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John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership Model


I have been asked to deliver an Induction Day for first line managers and have decided to include John Adair's Action Centred Leadership. Does anyone have any activities that would help explain the theory and start to help them put it into practice back in the office?
Linda George

11 Responses

  1. take it one at a time
    Hi Linda
    Try this…
    If a manager is totally Task focussed the Task may be achieved but the staff may be knackered, demoralised, quitting, suing or stabbing someone in the back.
    If a manager is totally Team focussed, we’ll all have a great time chatting and hugging, and be really nice to everyone and go out a lot together, but some people will get excluded and we will be bankrupt by Christmas.
    If a manager is totally focussed on the individual we will never get any tasks done because we’ll all be taking time off for compassionate reasons or going on navel gazing courses and we’ll all be trying to look after number one at the expense of each other.

    So according to ACL we have to centre each* our decisions and actions with an equal balance between Task, Team and Individual.

    (*”each of our decisions and actions” ~ not “this week we are focussing on Tasks, next week we’ll focus on the team” etc)

    I know this isn’t an “activity” but you can then ask them to work in groups to describe each type of focus and the benefits of taking the ACL approach.

    I hope this helps

  2. Not an exercise, but …
    Hi Linda

    This is not an exercise but does illustrate the points well. A few years ago the company I then worked for had a guy called Peter Mackie in as a speaker at our annual conference. He had taken part in the Global Challenge yacht race and had written a book about it – Global Challenge : Leadership Lessons from the World’s Toughest Yacht Race. He told the story about the winning yacht and how the skipper had been completely task focused (i.e. winning) and had driven his crew almost into the ground to the point where they were ready to mutiny. The yacht that came second, the skipper seemed to have achieved the task, team, individual balance and the crew said at the end that if they were given a half hour break, they would get back on the boat and do it again. They had achieved what they wanted to achieve (finishing) and had formed lasting friendships along the way, together with fantastic memories of working with a great team.



  3. A movie
    1. Outline the ACL model
    2, Show the movie “12 O’Clock High” (Gregory Peck, c1949, available on DVD) in two parts.
    3. After the first part, to the point where the CO is fired, ask the managers to consider the impact on the task of having a CO who is wholly people-centred.
    4. After the second part (the point where the adjutant makes the statement “the only difference between them (the 2 COs) is this much”, get the managers to look at the impact on the crews of a wholly task-focused approach.
    Do not show the rest of the movie.
    5. Get a discussion going on the value of each approach.
    6. Pose the question of how they would apply the principles (of ACL) to their back-at-work situation.

    If you use 360-degree feedback you can use an ACL-based 360 which I’m sure they would find helpful and enlightening. A number of my clients use this approach.


  4. a couple of really lively exercises
    I have a couple of exercises that I use a lot to get this over in a fun and meaningful way. They are too long to detail here – email me and I will send you a copy

  5. Split them into 3s
    And suggest a task that each team completes that requires one to lead with a task focus, one with a personal focus, one with a people focus. Anything that relates to production line/manufacture works well here; building lego, copying pictures, etc.

    The results between the 3 groups can then be reviewed and the Adair principles expanded upon.

  6. Puzzle solving
    The exercises suggested here are all really good. So I just add a few for inspiration.

    “Captain on a ship” is a great example. Borrow stories from history where expeditions didn’t go as well as they hoped for because the captain was more focused on the task than the crew.

    Another example: Bring a puzzle, 2D or 3D, divide the groups to several teams and then get them to complete the puzzles as fast as they can. Whoever wins gets a prize. This is multiplayer puzzle solving (much like science) and to be the first to finish, teams need to pay attention to the task, to the team as a whole and also to individual capabilities. You can adjust the difficult by choosing more complicated puzzles.

    Training Exercises

  7. Thank You
    Just a thank uou to everyone who wsent some really good ideas. Sandy could you let me have your e-mail address, so you can send me some of the exercises you have?


  8. [email protected]


    I am busy trying to refresh my use of action centred leadership when I saw your posting, I wondered if you could possibly send me a copy of your exercises. I am trying to get some of our managers to reflect on where they are spending all their time, and consider what impact this has


    Debbie LIles

  9. A couple of lively exercises

     Like a few others on this post, I’ve been asked to run a session on ACL. Would you be happy to share the fun exercises you’ve used?

    Any help appreciated 🙂


    [email protected]

  10. Exercises

    Hi, a few people have asked for exercises on ACL which I need to do in my company – it would be great if you could send me the exercises mentioned as well?


  11. Exercises

    Hi, a few people have asked for exercises on ACL which I need to do in my company – it would be great if you could send me the exercises mentioned as well?


    Laura Godley

    [email protected]


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