Leadership Lessons from Samuel Adams

By | August 12, 2020

[August 12, 2020]  I’m starting a new mini-series about leadership lessons taken from the writings of famous Revolutionary War heroes.  To begin the series, I will start with Samuel Adams (1722-1803) as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and political philosopher.

After Sam Adams passed away, his legacy was shrouded in controversy.  In the early 20th century, he was portrayed as a master of propaganda who provoked mob violence to achieve his goals.  This interpretation has been challenged by some modern scholars who argue that such depictions of Adams are myths contradicted by the historical record.1

“Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.” – Samuel Adams

Adams is considered the “spark” that touched off the flame of revolution in the American colonies.  His writings, leading up to the American Revolution, called for the colonies to reject British “taxation without representation.”  Samuel Adams was the essential leader of the birth of American Liberty.2

Here are five leadership lessons from Samuel Adams:3

  1. Leadership is the art of influence. If you want to lead, you must find ways to influence people to join your team, participate in your cause, and share a common vision.
  2. Commitment makes all the difference. To act, to do, to be committed to the cause is everything.  People do not follow leaders who are not engaged.
  3. Leaders organize for success. Adams’ development of organizations such as the Sons of Liberty gave structure to the cause of Liberty.  To lead effectively, you must organize for success and motivate your team to act.
  4. Leaders Shape the Culture of their Organizations. Adams’ life was about encouraging his fellow colonists to stand up for their rights as free men.  He also understood that to lead effectively, you must have a vision and act upon it.
  5. Leaders understand that they must appeal to people emotionally as well as intellectually. Adams believed that people are governed more by their feelings than by reason.  You can implore logic, but if you do not appeal to people’s feelings, you may never reach them.

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Adams
  2. https://keplersreviews.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/7-leadership-lessons-of-the-american-revolution-the-founding-fathers-liberty-and-the-struggle-for-independence-by-john-antal-2/
  3. https://www.theleadermaker.com/trust-heart-leadership/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from Samuel Adams

  1. Danny Burkholder

    Sam Adams (and I don’t mean the beer) is DA MAN! He was the great intellectual thinker behind the US Constitution and the policies adopted by our govt.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Ha Ha, good comment Danny. Yes, Adams was a great man and genius in his own way. Without men like him, and those who supported him, we would not have a USA today.

  2. Newbie Yunger

    Excellent laydown of Adams’ leadership ideas. Thanks.

    1. Linux Man

      Yes, and another good reason to also follow the links to more writings of Sam Adams. I’ve not read enough but I will correct that over the next few days.

  3. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Thank you for a short history lesson and for summarizing what you believe to be Samuel Adams leadership lessons. Please continue your series. This upcoming start of the new school year, I’ll use these a teaching tools for my High School classes.

  4. old warrior

    Butt kicking quote:
    “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
    ― Samuel Adams

    1. Georgie B.

      You’re just killing me old warrior with your “butt kicking” style. Thanks for making my day.

  5. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    IMHO, the first two items listed here on leadership lessons are the real heart of Sam Adams, the following ones are supporting efforts and more like observations. For example, leaders drive the culture of their organization. This is more about what they do than how they do it. Great article, Gen. Satterfield. I’m glad you’re starting another one of your mini-series and in particular using these Founding Fathers as examples. ?

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      I agree with you Otto. More writings of S. Adams should be read. Why? Because it helps our ability to “think” and to “speak” precisely. To be a better leader….

  6. Joe Omerrod

    In innumerable newspaper letters and essays over various signatures, Sam Adams described British measures and the behavior of royal governors, judges, and customs men in the darkest colors. He was a master of organization, arranging for the election of men who agreed with him, procuring committees that would act as he wished, and securing the passage of resolutions that he desired.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      American Founding Father Samuel Adams helped organize the Boston Tea Party and signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

    2. KenFBrown

      A strong opponent of British taxation, Samuel Adams helped formulate resistance to the Stamp Act and played a vital role in organizing the Boston Tea Party. He was a second cousin of U.S. President John Adams, with whom he urged a final break from Great Britain, and a signee of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

  7. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    The Art of Influence: Persuading Others Begins With You
    by Chris Widener | Jul 8, 2008
    Found on Amazon and ordered it a few years ago. I highly recommend the book. It reinforces what Samuel Adams wrote as laid out here by Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Yes, good book.
      Through a parable, this book teaches four lessons of influence:
      1. Live a life of undivided integrity
      2. Always demonstrate a positive attitude
      3. Consider other people’s interests as more important than your own
      4. Don’t settle for anything less than excellence

    2. Army Captain

      All to support the idea of influence that leaders can bring to accomplish their mission.

  8. Randy Goodman

    I’ve always been a reader of Sam Adams’ writings. He was a genius. Good thing we had him as one of our Founding Fathers.

    1. Stacey Borden

      Why do you like him so much when we have George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and others? I would answer that Adams was the intellectual powerhouse behind so many of the ideas that other, more famous people, implemented.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        JT, I think we are all in the same boat here and like what Adams wrote and what he actually did personally to make sure the 13 colonies became what we call the United States. He was indeed a great man at many levels. He is a bit underrated.

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