Action-Centred Leadership

What is Action-Centred Leadership?

The Action-Centred Leadership Theory was devised by John Adair in 1973 and consists of three elements which always influence the role of a leader in any given situation:

  1. Task
  2. Team
  3. Individual

Adair proposes that a good leader must consider all three elements at all times in order to successfully balance the needs of the business and its staff.


A leader must keep the overall objective in mind when dealing with day to day situations.

Task cohesion within a team of employees can be a very powerful management tool to bring people together to work collectively in achieving a set objective.


Although task cohesion is important it is only truly effective if coupled with social-cohesion.

Ensuring the team work effectively together in alignment is crucial for developing an effective and efficient workforce.


Groups consist of individuals and addressing the unique requirements of each individual is vital for success.

If every individual is motivated and fulfilled in their job role they will contribute more effectively to group activities and overall task completion.

The Relationship Between Task, Team and Individual

The model has been named ‘action centred leadership’, as all three elements of leadership should be combined with a centralised position of optimal performance.

Good leaders are able to operate in a way that incorporates the needs of the task, the group and the individuals at all times – striking a balance between all three elements.

However, few leaders have a natural blend of all three elements and it is extremely common to naturally focus on one or two areas over others. 

For example you may be naturally focused around task completion resulting in a lack of empathy for your staff members.

Similarly, you may be more people focused running the risk of overlooking task completion in the pursuit of maintaining a happy team.

Adair has devised a personal assessment questionnaire which can be completed to identify which aspects of the model you are most aligned with.

If you are interested you can complete John Adair’s questionnaire by visiting his website however it is not free unfortunately.

The questionnaire produces a Venn diagram which provides a visual representation of your relative orientation to each of the three areas: task, team and individual. 

The larger the circle in the Venn Diagram the more you will be orientated with that specific aspect of Action-Centred Leadership.

The examples and diagrams below aim to demonstrate the different types of profiles the questionnaire may produce.  

The Ideal Action-Centred Leadership Profile

An ideal profile would be one which presents an equally distributed Venn diagram where there is an equal balance between all three elements.

This indicates that the leader is equally orientated in all three aspects. 

However, you will not typically generate an ideal score and you will find that one of your Venn circles is extremely large, one is medium sized and the other is very small.

This type of profile will indicate an imbalance between the three elements.

Understanding how you are positioned within this model can be very useful as it allows you to highlight the main area(s) you need to develop or emphasise your strengths.

Task Oriented Profile

If your Venn diagram presents a large circle for the task element then you are more oriented towards a task-focused leadership style.

This means that you tend to focus more on task completion and less on the needs of the team or the individuals within the team.

Team Oriented Profile

If your Venn diagram presents a large circle for the team element then you are more oriented towards a team-focused leadership style.

This means that you tend to focus more on team cohesion and less on task completion and the individuals within the team.

Individual Oriented Profile

If your Venn diagram presents a large circle for the individual element then you are more oriented towards an individual-focused leadership style.

This means that you tend to focus more on the needs of individuals and less on task completion and teram cohesion. 

Action-Centred Leadership is actually a fairly simplistic theory which focuses on the core elements of leadership: task, team and individuals. 

However, the results obtained from the Action-Centred Leadership questionnaire can be very insightful and from my own personal experience I find that when my students complete the questionnaire they tend to be more surprised by these results than most other leadership self-assessment questionnaires

Having an understanding of your own orientation towards task, team and individuals can be a very useful reflective exercise and one which can enable you to think more consciously about your own leadership practice. 


Action Centred Leadership