In an article entitled, 12 Leadership Qualities of An Often-Overlooked President, Matt Myatt, writing in forbes.com online reviewed the leadership qualities of John Adams as laid out in David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography, appropriately entitled John Adams. Adams presidency was glossed over with little more than a brief mention, most probably because he was President between two of our more memorable presidents – Washington and Jefferson. Samuel Eliot Morrison once said that history teaches us how to behave and Adams provides a great example on it. The following list contains 12 qualities that made him a great man and a great leader:
- He valued education. He began his education at college when he was fifteen and he never lost his curiosity. He passed this tenet to his children, stressing education to his children and played a large role in their learning. The more Adams thought about the future of America, the more he was convinced it was through education.
- He strove for a good reputation. As a young lawyer, Adams knew he would get nowhere without a good reputation. The same is even more so today.
- He loved his wife. McCullough’s book made clear the love story that was of John and Abigail Adams. As much as he was apart from his wife, the more he sought her counsel. The benefit for the historian and for us is that such counsel came through correspondence preserved for posterity. Adams never operated in a bubble and neither should you.
- He fought for what was right. Adams knew that defending the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre would harm his reputation and it did but it was also the right thing to do.
- He was a great communicator. This surprised me a bit as I had always thought this was a weakness of Adams. Yet he made himself into both a great writer and speaker, through study of the Classics.
- He recognized his weaknesses and brought in others to fill those talent gaps. When Adams found himself in a situation where he felt inadequate, he did one of two things: recommend someone else, and if that was not possible; he would learn what he had to, and then work diligently to achieve the desired outcome.
- He could spot talent. This is perhaps where Adams shined the brightest, as Adams was the first to submit George Washington’s name for general of the Continental Army, a post being clamored for by many. He also recruited the pen of Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence and the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin to help edit it.
- Physical courage. Leaders should always stand up for others and exhibit courage in the face of danger and Adams was exception. Particularly during the revolutionary years, Adams demonstrated great personal courage.
- He had unwavering integrity. Many people disliked Adams for his political views, but they never could say that he was not a man of integrity. He was loyal to a fault to those he called friends.
- He had perseverance. Adams was in the long line of hearty and dogged New Englanders. Yet when he was a diplomat he found it did not suit him but he preserved and helped negotiate favorable treaties for the colonies and later United States.
- He had the ‘vision thing’. Long before it was so articulated, Adams was able to articulate a vision for the fledgling colonies as an independent nation that many others could not. Being able to see the bigger picture is a trait that leaders must possess if they are going to be successful in the long-run.
- He was a true public servant. The public career of John Adams can be described as nothing other than service beyond self. Adams believed in something bigger – he literally gave his life so that every American might have the freedom and liberty to live the life we choose.
John Adams’ career presents several important leadership lessons for the business leader today.Click to tweet