The 4 Revolutionary Leadership Tactics of Paul Revere

This is a guest post by Joel J. Miller. Formerly a vice president at Thomas Nelson, he is the author of the fascinating Independence-era biography, The Revolutionary Paul Revere. You can find him on Twitter or his blog.

When we think of leaders from America’s revolutionary era, our minds jump to military commanders like George Washington, political organizers like Samuel Adams, and rousing orators like Patrick Henry. In the hierarchy of the Revolution, these men stand atop the loftiest rungs. For good reason.

The Revolutionary Paul Revere

These men accomplished amazing feats against incredible odds. But they could not have done it alone. Like executives in a successful company, they required the service and sacrifice of others to achieve their goals. They required effective lieutenants—people like Paul Revere.

Everyone knows Revere for his famous ride. Most are, however, unaware of the vital “midlevel” leadership roles and functions that he played in the buildup to Independence. In researching his life for The Revolutionary Paul Revere, I found four tactics that made Revere indispensable to America’s revolutionary efforts—tactics that can also make you indispensable in your organization.

1. Take the Initiative

Revere was a blue collar guy, an artisan. Unlike other revolutionary leaders like John Adams or John Hancock, he received a minimal education and was entitled to none of life’s higher stations in colonial Boston, his hometown. That didn’t stop him from serving the cause. He led from where he was.

A goldsmith by trade, Revere led where he was able. One example: During the British military occupation of Boston following the Tea Party, who helped to organize a spy ring of workaday patriots to keep tabs on the redcoats and their commanders? None other than Revere—repairman of silverware by day, cloak-and-dagger coordinator by night.

Anyone can fill time and work a to-do list. Taking the initiative to lead is what sets apart someone truly valuable to an organization.

2. Leverage Your Strengths

Everyone brings unique talents to their situations, because everyone’s unique. The trick is in leveraging those strengths. Revere was a sociable fellow; he joined several different local clubs and associations and could regularly be found in the taproom of the Salutation or Green Dragon taverns. Connectedness was one of Revere’s strengths. So he used it.

Historian David Hackett Fischer sorted the membership lists of seven different Boston political groups and associations. He found 255 members in all, of whom 94.1 percent were in just one or two groups. And at the other end of the spectrum? Only Revere and his friend Joseph Warren belonged to more than four groups—in fact, each was a member of five different groups. Revere’s network made him useful as someone who could link disparate revolutionary parties, and his connectedness applied in other areas as well, including his role as an express rider.

Whatever your unique strengths, leveraging them in a leadership capacity increases your worth to your organization—especially if you excel at the third tactic.

3. Be Reliable

When Sam Adams needed someone to send word to New York that Boston patriots had just dumped several hundred crates of tea in Boston Harbor, he sent Revere—who was also one of the likely participants in the destruction of the tea.

That was 1773. He served as an express rider through start of the war in 1775. In one of countless messages Revere carried to New York during this period, Boston patriot Thomas Young referred to Revere as “Steady, vigorous, sensible, and persevering.” Whether it was riding express or printing money or casting cannons or even figuring out how to manufacture gunpowder, Revere was tapped time and again because patriot higher-ups could count on him to get the job done, whatever it was and even if he’d never done it before, which oftentimes he had not.

That last fact highlights Revere’s strength at creative problem solving, something he reliably leveraged every day. It’s also one area that every leader at any level in an organization should cultivate.

4. Cultivate Creativity

Human creativity is life’s only truly renewable resource. The more you use it, the more you get. In his business life, Revere was constantly creating and developing new methods, fresh approaches, and ingenious applications. He transferred that facility into the patriot movement. Whether it was unknotting technological problems for the patriots or coordinating communications, Revere reaffirmed his value at every turn.

Take the ride for which he’s famous. Revere realized that if the British were to seize the powder stores at Concord, they might try to lock down Boston to prevent any word about the assault from spreading. Revere’s job was to spread the news, so coming home through Charlestown several days before his fabled ride and the Battle of Lexington and Concord, he contrived the one-and-two lamp signal from North Church tower. That way if he were unable to get back to Charlestown, the patriots there could still get the news and spread the alarm.

Revere’s fears proved true. When the Brits did move, they seized almost every boat in town and placed sentries along the roads. Revere was able to get out by one of the few undiscovered boats, but the people in Charlestown already knew about the troops when Revere arrived because he’d charged someone with hanging the lights in the tower. The solution worked.

If it’s true that most of a leader’s job involves problem solving, then one of the most important things you can do as a leader is to follow Revere and cultivate creativity in the endeavor.

Question: How does Paul Revere’s humble but ambitious approach to leadership inspire you as you think about your unique position and opportunities? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://www.chandlercrawford.com/ Chandler Crawford

    Great article, I agree that Revere is a character in history that is overlooked. I think the point about being reliable is the most important. I have found it’s fairly easy to find competent people, or those who have the potential to be good leaders, but finding those who are competent and reliable on a consistent basis are those who are hard to find.

    Thanks for sharing a very new take on something. You definately cultivated creativity.

    • Joel J. Miller

      Thanks, Chandler! Sometimes a flash is nice, but a consistent glow is important too.

      • http://www.chandlercrawford.com/ Chandler Crawford

        Agree 100%. Thanks!

  • http://patternsofsuccess.com/ Jason Richardson

    Great article! I love the story of Paul Revere, but hadn’t heard some of these details.

    The story of John Hancock is another story from the era worth mentioning. Being the first to sign a document that guaranteed death by hanging was no small act! I posted his story this morning: http://jrich.us/TTA2iw

  • Christie

    Great discussion of Leadership! I’ll be going out to get the book this weekend. Thanks Michael!

    • Joel J. Miller

      Thanks! I hope you enjoy the read. It’s a good book for the Fourth of July.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    It’s inspiring to see what an “average person” did and how it impacted this country and our lives. Too often I think “who am I?” Simply amazing.

    • Joel J. Miller

      I think “who am I?” is best answered by just getting into the middle of something and seeing how to add value. The answer comes from our contribution.

  • Cherry Odelberg

    “Human creativity is life’s only truly renewable resource.” Resourceful, that’s me.

  • Craig Trombly

    I focus on contributing my strengths as much as possible, and constantly being aware of the strengths of those I lead, and those I follow. Focusing on your strengths is the proven path to world class performance.

  • https://patrickfahlen.com Patrickfahlen.com

    Great Post

  • Kirk Apolo

    Leaders are learners. When a tree stops growing, it is dead and when a leader ceases to grow, their effectiveness dies, also. new games