John Adair developed his Action-Centered Leadership model while at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, (England’s West Point) and as a director of The Industrial Society. He describes his thought leadership as “something akin to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity” because it “identifies the main forces at work in groups” and it enjoys “predictive accuracy.” (Effective Leadership. 1983)
Leadership is about a sense of direction, a path to success. Leaders are committed and enthusiastic. They impart those two qualities to the individuals and groups who must perform the tasks needed for success. Adair says that leadership is about creating teamwork, and that teams share three things:
- The need to accomplish a common task.
- The need to maintain a feeling of being part of, and belief in, the group.
- The need for the team to embody the sum of each individual’s needs.
Task – Team – Individual
Adair, therefore, says that success is dependent on three overlapping elements:
- The Task in hand
- The Team who will deliver on the task
- The Individuals who make up the team.
If any of those is ignored, or just given a back seat, there will not be total success. For example:
- If the tasks to be performed lack real purpose because the goals or deliverables are not clear, performance will fall off.
- If the team does not buy into the goals or the activities they must perform even if they are clear then, again, tasks will not be performed well.
- If individuals within the team feel excluded in some way, then their individual performance will be lacking; that will detract from overall team performance and from achieving the goals.
The Functions of Leadership
Adair lists six primary leadership functions. When the leader fulfills them by focusing on certain actions, the individuals feel involved, the team performs well, and tasks are completed to standard. The six functions are:
- Planning: collecting all necessary information, setting goals, defining tasks, creating a workable plan.
- Initiating: setting performance standards, setting task responsibilities, communicating them effectively to the group.
- Controlling: monitoring actions, progress and standards.
- Supporting: working to enhance team spirit, coaching, counseling, disciplining and reconciling team and individual team member issues, and celebrating successes.
- Informing: two-way communication, ensuring clarity of communication.
- Evaluating: evaluating performance standards, enabling the team to monitor and evaluate their own performance.
Leadership is a skill that leaders demonstrate through specific actions. In today’s business world, operational teams may be separated by distance, time zones and by corporate structure. Leaders must keep everyone focused on goals, standards and actions. The leader, therefore, focuses on the task the team must complete, the overall team dynamic, and the attitude, skill and knowledge of individuals within the team. The result will be continuing success.
Our goal is to recruit the right people for the tasks they are to perform, the standards by which they will be judged, and the results they are expected to achieve.
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