- Action-centered leadership defines leadership in the context of three interlocking areas of responsibility and concern. This framework is used by leaders in the management of teams, groups, and organizations.
- Developed in the 1960s and first published in 1973, action-centered leadership was revolutionary for its time because it believed leaders could learn the skills they needed to manage others effectively.
- Adair believed that effective leadership was exemplified by three overlapping circles (responsibilities): achieve the task, build and maintain the team, and develop the individual.
Understanding action-centered leadership
Action-centered leadership defines leadership in the context of three interlocking areas of responsibility and concern. This framework is used by leaders in the management of teams, groups, and organizations.
Action-centered leadership is the brainchild of John Adair, a British leadership theorist and author who has released more than 40 books on leadership in business, the military, and various other contexts.
Developed in the 1960s and first published in 1973, action-centered leadership was revolutionary for its time.
Unlike other theories, Adair based his on the belief that effective leadership was not simply a trait one was born with.
Instead, certain qualities could be learned by anyone via specific, actionable steps and best practices.
The model is also simple to use and has positive effects on productivity, morale, and company culture.
The three circle model of action-centered leadership
Adair considered that leadership occurred in the context of three circles:
- Achieve the task.
- Build and maintain the team/group, and
- Develop the individual.
Each circle represents a key responsibility and individuals must have a good grasp of all three to be effective leaders.
Note that the three circles overlap. Some aspects of achieving tasks will overlap with building the team, while elements of developing the individual will also overlap with achieving tasks, and so on.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at each circle below.
Achieve the task
Tasks are activities that require strategic guidance and a collaborative effort from team members.
Some of the steps that clarify how strategic guidance are listed below:
- Determine the vision, aims, purpose, and direction of the team for each task. Then, identify key people, tools, processes, and resources.
- Devise and implement a plan to achieve the task with deliverables, timelines, and strategies that are concise and measurable.
- Define time and quality standards for deliverables and reporting parameters. Threats to these parameters should also be controlled or prevented.
Build and maintain the team
To sustain team performance, leaders must be able to promote values that encourage cohesiveness or unity. Adair noted that this leadership ability depended on an awareness of the motivations of individuals.
Some steps to build and maintain the team include:
- Establish standards for team behavior and performance.
- Clarify a team’s culture and style.
- Anticipate and resolve conflict.
- Implement and maintain standards of effective group communication.
- Monitor the balance of team composition and adjust if necessary, and
- Promote maturity and enhance capabilities to increase a collective sense of autonomy.
Develop the individual
Individual development can only occur when their physical and psychological needs are met.
Adair recommended that individual development could be performed with the following initiatives:
- Recognize and appreciate the diversity of individual team member personalities, aspirations, concerns, and strong points.
- Encourage and support individuals in their professional development. Where appropriate, individuals should be offered more responsibility or career advancement opportunities.
- Celebrate and praise desirable behaviors whilst offering constructive feedback for less-than-desirable behaviors.