A Comparison of Two Great Leaders

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A Comparison of Two Great Leaders

A Comparison of Two Great Leaders 

M4A1 – Midterm Examination

Brett L. Sprenger

Excelsior College


What is leadership? According to Dictionary.com, the definition of leadership is, “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” However, the former president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower has been quoted as saying that leadership, “…is the art of getting someone else to do something you want them to do because they want to do it.”  Both definitions support what we all believe is leadership, but President Eisenhower’s definition speaks more to great leadership, rather the act of simply getting a group of people from ‘A’ to ‘B’, if you will. His quote inspires one to consider ‘how?’ How does one accomplish this task of getting someone else to do what they want, willingly and with great devotion and loyalty? General George Washington did it during the attack on the British at Germantown, Wellington did it when he defeated a Martha force at Assaye while being out-manned 8 to 1. However, when compared, these mean are quite opposite in their leadership styles and even warfare tactics, but nonetheless, both great leaders.  

So what are the characteristics of great leaders and are they natural or learned traits, or both? This is a topic of discussion among many throughout the world regardless of age, gender, profession, etc. and none can or will come to the same conclusion as it is subjective to many factors like: age, gender, culture profession, etc. However, regardless of these factors, we all know great leadership when we see it and experience it, but it is an art, as President Eisenhower stated, to get others to willfully follow you. I believe one of the key elements of great leadership is trust. Trust is the concrete foundation for which loyalty and devotion are based and henceforth the most important concept for great leaders to acquire, but this trust must run both ways; it must be earned from the subordinate and offered to the subordinate in the same breath. Rosenback, Rosenback, and Taylor (2008) put it simply that, “Trust is the glue that holds organizations together and empowerment is the fruit trust.” Giving trust is easy but risk, whereas earning trust is what sets the great leaders apart from everyone else.

 Secretary James Norman Mattis is the ultimate purveyor of trust and is one of the greatest leaders of our time and shares a likeness in character to that of President George Washington. Both men have been successful in gaining the trust of their subordinates, peers and country as a whole and consequently been deemed as great leaders.

Leadership Qualities

Washington is described as, “…a cold, unattractive, detached, controlled man who could be something of a martinet.” (Harvey. 2008), but even still, his troops were loyal to him and devoted to his lead. This is due in part to his devotion to his men. According to Harvey (2008), upon his appointment to command the Unified American Army, Washington was disgusted by the conditions of the camps. He therefore ordered that, “…stale and unwholesome food be thrown away, clean bedding should be given to the men, new latrines should be dug and the rubbish around the camps should be removed.” Additionally, Washington “…had the women sympathizers up and down the colonies make no fewer than 14,000 coats.” (Harvey. 2008).  The loyalty of his troops was so strong, that congress gave up secret plans to replace him as commander of the Unified American Army (HistoryChannel.com Staff. 2009).