At The OpEd Project, our overarching mission is to nurture a diverse body of thought leaders. In our new Thinking About Thinking posts, we’ll be exploring conversations around thought leadership from today and throughout history. What is thought leadership? Where did it come from, how did it evolve to the buzzword in current conversations?
On July 17, 1776–exactly 237 years ago to this day–the Continental Congress learned about the War of Words. General George Washington had refused a message from a British general because it hadn’t addressed him as “general.” Hearing of this, Congress declared that Washington had acted “with a dignity becoming his station,” and ordered all American commanders to receive future correspondence that properly addressed them “in the characters they respectively sustain.”
It was a very simple act, but one that nonetheless spoke volumes of Washington both as a general and a thought leader. His refusal to accept a title anything less than what he felt he deserved set a precedent for the early leaders of the soon-to-be United States.
One of the earliest examples of thought leadership in our country, it’s the same thinking that pervades much of our modern-day society: not settling for anything less than what you deserve. Washington and his countrymen were the minority against the ruling Brits, and though today the international power dynamic has changed, minorities of a different kind still exist and face similar challenges as the struggling revolutionaries, fighting to get their voices heard.
Using the power of words, what seemingly simple act of assertion can you make today as a leader and creative thinker?