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Adair's Action-Centered Leadership Theory

Instructor: Beth Loy

Dr. Loy has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics; master's degrees in economics, human resources, and safety; and has taught masters and doctorate level courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and management.

This lesson describes and provides examples of Adair's Action-Centered Leadership Theory. This theory is simple and easy to implement. The action centers focus on the task, team, and individual and communication is an essential element.

What Is Action-Centered Leadership Theory?

As regional manager for Hot Top Bread, Nick prides himself on managing one of the company's large eastern distribution centers. Known as one of the major producers of popular grocery store breads, Hot Top Bread uses its distribution centers to offload bread and send it out for direct delivery to stores. Nick has a team of 5 full-time employees to sort the bread and 15 contracted employees to run routes and deliver bread. Nick aspires to lead his employees by using Professor John Adair's leadership model, Action-Centered Leadership Theory. He focuses on the task, team, and individual.

Action-Centered Leadership Theory is a leadership model that focuses on three action centers. Just like Nick, Adair looked at balancing the task, team, and individual. It's a very simple and easy way to lead. Adair felt that leadership could be taught, and the simplicity of his model is flexible enough to be applied to different industries and levels of management. Let's look at each element and how it improves communication between Nick and his employees, and elevates Nick from being a manager to becoming a leader.

Achieve the Task

When Nick looks at how to manage Hot Top's tasks, he has to find a way to empty incoming trailers of bread, sort the bread, and send the bread out on trucks for delivery. This highlights the first of Adair's three action centers, the task . For Nick, the task is redistributing bread. Using the Action-Centered Leadership Theory, Nick looks at the following to sort out his leadership priorities when achieving the task:

  • Identifying resources
  • Creating a plan
  • Establishing responsibilities
  • Setting standards
  • Monitoring performance
  • Reporting on progress
  • Adjusting the plan

Each priority involves communicating all or part of the task to each employee. This improves communication and helps all employees focus on completing the task. Nick's role is to lead employees toward achieving the task.

Build the Team

The second of Adair's three action centers is team. Nick, like Adair, feels that it's important for a manager to enhance the team element among his employees. He needs the employees to work together to get the bread in and out in a timely manner, maintain the safety protocols, and keep the center clean from debris. Nick leads his teams by:

  • Establishing performance standards
  • Creating a culture of teamwork
  • Focusing on ethics
  • Enhancing team spirit
  • Allowing the team to mature
  • Developing roles within the teams
  • Providing feedback

Each part of the team element focuses on communicating with all or part of a team. Nick sets performance standards for each driver. These include timeliness, cleanliness, incidences, and accidents. Having these standards improves communication among employees, and helps Nick focus on completing the task by improving employee teamwork.

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