I believe that the United States of America has produced two superlative leaders in its entire history: George Washington and George C Marshall.
I have been a student of history (said the guy with degrees in civil engineering, economics, math [the economics and math degrees come from the electives I took for civil engineering wherein I had 28 more credit hours than I needed to graduate], and finance, but no history) for as long as I have known how to read.
In the last 40 years, I have been enthralled about learning about leadership by reading history — primarily biographies about Presidents and military leaders — to see what lessons I can glean from them that are applicable to my own little sphere of influence as a CEO and a CEO coach. I was a CEO for 33 years, an Army officer for 5 before that, and a CEO advisor/coach for 7 years.
The case for Washington’s greatness as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, the first President of the United States, and an entrepreneur is easy to find. He is sufficiently removed in time that his life is well documented by progressively better and better research and books about his life and the lives of those around him.
My favorite “starter kit” on Washington is Ron Chernow’s biography, Washington, A Life. [Chernow’s books on Hamilton and Grant are also excellent.]