To get us to think further about these themes there are two classic leadership models that can assist us in a very practical way. Both these models were originally developed some 30 years ago. This may provoke the response “Then how can they be useful to us today” but these models remain as powerful and useful today as when they were first introduced. Both help us as leaders and managers to understand the dynamics involved in ‘letting people go’ to develop their real capabilities – the challenge in leading today’s organizations.
John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership Model and Paul Kersey’s situational approach are famous for helping managers think about their individual style and have been applied in thousands of organizations around the globe. The high emphasis that both these models place on delegating and trusting people to achieve superior performance is clearly aligned to the notions of empowerment and enabling people.
John Adair is a highly distinguished academic, consultant and author. He studied history at Cambridge University and holds higher degrees from the universities of Oxford and London. After Cambridge he became senior lecturer in Military History and Leadership Trainer Adviser at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. In addition to consulting with major companies he works with numerous government bodies covering every field from education to health.
In a distinguished career studying leadership, John Adair has described leadership as akin to balancing three critical dimensions at the same time. These dimensions represent the core of management and relate to the emphasis any leader places on:
The essence of Adair’s approach is that these dimensions must be managed if leaders are to be effective. Success, he argues, cannot be achieved in isolation. Well developed individuals need to work together as part of a successful and functioning team. Similarly teams are not effective if they don’t complete tasks on time and achieve their objectives and goals. So, if as a leader we neglect one of these three dimensions we need to recognize that it will impact on the other two. A team that is not focused may soon develop poor working relationships and, in time, this will invariably impact on their ability to complete key tasks and deliver results.
Adair is also a strong advocate that leadership skills can be taught. He places great emphasis on the notion of leadership effectiveness which he describes as what we do as opposed to who we are. This is a very powerful distinction to make as many people believe that you can’t be a leader unless you have a certain kind of charismatic personality. Indeed, many people develop blockages in their mind because of this kind of thinking. Some people will say to themselves, “I’m not a good people manager!” or “I don’t do the touchy feely stuff”. Adair reminds us that leadership is about what we do as opposed to who we are. He argues that if we carry out the activities that accompany his model then people will soon begin to increase their leadership effectiveness. His model allows us to analyze whether or not we actually carry out the activities his model details.