John Adams did not hesitate to lead his countrymen into revolution, but when other advocates of American independence focused solely on tearing down British tyranny, Adams kept asking, “Then what?” Asking—and answering—this question was for him the key to managing revolutionary change successfully, for the present and for the ages.
After receiving his Ph.D. (with emphasis on American literature and culture) from the University of Iowa in 1979, and serving in the core curriculum of that Big 10 school as a graduate teaching assistant, Alan Axelrod taught at Lake Forest College (Lake Forest, Illinois) during 1979-80 and at Furman University (Greenville, South Carolina) from 1980 to 1982. He entered publishing in 1982 as associate editor with the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum (Winterthur, Delaware). After a brief stint as associate editor at Van Nostrand Reinhold (New York) in 1984, he became senior editor at Abbeville Press (New York) during 1984-91 and then vice president of Zenda, Inc., a consulting firm to museums and cultural institutions. In 1994, he left Zenda to become director of development (chief acquisitions editor) for Turner Publishing, Inc. (Atlanta), a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. In 1997, he founded The Ian Samuel Group, Inc., a creative services and book-packaging firm, and is its president.
Axelrod has served as consultant to numerous museums and cultural institutions, including the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum (Rochester, New York), the Airman Memorial Museum (Suitland, Maryland), and the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum (Winterthur, Delaware). He has been a creative consultant for (and on-camera personality in) The Wild West television documentary series (Warner Bros., 1993) and Civil War Journal (A&E Network, 1994), and he served as historical consultant for The Discovery Channel.
Miracle at Belleau Wood: The Birth of the Modern U.S. Marine Corps (Lyons Press, 2007) (A Main Selection of the Military Book Club)
Horrid Pit: The Battle of the Crater, the Civil War's Cruelest Mission (Carroll & Graf, 2007)
Blooding at Great Meadows: Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped
The Man (Running Press, 2006)
Profiles in Audacity: Great Decisions and How They Were Made (Sterling, 2006)
Patton: A Biography (Palgrave Macmillan's Great Generals Series, 2006), series editor General Wesley K. Clark
Thomas Jefferson (Alpha “Critical Lives” series biography, 2001)
Benito Mussolini (Alpha “Critical Lives” series biography, 2001)
Astronomy (Oryx Frontiers of Science Series) (with Christopher De Pree) (Oryx, 2000)
Complete Idiot's Guide to Criminology (Macmillan/Alpha, 2002)
Complete Idiot's Guide to World War I (Macmillan/Alpha, 2000)
Complete Idiot's Guide to the 20th Century (Macmillan/Alpha, 1999)
Complete Idiot's Guide to the American Revolution (Macmillan/Alpha, 1999)
Complete Idiot's Guide to Jazz (Macmillan/Alpha, 1999)
Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy (with Christopher De Pree) (Macmillan/Alpha, 1999; Second Edition, 2001)
Complete Idiot's Guide to the Civil War (Macmillan/Alpha, 1998)
Complete Idiot's Guide to Mixing Drinks (Macmillan/Alpha, 1998)
Complete Idiot's Guide to American History (Macmillan/Alpha, 1996; Second Edition, 2000)
My Brother's Face: Portraits of the Civil War (with Charles Phillips; Chronicle Books, 1993)
What Everyone Should Know About the 20th Century: 200 Events That Shaped Our Time (with Charles Phillips; Adams, 1993)
Songs of the Wild West (Simon and Schuster/Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992)
The War between the Spies: A History of Espionage During the American Civil War (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992)
A Chronicle of the Indian Wars: From Colonial Times to Wounded Knee (Prentice-Hall Press, 1992)
What Every American Should Know About American History: 200 Events That Shaped the Nation (with Charles Phillips; Adams, 1992)
Art of the Golden West (Abbeville Press, 1991)
Political History of America's Wars (CQ Press, 2006)
Encyclopedia of the American Armed Forces (Facts on File, 2005)
America's Wars (John Wiley, 2002)
The Concise VNR Encyclopedia of Science (with Christopher De Pree) (John Wiley, 2002)
Congressional Quarterly's American Treaties and Alliances (CQ Press, 2000)
The Penguin Dictionary of American Folklore (Penguin Reference, 2000)
The Macmillan Dictionary of Military Biography (Macmillan, 1998)
Miss Nomer's Guide to Painfully Incorrect English: An A-to-Z Handbook of Common Errors —and How to Avoid Them (Berkley, 1998)
Encyclopedia of the American West, four volumes (with Charles Phillips; Macmillan General Reference, 1996)
The Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders (Facts On File, 1996)
Cops, Crooks, and Criminologists: A Biographical Dictionary of Law Enforcement (Facts On File, 1995)
Dictators and Tyrants (Facts On File, 1994)
The Environmentalists: A Biographical Dictionary from the 17th Century to the Present (Facts on File, 1993)
Eisenhower on Leadership: Ike's Enduring Lessons in Total Victory Management (Jossey-Bass, 2006)
Getting Your Way Every Day: Mastering the Lost Art of Pure Persuasion (Amacom, 2006)
When the Buck Stops with You: Harry S. Truman on Leadership (Portfolio, 2004)
My First Book of Business Ethics (Quirk Books, 2004)
My First Book of Business Etiquette (Quirk Books, 2004)
Nothing to Fear: Leadership Lessons from FDR (Portfolio, 2003)
Profiles in Leadership (Prentice-Hall Press, 2002)
Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Monopoly (Running Press, 2002)
How to Say it from the Heart: Communicating with Those Who Matter in Your Personal and Professional Life (Prentice-Hall Press, 2001)¶
Elizabeth I, CEO: Strategic Lessons in Corporate Leadership from a Woman Who Built an Empire (Prentice-Hall Press, 2000) A Business Week bestseller
Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare (Prentice-Hall Press, 1999) A Business Week bestseller
How to Say it at Work: Putting Yourself Across with Power Words, Phrases, Body Language, and Communication Secrets (Prentice-Hall Press, 1998) ¶
201 Ways to Manage Your Time Better (McGraw-Hill, 1997)
201 Ways to Deal with Difficult People (McGraw-Hill, 1997)
201 Ways to Say No Gracefully and Effectively (McGraw-Hill, 1997)
The Lifetime Guide to Business Speaking and Writing (Prentice-Hall Press, 1996) ¶
The Do-It-Yourself Business Promotions Kit (Prentice-Hall Press, 1995) ¶
How to Say It Best (Prentice-Hall Press, 1994) ¶
The Business Speaker's Almanac (Prentice-Hall Press, 1994) ¶
Speaking Up: What to Say to Your Boss and Everyone Else Who Gets on Your Case (Adams Communications, 1993)§
The New Handbook of Business Letters (Prentice-Hall Press, 1993); reissued as The Complete Handbook of Model Business Letters ¶
¶ Published under the pseudonym “Jack Griffin”
§ Published under the pseudonym “Mark Ruskin”
Ace Your Midterms and Finals: Introduction to Psychology (McGraw-Hill/Schaum, 1999)
Ace Your Midterms and Finals: U.S. History (McGraw-Hill/Schaum, 1999)
Ace Your Midterms and Finals: Fundamentals of Mathematics (McGraw-Hill/Schaum, 1999)
Ace Your Midterms and Finals: Introduction to Physics (McGraw-Hill/Schaum, 1999)
Ace Your Midterms and Finals: Introduction to Biology (McGraw-Hill/Schaum, 1999)
Ace Your Midterms and Finals: Principles of Economics (McGraw-Hill/Schaum, 1999)
Table of Contents
How John Adams built a revolution and transformed it into the sustainable enterprise that is the United States of America.
“Mausoleums, Statues, Monuments Will Never Be Erected to Me”
Overview of the life and career of John Adams, with emphasis on his value as an enduring example of real-world leadership.
Whatever else John Adams was and would become, he made his early reputation as a great lawyer. He regarded law as the sovereign means of creating change within continuity, of effecting—when necessary—revolution, yet without yielding to anarchy. The lessons in this chapter lead up to the first great defining moment of Adams's career: his brilliant defense of the British soldiers who perpetrated the “Boston Massacre.”
The Logic of Liberty
The crux of Adams's leadership was his ability to marry passion to reason, to lay the foundation of a rational and just revolution. The lessons in this chapter illustrate his leadership style and his ability to persuade others and to move opinion through logic driven by compelling emotional and ethical force.
Sustaining the Revolution
Adams's greatest contribution to the American Revolution, once it had begun, was to lead it to sustainability by means of foreign finance and diplomacy. This chapter offers lessons in making even the most dramatic and radical change sustainable.
Sacrifice and Duty
Popular leadership literature these days has much to say about the “servant leader.” But the idea is not new. For Adams, more than two hundred years ago, a leader was before all else a servant—though his service was not rendered simply and directly to “the people,” but to law, to principle, and to good, the elements necessary to prosper the people in their enterprise. Because this form of servant leadership sometimes compelled the leader to deny the people instant gratification of their desires, the good steward often found himself unpopular—a circumstance Adams soon learned to endure.
“The Fate of Men and Things which Do Great Good”
John Adams confessed himself “afraid” of Thomas Paine's Common Sense because its “writer [had] a better hand in pulling down than building.” Adams saw Paine as an illustration of “the fate of men and things which do great good that they always do great evil too.” This chapter contains lessons in leading toward balance—of power with restraint, of passion with reason, of pulling down with building up.
Rope of Sand
Adams condemned the weak and ineffectual Articles of Confederation—precursor of the Constitution—as a “rope of sand,” incapable of holding together the several separate states as a single nation. This chapter, concentrating on Adams's role in the creation and promotion of the new Constitution, presents lessons in creating strong central leadership without yielding to arbitrary tyranny.
A Steward for the Generations
“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy,” Adams wrote to explain his concept of service—not just service to a revolution, but to posterity. This chapter, which covers Adams's post-Revolutionary diplomatic career and his vice presidency under Washington, offers lessons on leading for the long term, on acting as a steward of the future of the enterprise, of building to last.
A Basic Need for Recognition
Adams's overarching theory of human motivation was that people invariably acted out of a drive to distinguish themselves, a basic need for recognition. The leader's task was to channel this drive and need productively, to prevent it from propelling any one individual to a position of demagoguery and dictatorship. This chapter, focusing on Adams's presidency, presents lessons on leadership for both the acquisition and regulation of power. It draws from the most delicate and controversial passages of Adams's career, the years that helped to establish the United States as a nation among nations, but that also brought the reactionary and repressive Alien and Sedition Acts.
Fashioning the Fable
The lessons of the final chapter are drawn from the long life Adams lived after he left the presidency. They are lessons of reconciliation (with his political opposite number but philosophical soul mate, Thomas Jefferson), of legacy (as Adams passes the torch to his son John Quincy), of elder statesmanship, and of the evolution of Adams's own understanding of the meaning of his life and career. These lessons distill Adams's mature thought on ethics, values, ideals, and the limits of compromise in any enterprise that is worth sustaining.
An Adams Chronology
Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading