<!-- 18. --> Leadership in Management

Two classic approaches

Two classic approaches

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:

  • Achieving the task or goals. Task
  • Developing individuals and their capabilities. Individual
  • Building a team out of a group of individuals. Team

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.

Action-centred leadership – a checklist

  • Define the fundamental mission and objectives of the team: Why do we exist? What are our key aims and goals. Provide a clear sense of purpose and direction – the vision.
  • Communicate the vision and team goals with real enthusiasm.
  • Set out and agree clear roles for individuals. Communicate those roles.
  • Focus individuals on their key tasks and objectives.
  • Set individual targets after discussion and consultation; discuss individual progress with each team member.
  • Work in teams of four to 15 people and ensure people under­stand the three dimensions of Task, Team and Individual.
  • Ensure the continuing commitment of individuals to the team.
  • Review and replan when necessary and check on progress with the team.
  • Delegate decisions where possible to encourage responsibility and accountability.
  • Consult with people on important issues or decisions.
  • Communicate the importance of everyone’s role.
  • Brief the team regularly on important developments – successes, problems, people issues etc.
  • Constantly train and develop people.
  • Demonstrate care for the well-being of team members; constantly seek to improve the working environment.
  • Deal with any grievances promptly.
  • Monitor progress; learn from successes and mistakes; practise Managing By Wandering Around (MBWA), observe, listen and praise people.
  • Have fun!


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