patriot Guard spoke some wise words using this quote…If we take their right to protest away, we then take all our rights away. We never should take our freedom of speech lightly.

# 8: Be honest.

George Washington was a very honest man, after all, most of us know about the cherry tree story from when Washington was a young man.

While that story was shown to be a myth, the story was made to explain just how honest this man was. No matter if the person is a subordinate or is above you, honesty is always the best policy. If you cannot tell the truth, it is best not to say anything at all.

# 9: At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a nation, and if their citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

This quote by Washington speaks for itself. It is true, if we are not free and happy, we can only blame ourselves. I truly believe we should really keep this quote at the forefront as many changes have been occurring in our methods of governing ourselves.

# 10: Have strong principles and morals.

Going right along with the honesty part, George was a man who held tight to his principles and moral character. He would not bow down to doing anything that was against his principles, and to be great leaders, neither should we.

# 11: To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.

When enemies see that we are prepared and able to defend ourselves, they are more apt to go after someone that is not prepared. This is why we should never consider cutting our military budget drastically as some politicians want.

# 12: Create a set of rules.

Creating a set of rules for ourselves is the first step, and we should also create a set of rules for our subordinates. By having these rules drawn out, everyone will know what is expected of them. We all need rules as a map for our lives.

# 13: Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to appellation.

I have always loved this quote. A person truly has very few close friends in a lifetime. There are many acquaintances, but few friends. We must always test and try our relationships before we allow them in to our secret place of residence.

# 14: Respect others.

There is a very old statement that says: To Get Respect, You Must Give Respect.

George Washington showed respect for all humans he met. It didn’t matter how much money or prestige they had, they had his respect, and in turn, people respected George Washington.

I believe leaders need to really examine this tip because it seems that respect has almost disappeared. Many people think respect needs to be earnedI look at it slightly differently; I give respect until a person acts in a way deserving of me to lose respect for them.

# 15: Remember that it is the actions, and not the commission, that make the officer, and that there is more expected from him, than the title.

It is my firm opinion that every commissioned Officer should have to know this George Washington quote by heart. As Officers, you have responsibilities to live, eat and breathe the rank you have.

# 16: Maximize your strengths.

George Washington was a master at maximizing his strengths. If he saw that a unit was strong in a certain area, he would add soldiers who had that same strength, and he would put that unit in a position where that strength could be best used.

What are your strengths? Build on them! Focus not on weaknesses, but on strengths.

# 17: Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.

I believe that as a nation, we try to live up to this quote by our first President. But as individuals, are we doing so?

# 18: Don’t bow to political pressure.

If Washington knew something would or wouldn’t work, and politicians were arguing against him, he stood his ground. We need to be willing to stand our ground when we know that we know.

I believe that there is far too much “bowing” to powerful people who really don’t know what they are talking about in today’s world. We saw this happen with the war in Vietnam. Let’s not make those mistakes again.

# 19: Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.

As humans, learning and knowledge are bred deep within our souls. We cannot, and should not, deprive anyone from gaining knowledge. And as individuals we should always strive to gain knowledge for our happiness.

# 20: Use the power of persuasion.

In business and in the Army, the best leaders don’t always order… they persuade. They tell a true story that is persuasive and “grabs” the heart of the person, and creates a need and desire to do what they are persuaded to do. Persuasion works; try it.

# 21: Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

This is another Washington quote that sits strong with me. It has been shown in the United States and in other countries that when God is taken out of the picture, the morals go dormant.

This does not mean that one religion is right over another. We must respect each other’s beliefs.

# 22: Be serious about responsibilities.

Whether you are the leader of the janitors or the leader of a special forces division, you have responsibilities. They must be taken seriously, or your subordinates will not take you seriously. And, when you take your responsibilities seriously, your subordinates will take their responsibilities seriously and all other personnel will also follow suit.

# 23: In politics as in philosophy, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact it from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.

It seems overall, many of the U.S. politicians have ignored this famous quote by George Washington. We have meddled in the affairs of other countries where we had no reason to. This is why wars continue to occur. It is one thing when we are asked to intervene, but when we are not wanted, we should stay clear.

# 24: Don’t expect favors.

As a leader, it is fine to ask for favors, but you should never expect favors. By doing so, you put yourself in a position of allowing the favor giver the power over you.

Do not expect favors from anyone. I also suggest keeping your asking of favors to a minimum. A favor is similar to a loan; you will have to repay it at some point.

# 25: A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.

Leaders should always research the intention before they judge the person’s actions.

I once saw a judge give a shoplifter a very small fine ($1). The reason why was, the man was stealing a pack of ground beef to feed his children. The individual immediately after had a smile thinking he would get off easy… he shoplifted a pack of cigarettes.

The same judge gave him 14 days in jail. The judge looked at intentions.

# 26: Empower others.

This somewhat goes along with having faith in your troops, but you also need to give some powers. You need to trust that they will follow your lead, and by doing so, you are empowering them. They will usually bend over backwards to make sure they please you.

# 27: Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation.

If you “hang out” with people of low quality, you will be considered low quality. If you associate with people of high quality, you also will be thought of as having high quality. People often judge other people by the company they keep.

# 28: Hold subordinates accountable.

While we need to have faith in our soldiers, we also need to hold them accountable if they break any physical or moral rules. If held accountable, subordinates will realize they have to follow their responsibilities.

# 29: Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.

George Washington gave his all for this country. We should do the same. What other great leaders can you think of that gave so much for their country?

# 30: Have care & love for your soldiers.

To put this in context, George Washington acted as if every soldier under his command was his own son. He had a love for each one and truly cared about them. While we sometimes may not like the actions or attitudes of some of our subordinates, we still need to realize they are our family… and that means care and love.

# 31: 99% of failures come from people who make excuses.

As a person who is intrigued by statistics, I would have to say that Washington hit the nail on the head with this stat.

# 32: Do not be influenced by foreign powers.

I remember when Mom used to tell me that if one of my friends would have jumped off a bridge, I would probably do the same. As leaders, we cannot allow our friends (allied foreign powers) to influence our decisions. We need to make decisions that are best for the United States, the U.S. Army and American citizens.

# 33: Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all.

If you truly study the most successful Army units, you will always notice they are highly disciplined. Discipline is what is first taught when joining the Army and it is what holds the American military together.

# 34: Personal investment.

George Washington taught us just how much being personally invested in the cause you are leading means. He put both money and time towards the war to free the United States. When we are personally invested, we will be better leaders.

# 35: I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.

As many religions will say they have the one and only way to everlasting life, Washington stated the religious principles this nation has must always keep established: any and all can worship their higher power however they wish, and whenever they wish as long as they are not encroaching on other people’s rights, nor breaking any laws.

# 36: Place your soldier’s welfare before your own.

This goes right along with the belief that your subordinates are your family. George Washington cared about the welfare of his lowest private as much as he cared about the welfare of his right hand man. He cared about the welfare of them more than his own.

# 37: Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.

If we try to get our happiness from outside sources, we will be easily discouraged. Happiness is inside of us. Where are you looking for happiness?

Final Thoughts

Even though George Washington led our troops in battle and also took on the office of President of the United States so many years ago, the words he spoke and the actions he took can be a guide in how we live our lives and lead others.

We are a blessed nation and we were graced to have such a great man as our founding Father. Do not think that because of the length of time that you cannot learn from George Washington.

What are your thoughts? What is your favorite George Washington quote or leadership lesson? You can post them below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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