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The “Independent” Leadership of John Adams

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

John Adams can teach us much about Leadership.

And on July 4th, what better time to talk about John Adams?

Why John Adams, you ask?

Well stay tuned over the next few paragraphs to learn why John Adams can teach us several dos and don’ts about the nature of leadership and service.

But let’s step back for a moment and consider again why this is so important?  I know that many folks understand what delivering a great Guest experience looks like, but as leaders, often struggle to inspire their teams to deliver that great service consistently.  This is the problem of leadership – those who were fantastic individual contributors may lose the ability to drive service when they are unable to manage service directly.

As a leader, you may find yourself responsible for final execution, but not directly responsible for delivering it.  You may be the leader of those in front line roles – or even the leader of those who manage those in front line roles.

The further removed you are from touching Guests directly, the more you must rely on leadership and motivation to fuel exceptional experiences.

So let’s take a moment to refresh all of our memories on perhaps the most underrated revolutionary. John Adams was part statesman, leader, and philosopher. He combined high level thought with pioneer common sense in a way that made him one of the most influential and important founding fathers.

But more importantly, he is a great example of many fantastic leadership qualities, as well as a few that should be avoided.

BELIEVE DEEPLY IN YOUR VALUES John Adams was called upon during the Boston Massacre to defend the British soldiers who killed 5 civilians; he took the case as he believed everyone deserves zealous representation.  Adams knew it could negatively impact his law practice, but he did so anyway as his beliefs were more important to him than public perception.

This is a great lesson for all of us as leaders.  It is always easy to rave about our values and vision when things are good – but when times are tough we get the best measure of leaders.  So know what you stand for; stay consistent with your beliefs; and make sure you are crystal clear about your values to your team and to yourself.  Then comes the most important part: you have to live them every day without fail.

BE PASSIONATE John Adams was selected with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and several others to draft the Declaration of Independence.  When the final document went to Congress for approval it was an intense floor-fight for the fledgling document.  Accounts from Jefferson call Adams “the pillar of [the Declaration’s] support on the floor of Congress, [its] ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered.”  It is well established that Adams’s passion for patriotism was legendary – and to that end, he was an aggressive advocate for independence.

The correlation we can make in today’s business world is clear – if you don’t believe in your business, your people, your Guests, then no one will.  Go to market with passion and leave it all on the field everyday – bring fire and passion and vigor to whatever your cause may be and you’ll find that attitude to be contagious.


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VALUE FAMILY John and Abigail Adams’s relationship is a love story for the ages.  They spent a great deal of time apart, but exchanged over 1100 letters during their courtship and marriage.  In these letters were words of advice from one to the other and they were absolutely open and honest.  One fantastic fact about their correspondence is how they began letters:  To My Dearest Friend.  They were a source of strength to one another and a sounding board on all things without reservation.

This is a pretty straightforward lesson – but one many overlook.  Family is a source of strength and often those with strong family bonds find themselves more successful in business.  If Adams can travel around the world, parlay with France, and persuade Holland to recognize the US as a sovereign nation while still staying in close contact with his family, then there is hope for all of us.

So when it all comes down to it, follow the best advice we have all received – don’t sacrifice family for business.

BEWARE JEALOUSY John Adams was absolutely a faulted human being – just like the rest of us.  He spent a lot of time worrying about his legacy and also how he stacked up to the likes of Washington and Jefferson.  This led to issues with hubris as well as jealousy of his contemporaries and how they would all be remembered in the annals of history.

This is very relevant to how we all interact in the business marketplace.  We can easily worry about what other leaders might be doing or the credit they might be receiving.  Today’s marketplace is competitive, but if we lose sight of our Guests and our teams in the thick of trying out outpace our peers, that could lead to bad workplace karma.  Keep in mind that freely giving out credit, recognition, and praise will keep the positivity flowing.  There is nothing more poisonous to a team than a leader who becomes caught up in work place politics or jealousy.

So learn from Adams, whose lackluster presidency almost overshadowed the decades of dedication to American independence.

No doubt that the American Revolution was a crucible that minted many amazing leaders – none more compelling and fiery than John Adams.  We can learn from leaders such as him every day – and what better time to take advantage of his example than on the 4th of July.

So until next time, remember that leadership is the key to driving a fantastic Customer experience. 

Have a great Independence Day and keep your customers at the center of everything you do.


Tony Johnson, CCXP

Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant



Improve Your Customer Service with my Book:

TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Team Click to Purchase on


Tony is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for customer service training, business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.

Tony is the founder of Ignite Your Service and the Chief Experience Officer for 4xi Global Consulting.


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