Social Media Claim

Leadership quote credited to former US president John Quincy Adams is false

This Facebook post from July 8, 2019, claims to be a quote from John Quincy Adams, the sixth US president from 1825-29.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from July 8, 2019 that claimed to be a quote from John Quincy Adams, the sixth US president from 1825-29. The post by NSW accountancy business PinnancleHPC attributes Mr Adams with the following quote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The caption on the post reads, “Motivational Monday: There’s a common misperception that leaders ‘motivate’ their people, but the truth is that leaders can only spark and cultivate the desire in people to dream, learn, do and become more”.

US President Donald Trump tweeted the same false quote on April 16, 2015.

The Analysis

US President Donald Trump used the same quote in a April 16, 2015 tweet which attracted 346 retweets and 361 likes. It was also used by his daughter Ivanka Trump in her 2017 book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.

Fact checking website Quote Investigator probed the quote’s origins in 2011 and found “no evidence that John Quincy Adams spoke or wrote the words”. The website traced the earliest version of the quote to a 1997 book titled, The Most Important Things I Know. The book attributes US country singer Dolly Parton with the following similar remark: “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader”. Quote Investigator also listed two other similar versions of the quote:

  • A 1939 comment from a church pastor in a Missouri newspaper read: “Whereupon, let us learn more, care more, love more and possibly do more in making a better world and our own community a more enjoyable place in which to live”;
  • NFL star Peyton Manning in a 1998 acceptance speech: “If my actions on the field and having my name on this Sullivan Trophy inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, as so many have said, I only hope they don’t limit that potential to sports.”

Quote Investigator found the earliest example of former President Adams being credited with the quote was in a 2002 business book, The Paradox of Power: A Transforming View of Leadership. The passage read: “You must lead and motivate from the middle. The motivator in the middle is the motivator who truly inspires people to do and be their best, John Quincy Adams challenged all managers when he wrote, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader”.”

The quote was also debunked in 2017 by H. W. Brands, a presidential historian at the University of Texas and the editor in chief of The Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Mr Brands said he had “never seen that from J. Q. Adams. It doesn’t sound like him. He wasn’t the dreamy type”.

Sara Martin, also of The Adams Papers from the Massachusetts Historical Society, agreed the quote “neither sounds like him, nor is it really the vein of political thought that he typically expresses in his quotations”.

The Verdict

Based on this evidence AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post by PinnancleHPC using a quote attributed to former US president Adams to be false.

  • False - The Facebook post is false

First published Tuesday July 9, 2019 17:40 AEST