Leadership and Management:
Definitions, Roles and Case Studies
- Management and Leadership Definitions
- Differences Between Leaders and Managers
- Role of a Leader
- Leadership Behaviour
- Essential Leadership Skills
- Six Leadership Styles
- Action Centred Leadership Model
Management and Leadership Definitions
Management - A Definition
Management is the efficient, effective and economic use of resources to achieve results with and through the efforts of other people.
Leadership - A Definition
Inspiring others to follow your lead by creating a compelling vision of the future, whereby targets are not merely achieved, but are surpassed.
Researched Differences Between Leaders and Managers
|Bennis & Nanus (1985)
|Czarniawska-Joerges & Wolff (1991)
|Spreitzer & Quinn (1996)
|Zaleznik (1977, 1992)
The Role of a Leader
At the beginning of the 21st century, the most powerful sources of growth, employment and wealth creation are found in innovation-driven industries. As a result, organisational leaders face a whole new set of challenges. They have to change and will increasingly need to rely on the knowledge, skills, experience and judgement of all their people.
Organisational leaders will need to place less emphasis on traditional structures and control, and concentrate on five key priorities:
- Using strategic vision to motivate and inspire
- Empowering employees at all levels
- Accumulating and sharing internal knowledge
- Gathering and integrating external information
- Challenging the status quo and enabling creativity
Using Strategic Vision
Effective leaders will develop a strategic vision that is clear and compelling, and communicate it in a way that gives a real sense of purpose and direction. A powerful vision is clear about direction and objectives, proactive in its approach, but allows room for flexibility about the means of achievement.
A powerful vision is important because it is one way of linking the present to a desirable future. The role of strategic planning is then to map out a path to achieve that vision.
However, visionary thinking should not be the exclusive province of the organisation's top executives. Successful leaders will encourage participation in the formulation of a strategic vision that offers different perspectives and encourages commitment. It is also important to empower employees with the responsibility and authority to implement the vision.
Some leaders have proposed the view that the great leader is a great servant. Certainly, many organisations believe that an environment based on trust will produce better results than one of rules, regulation and hierarchy. This means that leaders will increasingly have to respond to their employees' needs and take on some unaccustomed roles, such as coach, teacher, information provider, facilitator, listener or supporter.
But for empowerment to work, organisations will have to share information and knowledge far more than they have done in the past.
Accumulating and Sharing Internal Knowledge
Sharing information and ideas across the organisation will sometimes involve leaders giving widespread access to data, such as performance and costs figures, which formerly might have been thought of as the preserve of the boardroom. Internal benchmarking should also be encouraged so that lateral learning from colleagues can be achieved.
Effective leaders will also tap into informal patterns of communication by being accessible, listening effectively and providing opportunities for information exchange. For example, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers invites employees to a 'birthday breakfast' where any question is fair game.
Technology can play a vital role in gathering and disseminating information across an organisation. A good example of this is PeopleSoft, where all new employees, irrespective of job or level, receive a high-specification laptop. The CEO, Dave Duffield, is clear that he wants to build a company where all 4,500 staff have a clear understanding of what matters.
Gathering and Integrating External Information
Every leader carries a set of assumptions about what is going on in their business, what Peter Drucker called the 'theory of the business'. In a rapidly changing, competitive environment, the smarter leaders will continuously test their theory, updating and refining it with new information. The leader, however, cannot do it all, but can create and reinforce a culture that is sensitive to and aware of its environment. This will involve encouraging people to be curious about their surroundings and responsive to early signals of change.
Challenging the Status Quo and Enabling Creativity
There are a number of ways in which effective leaders can challenge the status quo and enable creativity:
- Create a sense of urgency by producing a compelling picture of the risks of not changing.
- Facilitate 'constructive dissent', i.e. encourage people to question openly a manager's perspective without fear of retaliation. An interesting example of this is at Motorola, where employees can file a 'minority report' and lodge a different point of view to their immediate manager on a business issue.
- Foster a culture that encourages risk-taking.
- Involve everyone so as to maximise the number of innovative ideas available for consideration.
To summarise, leaders of successful organisations in the 21st century will be those that are proactive both in facilitating organisational learning and encouraging positive adaptation to external changes.
Each of us has a leadership style, which describes the way we manage or lead others. Of course, this style can and will change, depending on the circumstances but we will have one way of behaving that we feel most comfortable with. Our leadership style has been developed from a number of sources such as:
- How we have been managed in the past
- Our upbringing
- What we have learned
- Watching and listening to others
- Our personality
- Our personal values and beliefs
No one style of leadership is right, just as no one style is wrong. What is important is that our leadership style is flexible and can change to fit the circumstances. Using a leadership style that doesn't match the circumstances can have serious consequences. For example, being very direct and controlling with an experienced member of staff can leave them feeling stifled and un-trusted. Yet giving little direction to an inexperienced member of staff can leave them feeling vulnerable and uncertain. Related Page: Heavenly & Horror Leadership (Actual) Stories
Before moving on to look at developing leadership skills you need to ask yourself if you really want to be a leader? As former football manager Walter Smith once said:-
We all have the ability to develop these skills, the question is, how keenly do we want to?
Unless you are fully committed to the importance of good leadership, no amount of training or development will change how you currently manage and lead others.
Forces Influencing Leadership Styles
Forces in the Leader
- Past leadership role-models
- Views of authority and position
- Comfort with the different styles
- Experience of the different styles
- Their system of values
- Tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty
- Assessment of own ability
- Assessment of team's ability
Forces in the Team
- Experience of leadership styles
- Need for dependency or independence
- Readiness to assume responsibility
- Knowledge and experience of tasks involved
- Interest in the project
- Extent to which they identify with the goals of the rest of the project team
- Tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty
Forces in the Situation
- Predominant leadership style in organisation
- Type of team; size, level of experience and qualifications
- Complexity of the task
- Pressure of time and cost
- Degree of flexibility about how project is carried out
- Certainty of outcome
Essential Leadership Skills
- 1. Communication and social skills
- 2. Personal drive, sense of purpose and motivation
- 3. Dependability, conscientiousness and persistence
- 4. Ability to motivate others
- 5. Innovation and vision
- 6. Honesty and integrity
- 7. Self-confidence, willingness to accept challenges and takes risks
- 8. Ability to inspire trust
- 9. Intelligence
- 10. Knowledge about the organisation you work for
- 11. Genuine interest in others and valuing them
- 12. A team orientation (you like working with a team of people)
The Six Leadership Styles
Below is a description of the six leadership styles according to the concept of emotional intelligence. Each is accompanied by a case study as an illustration of the style in practice. You need to become familiar with the distinctions between these styles so that you can learn how to apply the right styles at the right time.
||What The Manager Would Say
||Emotional Intelligence Competencies
||"Don't ask questions. Just do it!"
||drive to achieve, initiative, self-control
||"This is what I see. I want you to see it too, and I'll need your help to get us there."
||self-confidence, empathy, catalysing change
||"Okay guys, let's work together on this."
||empathy, building relationships, communication
||"What do you think?"
||collaboration, team leadership, communication
||"Come on, keep up!"
||conscientiousness, drive to achieve, initiative
||"How about doing it like this?"
||empathy, developing others, self-awareness
How the Styles Compare
This diagram shows how the different styles compare to each other in terms of their impact on working atmosphere. This encompasses the impact of these styles on flexibility, responsibility, standards, rewards, clarity and commitment in the working environment.
As you can see from the diagram, not all of the six styles actually have a positive impact. Two, in particular, the coercive style and the pace-setting style, both have quite the opposite effect. The most strongly positive is the authoritative style. This isn't surprising: authoritative leaders are capable of taking people along with them by sharing their vision and encouraging people to move towards it. The least successful, the coercive style, usually results in the opposite, with the leader discouraging, demotivating or alienating his/her people, rather than helping them to improve.
1. The Coercive Leader
This is the least effective of all the styles listed. Coercive leaders are inflexible, demanding, alienating and demotivating. Their actions often result in very low staff morale. It can be appropriate during a genuine emergency, or when a short, sharp shock is required, but should be used with great care, and never for very long.
The Coercive Leader - Case Study
On Friday morning, Ed got a phone call from the duty manager at the factory. A balcony had given way and fallen onto the main assembly line. The line had been cleared but was currently out of action awaiting an assessment from the safety manager.
It emerged that the safety manager was on leave that day, leaving his deputy in charge, and the line could not be restarted until the safety manager had given it the all-clear. The alternative was to have the line assessed by the firm's official maintenance team, but they were unusually stretched this week and warned that it would be several hours before they could send somebody out. Aware of the impact even a day's delay would have on the business, Ed knew he had to act. He phoned the safety manager's mobile and ordered him back to the factory. The manager protested; he had booked the leave weeks ago, it was his wife's 50th birthday and they had just set off for a weekend break in the Cotswolds. Ed felt bad, but insisted, explaining the impact the manager's sacrifice would have on the company and awarding him two days' extra leave the following week. Emotional blackmail was more than implicit in what Ed had to say to the manager, but he didn't care; there was too much at stake. Within an hour, the safety manager had returned to the factory, a considerably irritated wife in tow, and by midday the factory was running once again at full output.
2. The Authoritative Leader
The authoritative style is, overall, probably the most effective. Authoritative leaders are visionaries, able to garner commitment to that vision, and then to step back and let people get on with achieving it in the most appropriate way for them. This flexibility encourages innovation and creative thinking amongst everyone.
This is a versatile approach to leadership and is particularly suited when things are not going too well, and when the leader needs to get his/her people motivated and enthused about a new vision. Leaders should be careful, however, not to use this style when they are plainly less experienced or more junior than the group for whom they are working. They should remember that it is an authoritative style, not a domineering one, that will be effective.
The Authoritative Leader - Case Study
Daniel had been working in the community health sector for five years and was recently promoted to his first management position, leading a small team of health workers and support staff at a health centre in a deprived London suburb. Soon after his arrival, Daniel met individually with each member of staff, introducing himself and trying to get a feel for their skills and personalities and the general culture of the organisation. Nobody wanted to elaborate, but it was obvious that Daniel's predecessor had kept an uncomfortably tight rein on her staff's activities. Now that somebody else was in charge, Daniel sensed a distinct glow of optimism about the place.
He realised that this was something he could build on and set about drafting a vision and plan for the centre. Daniel felt that the services currently offered by the centre were tired, restrictive and pedestrian. A look at the visitor numbers seemed to confirm this impression; they had been in continual decline for the past four years, despite a sharp increase in the demand for health services in the area over the same period.
A week later he held a buffet lunch in his office for all the staff. People were tense, but excited and eager to hear what their new manager had to say. Daniel set out his vision for the health centre. "I've got a lot of new ideas," he explained, "but my guess is, all of you do too. And you've been working here a lot longer than I have. So I want to involve you, and I want you all to understand why I believe things need to change. There's going to be some big changes, and some of these you'll like, some you won't. But if we're really going to make this work, it's the small changes that are going to make the difference. And that's something we can't achieve unless all of us decide we want to make a difference."
In the three months following the meeting, the health centre underwent a transformation. Empowered and inspired, members of staff now fully understood the potential value of their own contributions. New initiatives were formed, old ones completely redesigned. And with it, visitor numbers began to rise and the centre became a local talking point. The local council, impressed by Daniel's progress, increased their funding. The health centre was quickly a very different place to the one that Daniel had discovered when he arrived on his first day at work.
3. The Affiliative Leader
The affiliative leader puts his/her people before the work that needs to be done, aiming to build loyalty and togetherness as a priority. Strong communication, trust, empathy, innovation and freedom to experiment are all evident within the workforce when the affiliative leader is in charge.
The affiliative style is a good all-round approach, but it is most helpful for increasing team togetherness, improving communication or restoring trust. It often works best when used with another style, as its emphasis on praise can fail to address poor performance. This approach can also, on its own, fail to give clear direction.
The Affiliative Leader - Case Study
Joanna came back from holiday to a changed office. The last time she had seen her team was at the pub, and everyone had seemed to be getting on well. But today there was none of the usual Monday morning chattering, and everyone was unmistakably avoiding each other's gaze. Something had happened, that was clear.
At lunchtime, with the atmosphere as tense as ever, Joanna asked her assistant if she'd like to walk with her to the sandwich shop. Never one to hold back, Francesca started to fill her boss in on what had been going on in her absence as soon as they got out of the office.
She explained that one of the team had accused another of stealing a diamond ring that had been left in the women's toilets. Just about everyone in the team instinctively took sides, and the disagreement escalated to encompass completely unrelated topics, several of which were work-related. So, although everyone appeared to be getting along fine, this seemed to be the trigger causing all the underlying tensions to surface.
The next day, Joanna called everyone together. "I don't know exactly what's been going on while I'm away," she began, "but I know enough to know that it's got to stop. For one thing, everyone's miserable at the moment. And for another, your work is suffering." Joanna felt as if she was addressing a bunch of schoolchildren.
"You're like a bunch of school kids I've just caught fighting in the playground," she said. "Now when I got involved in a fight as a kid, there was one thing I hated more than anything (apart from losing, obviously), and that was being made to make up with the other person. But that's what I want you to do now. I'm going to split you into groups, and I want you to talk about what's been going on over the past week, why, and what you can do to set things right again. And if you start to disagree again, I want you to stop talking and come to me. Does everyone agree that this is worth doing?"
Joanna helped facilitate the discussion in each group and her humorous, light-hearted yet no-nonsense approach was respected by everyone. Being forced to talk about what had been happening very quickly made a difference to the way the team worked. Joanna made the group come to terms with their differences, and in the process helped bring to light a number of issues within the group that they were then able to deal with.
4. The Democratic Leader
The democratic leader will gather people's ideas and support, and allow employees a say in decisions. This builds trust and commitment, enables flexibility in how employees work, and maintains high morale. It works best when the leader is uncertain about which direction to take and is willing to listen to, and benefit from the ideas and guidance of other employees.
The approach is less likely to work where employees lack the competence, knowledge or experience to offer sound advice. It can sometimes lead to something of a rudderless ship, with everyone holding a different view on what should happen and nobody strong enough to make a decision and run with it. Weak leaders can sometimes hide behind this style, allowing them to procrastinate or blame the absence of consensus for a lack of firm action.
The Democratic Leader - Case Study
Monica Caldini, warehouse manager for an electronics repair company, has something of a reputation for not doing as she is told. Caldini asks just two things - that when her operatives leave the customer they know that they have done everything they can for them; and that they use it as an opportunity to get feedback about the product. And where the other warehouse operatives have to religiously follow standard manuals, Caldini's operatives are encouraged to use their own expertise and initiative.
All this considerably reduces the number of call-outs each operative can make. But without the pressure to fix the problem and move on to the next call-out, the quality of the repair tends to be far better, resulting in substantially fewer return call-outs. The freedom that each operative has to do the repairs means that they get to build up real relationships with their customers.
Moreover, instead of formal training, Caldini encourages her operatives to talk about the work over free coffee and doughnuts. Next to the coffee machine is a 'problems and solutions board' for operatives to write on.
Caldini also insists that the whole team has lunch together once a week to share experiences. If somebody has a good idea about how working practices can be improved, Caldini uses this lunch to develop the idea and allows everyone to comment on it. If it is popular, Caldini will ensure it is put in place.
Caldini feeds back information about the products her team services to the research and development departments of the respective companies, resulting in securing a number of new repair contracts. Senior management do not exactly approve of everything she does, but she certainly gets results.
5. The Pace-Setting Leader
The pace-setting leader sets high personal performance standards and expects others to meet them also. Those who cannot measure up are likely to find themselves being replaced. The pace-setter does not trust their team to work in their own way or to take the initiative. The result is that the pace-setting style can destroy a positive work environment, as employees feel they will never be good enough and their morale falls. Flexibility and responsibility also disappear.
However, the approach can work well if team members are self-motivated, skilled and only require a minimum of coordination and direction. Teams of accountants, lawyers, researchers and technicians, for example, will often respond well to this style.
The Pace-Setting Leader - Case Study
When Steven joined the firm as director of Shared Services, everyone seemed to think he was a nice guy. He was friendly and approachable, didn't seem to make unreasonable demands of people, and had a good idea about what needed to change in the department. What was also apparent was that Steven had apparently limitless energy, and was also in the office when everyone arrived and still there when the last person left. He didn't take lunch-breaks either, and when the staff gathered informally in the canteen for their regular Friday afternoon tea and biscuits, Steve remained upstairs, talking down the phone or sending frantic emails to suppliers.
Two months ago, Steven called the department together for a meeting in which he spelt out some major changes to how Shared Services was to operate. The timescales he was talking about were tight, some would - and did - say utopian. Quite soon, everyone realised why. They were based on everyone simultaneously adopting Steven's style of working.
Early on in the change process, Steve fired two managers for not meeting their targets. They were quickly replaced, but their less experienced replacements soon began to flag. Morale rapidly began to plummet, and at lunchtime the staff canteen was filled with small groups of department members sharing their woes.
The biggest problem was not the targets, though. It was that Steve just told his people what he wanted and then left them to it. When managers sought guidance from Steve on specific issues, the response was always the same: "I'm too busy to worry about that. You work it out yourself." Staff felt as if they were expected to work out how to meet his demanding targets simply by osmosis.
Yet Steve wasn't really for a laissez-faire approach at all. In fact, he was remarkably keen to keep his finger in as many pies as possible, jumping in on individual projects and rubbishing the tactics used by individual managers. And, occasionally, as deadlines approached and Steve got nervous, he would intervene and add other people's projects to his constantly growing to-do list. As Steve grew more stressed, so his behaviour became ever more demanding and erratic.
5. The Coaching Leader
This style of leadership is the least often used of all the styles, possibly because many leaders do not see the personal development of individuals as a high priority. This is a shame, because the dialogue that results from a coaching style makes people feel listened to, aids their understanding of how their work fits the bigger picture, and has a strong impact on motivation. Leaders who coach help individuals to both identify their strengths and weaknesses, and link them to career goals.
Coaching leaders are only successful, though, when their team members want to be coached, and welcome the leader's attempts to help them achieve their best. Coaching is a skill, and as such will not work if it is applied clumsily or inexpertly, or if it is simply imposed on people without their consent.
The Coaching Leader - Case Study
Angela Ball, client manager, had had enough. After three months of unexplained absences, missed deadlines and formal warnings, one of her assistants, Paulo, had really overstepped the line. He had told a valued customer that his order must have been lost in the post, despite the fact that it had been sent registered mail and been signed for. When the customer complained, Angela went to see Paulo, only to find the order form sitting in his in-tray.
Unsure what else to do, Angela went to see her manager, Serge, to inform him that she was going to have to let Paulo go. "Before you do," said Serge, "arrange a meeting for the three of us to have a chat." Serge got Paulo to arrive for the meeting a few minutes before his boss and explained the reason for wanting to speak to him. He wanted to understand why Paulo had been behaving how he had been, and what could be done to address this. Paulo was clearly nervous, but he was also calm and attentive. Serge made clear to him that this was no ordinary disciplinary meeting. It was not about reprimand, it was about coming to an understanding.
When Angela arrived, Serge began to discuss with Paulo how he felt about his job, and why he did not appear to be fully contributing. The discussion was fruitful, and both Angela and Paulo appeared to feel at ease discussing their respective frustrations; Paulo at the job, Angela at her inability to motivate Paulo. The neutrality of the setting helped, certainly, but it was Serge who really helped move things along. He treated both Angela and Paulo with equal respect and was careful not to take sides.
Together the three of them came to an agreement, and Paulo seemed to have really listened to what was said. Serge asked Angela to stay behind briefly. Together they discussed how she had handled Paulo's absences and performance issues. Angela gave examples of things she had said, and listened carefully to Serge's words of advice.
The change in Paulo, while not complete, was nonetheless striking. His attendance improved dramatically, but when things started to go awry again a month later, Angela felt comfortable discussing the issue with him. She was delighted at the success of this tactic, and felt that Serge's intervention had been valuable for both her and Paulo alike.
Leadership is traditionally regarded as a one-way process, beginning at the top and working downwards. In Leading Up, Michael Useem challenges this idea by arguing that leadership is most effective when it also comes from below. The notion of subordinates contributing their own leadership skills might seem curious, but these days good leaders rarely act on the basis of individual decisions made in isolation. For Useem, leadership is as much about directing your superiors as leading your subordinates.
In part, such an idea is not new: good leaders have always delegated authority and responsibilities to those below them. Similarly, leaders have always expected to be kept informed of current developments and customer feedback. Leading up is different because it transfers to subordinates duties traditionally reserved for the leader, such as presenting the boss with a strategy or marketing initiative. Leading up also involves a more equal weighting when it comes to giving or receiving feedback; a boss familiar with leading up principles should welcome being coached by a subordinate on, for instance, how effectively they are conveying their vision for the organisation to employee and customer alike.
Useem is careful to stress that leading up is not a license for obsequiousness towards one's superiors, or for attempting to undermine the authority of those above. Instead, leading up acknowledges the basic truth that organisations today, whether in the private, voluntary or public sectors, are increasingly too complicated to be properly understood by one person alone.
Upward leadership can and should occur, whatever the size of the organisation. Useem illustrates this by profiling two high-level politicians, Charlene Barshefsky, former US trade representative, and Domingo Cavallo, Argentina's economy minister. Barshefsky played a critical role in China's entry into the World Trade Organization by convincing her boss, President Clinton, to break with the long-standing Democratic opposition to free-trade policies with countries such as China. Cavallo was meanwhile given the unenviable task of stabilising the Argentinean currency at a period in the early 1990s when inflation was raging out of control. To be effective in his job, Cavallo had to convince the Argentinean president, Carlos Menem to link the peso with the US dollar, something which went against the party's key doctrine of state protection of the economy.
Useem also profiles David Pottruck, senior executive for the major brokerage firm Charles Schwab and Co., whose attempts in the late 1990s to convince his chief executive and company directors to ditch their traditional share dealing structure in favour of a uniquely internet-based approach led to tremendous gains for the company. Pottruck's instinct was always sound, but he initially made a number of key errors in his approach.
His main problem was that his imposing personality created friction among his superiors, as he waded into meetings with a clearly defined plan which he would proceed to present to the board. With coaching from his immediate superior, Pottruck agreed that he would disagree with his boss only in private, always presenting a united front whenever they were not alone together. This resulted in Pottruck's superior beginning to learn and value his advice and suggestions which began to be interpreted not as a subversion of his authority, but as valuable instructive criticism.
It was a simple agreement which worked well and which should be borne in mind in situations where two individuals find themselves continually disagreeing despite holding each other in great respect both professionally and intellectually. For Pottruck, this new found respect meant that when he came to persuade his superiors of the importance of a radical change in strategy from traditional brokerage to a fully internet-based organisation, he was listened to and given permission to lead, despite his inferior position in the company hierarchy.
A final example of leading up comes in a far more extreme context: an attempt to climb Everest. The tale is a cautionary one, of serious consequences (in this case life-threatening since eight men died on this particular expedition) of failing to lead upwards. Useem examines the case of Scott Fischer and Rob Hall, highly experienced mountaineers who commanded enormous sums, some $65,000 a person, to lead men up the world's highest mountain.
As it happened, both the leaders and the team members committed a number of errors that day:
- Fischer, weak from a parasitic infection which would flare up from time to time, refused to acknowledge this to his team. His worsening performance was noticed by some of his team members (Fischer, for instance, did not leave the camp until several hours after his team), but they did nothing to challenge his authority. From a corporate perspective, not challenging a leader whose competence is dubious can be disastrous. Everyone can make mistakes, and subordinates should try not be intimidated by a leader's confidence or reputation when it comes to voicing concerns.
- Once the attempt on the summit was under way, Hall, for his part, gave instructions to a client, Beck Weathers, who was suffering from snow-blindness, to wait on the slope for his return. Weathers neglected to question Hall further in order to determine what he should do if things did not work out to plan. Hall soon became caught up in severe storms and low visibility, and did not return to walk Weathers down. Because of this, Weathers turned down offers from other climbers on the mountain to help him since he had promised Hall that he would wait for him. Weathers consequently became stranded on the mountain and was exceptionally lucky to survive. Useem stresses the importance of obtaining proper instructions from the leader which provide a number of possible contingencies.
- Neither Hall nor Fischer stressed to their clients beforehand the fact that every team member was responsible for the welfare of themselves and their team. Consequently, the team felt that their only responsibility was to follow orders. When these orders were misinformed, the clients were not in a position to challenge them and act for themselves.
- Furthermore, two of the clients noticed the deteriorating weather conditions but neglected to act on their own suspicions. Just because the leader seems oblivious to impending dangers or problems does not mean they should not be informed of them from below. A good leader will encourage questioning from below in practice long before they are placed in a position where not doing so will lead to critical errors being made.
In leading up, Useem highlights how leadership can and should work in both directions. Upward leadership can result in increased innovation, better collaboration, and a significant reduction in mistakes caused as result of bad decisions by individual leaders.
Action Centred Leadership Model
John Adair in his Action Centred Leadership Model suggests that your effectiveness as a leader depends on your ability to influence and be influenced by the group and its members in the implementation of a common task.
Action-centred leadership is an excellent model that you can use for leading on a daily basis. It is based on the idea that effective leaders should focus on achieving a balance between three key areas: the task, the team and the individual.
Action-centred leadership is one of the most practical and easily applicable of the many leadership models currently available. The model looks at what leaders need to do rather than the characteristics which they display.
To lead effectively, you need to:
- Ensure that the task is completed by the group
- Keep the group working together as an effective unit
- Meet the individual needs of each member of the group
Adair's model consists of three overlapping circles, each of which represents an essential aspect of leadership:
You need to spend sufficient time in each of the three circles to address issues created by the task, the team or the individual. On many occasions, you will need to rise above the three circles in order to take an overview of the situation.
The way the model works means that, because each circle is interlinked, whatever you undertake in one circle must be done while considering the impact on the other two circles. For instance, if you are setting objectives (which, initially, you might see as being solely related to the task in hand), you also need to ensure that the team is aware of and understands these objectives, is capable of completing them, and that every individual in the team understands how he/she personally fits into the achievement of these objectives.
The model contains a useful list of duties, or 'functions', that the action-centred leader must perform within each of the three circles.
1. Achieving the Task
Your role is to make it easier for your team to get things done, not necessarily to do the task yourself. This means:
- Being quite clear about the aim, conveying it with enthusiasm, and reminding people of it often
- Understanding how the task fits in with the overall plans of the organisation, in both the short and the long term
- Planning how to accomplish the task
- Determining and providing the required resources, including human resources, time and authority
- Doing everything possible to ensure the team structure allows the task to be done efficiently
- Pacing progress towards achievement of the task
- Evaluating results, comparing them with the original plans and with the overall objectives of the team/organisation, learning from group performance
2. Developing the Individual
Valuing your team members and keeping them motivated is a crucial leadership trait. So individual team members must:
- Be able to get satisfaction from personal achievement in the job they are doing
- Feel that they are making a worthwhile contribution to the objectives of the team and the organisation
- Feel that the job itself is challenging, is demanding the best of them and is giving them a degree of responsibility that matches their abilities
- Receive adequate recognition for their achievements
- Have genuine control over the aspects of the job that have been delegated to them (so, once you have delegated something, don't interfere unless you really have to)
- Feel that they are developing and advancing in experience and ability
3. Building the Team
The third and final circle involves keeping everyone moving on together as a group. Doing this will involve the following:
- Ensuring key team roles are filled by the most appropriately qualified people
- Building trust, inspiring teamwork and making sure dissident activity is minimised, and dealing with conflict positively
- Creating a team identity
- Facilitating and supporting team decisions
- Making the most of team diversity
- Expanding team capabilities
Leader's Checklist for "Achieving The Task"
- 1. Am I clear about my own responsibilities and my own authority?
- 2. Am I clear about the objectives of my group now and for the next few years (months) and have I agreed them with my boss?
- 3. Have I worked out a programme for reaching these objectives?
- 4. Can the jobs be restructured to get better results?
- 5. Are the physical working conditions (e.g. layout, equipment, lighting) right for the job?
- 6. Does everyone know exactly what his or her job is? Has each member of the group clearly defined targets and performance standards agreed between them and me? Have I the same, agreed with my boss?
- 7. Does everyone know to whom he or she is accountable?
- 8. Has anyone got too many people accountable to them for them to manage effectively? If so, can this responsibility be shared with another?
- 9. Is the line of authority clear?
- 10. Are there any gaps in the abilities of the group (including mine) necessary to complete the task? If so, am I taking steps to fill them by training, by additional staff or the use of specialists?
- 11. Am I aware just how my group and I are spending our time? Is it the best way? Are our priorities right?
- 12. On those occasions when I am directly involved in "technical" work, do I make arrangements so that the team functions well and specific requirements of its members are not ignored or overlooked?
- 13. Do I receive regular records, which enable me to check progress?
- 14. What arrangements do I make for continuity of leadership in my absence?
- 15. Do I periodically take stock? Have I achieved the tasks set twelve months ago? If not, why not?
- 16. Do my own work and behaviour standards set the best possible example to the group?
Leader's Checklist for "Meeting the Needs of Individuals"
For each member of the group:-
- 1. Have I agreed with each of my staff their main responsibilities (expressed as results) and standards of performance by which we can both recognise success?
- 2. Have they a continuing list of agreed short-term targets for the improvement of their performance, each with its agreed maturity date?
- 3. Do they have the resources necessary to achieve the agreed performance standards (including sufficient authority)?
- 4. Have I made adequate provision for the training, and where necessary retraining of each person?
- 5. In the event of success, do I acknowledge and build on it? In the case of failure, do I criticise constructively and give guidance on improving future performance?
- 6. Does the individual see some pattern of career and salary development? Unless perhaps they are about to retire - in which case do they need help in meeting the problems of retirement?
- 7. Can I remove some controls, though still retain my accountability? E.g. can I cut down the amount of checking I do, holding them responsible more and more for the quality of the work?
- 8. Can I increase the individuals' accountability for their own work, e.g. could they not write the paper on their work for the technical journal?
- 9. Can I give additional authority?
- 10. Is the overall performance of each individual regularly (e.g. annually) reviewed with them?
- 11. If after opportunities for training and development they are still not meeting the requirements of the job, do I try and find a position for them more nearly matching their capacity - or see that someone else does?
- 12. Do I know enough about each member of the group to enable me to have an accurate picture of their needs, aptitudes and attitudes within the working situation? Do I really know how they feel about things?
Leader's Checklist for "Maintaining the Team"
- 1. Do I set group objectives with the members and make sure that everyone understands them?
- 2. Is the group clear as to the working standards expected of them, e.g. in time keeping, quality of work, housekeeping and safety? Am I fair and impartial in enforcing them? Is the group aware of the consequences of infringement (penalties)?
- 3. Is the size of working groups correct and are the right people working together? Is there a need for sub-groups to be formed?
- 4. Do I look for opportunities for building teamwork into jobs?
- 5. Do I take action on matters likely to disrupt the group e.g. unjustified differentials in pay, uneven workloads, discrepancies in the distribution of overtime?
- 6. Is there a formal and fair grievance procedure understood by all? Do I deal with grievances and complaints promptly?
- 7. Do I welcome and encourage new ideas and suggestions from the group? Do I provide regular opportunities for genuine consultation of the group before taking decisions affecting them, e.g. decisions relating to work plans and output, work methods and standards, work measurement, overtime working?
- 8. Do I regularly brief the group (e.g. monthly) on the organisation's current plans and future developments?
- 9. Do I accept the valuable part trade unions can play in the formal system of representation?
- 10. Do I encourage members of the group to be active members of unions or other representative bodies?
- 11. Do I accord the official representatives of the group (works committee member, shop steward, convenor) the facilities they need to be its effective spokesperson?
The following tables explain what the group leader must do in order to ensure the task, team and individual needs are met:
||What are you trying to do?
||Get as much information as you can so you can start thinking about how to achieve the objective. Decide for yourself (this is something you do in your head).
||Ask for and develop suggestions from the team and then explain to the team what you want them to do and how they are to do it.
||Assess progress, co-ordinate activities, encourage team members and make changes to the plan if necessary.
||Check the objectives are achieved and tell team members how they've done.
Summary of Action Centred Leadership
It would be wrong to conclude that anyone just attempting to go through the actions described in the checklists would inevitably be an effective leader. Their "style of leadership" is another factor, and for many their acceptance or rejection by the group and the individuals composing it will depend on this. The leader must be sufficiently sensitive to the needs of the situation to know when it would be right, for example, to take decisions and actions directly themselves and when to consult the group before deciding to delegate. They also need to be flexible and to suit their actions to the requirements of the often-changing situation.
The leaders' integrity will be a main contributing factor in their leadership style. Integrity is best seen reflected in the sort of comment a member of staff makes about a respected manager who is also a successful leader:-
- They are human and treats us like human beings
- They have no favourites and don't bear grudges
- It is easy to talk to them. He/she listens and you can tell
- They keep their word and are honest
- They don't dodge unpleasant issues
- He/she explains why - or else why they can't
- They are fair with praise as well as criticism, and criticises without making an enemy of you
- They are fair to us as well as the department
- He/she drives themselves hard so you don't mind them expecting the best of you