John Adair is a renowned leadership theorist. He devised his Action
Centred Leadership Model following observations of leaders and their
followers during the 1970s. Adair captured his theory in a three circle
diagram; in which each of the circles overlapped.
The three overlapping circles illustrate that each of the functions
are interdependent. This is because individuals make up teams, teams/individuals
complete tasks and without a task there is no need for a team or individual.
If one element is missing or weak then the other elements will suffer.
For example if the team is weak then the task will suffer and one weak
individual can affect team performance and subsequently task completion.
Adair said that leaders should therefore concentrate on:
Task Completion (achieve the task)
Creating and sustaining a group of people that work together as a team (build and sustain a team) and
Development of individuals within the team (develop the individual).
Adair stated that the three objectives (above) can be achieved through
the following actions. These are often referred to as leadership functions.
Defining all tasks: so that goals and objectives are SMART (Specific,
Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Constrained). see www.learnmarketing.net/smart.htm
Regular team briefings: so that the team are aware of tasks and progress.
Team briefings are a form of communication and can therefore be used
to motivate the team.
Motivating: is a key leadership function because successful and efficient
task completion is dependant on motivated teams.
Organising: If a leader does not organise the task
and team resources will be wasted and efficiency compromised.
Planning: Tasks need to be planned so that both the
team and leader are aware of objectives, time scales and individual responsibilities.
Planning should include contingencies to cater for unexpected events
include testing of the plans.
Evaluations: A leader should constantly evaluate prior to, during and after events.
This should include an evaluation of performance, training for individuals
and lessons from previous experiences.
Control: A leader needs to control a number of areas including maintaining overall
control of the project, implementation of good control systems, and
they need to possess self control.
Delegation: A leader also needs to delegate tasks
effectively and monitor the teams skills to increase efficiency and “value for money”. Adair believed that an “excellent
leader” achieved maximum results through the use of minimum resources.
Lead by example: If a leader does not lead by example this will affect
their credibility and influence. If a team do not believe that their
leader believes in the their objectives then they will lose motivation
Leadership Can Be Taught
Adair firmly believed that leadership can be taught and that a person
can become a successful leader through effectively applying the action
centred leadership model. This opinion was a departure from the other
theories prevailing at the time (1960s) which stated that people are
born with leadership characteristics and therefore leadership cannot
Nowadays Adair’s theory is either criticised for being
“too simple” and branded as outdated, or welcomed by those
who feel that it’s simplicity and practicality render it timeless; the model is being used successfully in many organisations today, including global financial institutions, international biotech companies, law firms and government departments