What Leaders Do

John Adair is one writer who has created his own list of what leaders do. His list is linked into his Action-Centred Leadership model which uses the headings of "Task", "Group" and "Individual".

Task Functions

  • Define the task.
  • Devise a workable plan.
  • Brief team members on the task and their role.
  • Delegate work to team members.
  • Allocate resources.
  • Check the quality of the work.
  • Control the pace of work.
  • Keep the team focused on the plan.
  • Evaluate progress and modify the plan accordingly.

Group Functions

  • Set standards and an example.
  • Maintain discipline.
  • Build team spirit.
  • Maintain morale.
  • Give encouragement.
  • Motivate members to achieve success.
  • Keep open communication.
  • Train in appropriate skills.
  • Deal constructively to resolve conflicts.
  • Avoid getting too deeply embroiled with the task itself.
  • Appoint sub-leaders where appropriate.

Individual Functions

  • Involve all team members in discussions and activity.
  • Seek out and use individuals' abilities.
  • Bring in the quieter members.
  • Control overactive members.
  • Use special skills.
  • Establish previous experience.
  • Offer constructive feedback.
  • Praise, support and encourage.
  • Avoid taking sides in an argument.

Leadership competences

Its a short step from a list of leadership functions to leadership competences. Competences are statements of what a skilled and effective peson would correctly do in performing their job role to the required standard. Competences have been used in the UK to define standards for most occupations. These are then used to define job roles, design training programmes and form the basis of vocational qualifications. The Management Standards Centre is currently responsible for defining occupational standards for managers and leaders - that is, they have listed for us what leaders do.

Fast track to leadership effectiveness

My top tips for starting to be a leader? Two really. First, observe other (good) leaders and work out what they do that works. Secondly, start doing the stuff above and be a leader yourself.

Observing leadership in action

You can observe leaders in the news, in politics, sport, the media (no, I mean leaders - not celebrities) as well as in business and public services. And remember, leaders don't have to have employees working for them. But they do have to have followers.

You can also observe leaders in fiction - in books, on TV and in the movies. One of my favourites is Captain Jack Aubrey in the film "Master & Commander". He shows quite a range of different leadership actions across a range of situations. Its well worth a look at the film.

Keep an eye on my news page for leaders that I observe - in the news, in films and day to day. Even better, subscribe to my RSS feed (the orange button) to be notified of site updates and of what leaders do in the news.

Be a leader

Just doing what leaders do - the things in John Adair's list - will start you on the road to becomin a leader. You don't have to brilliant from day one. You don't have to have all the skills and techniques to do each thing perfectly.

Just working on the leadership activities in the lists will get you thinking as a leader. More importantly, others will begin to see you as a leader and actually start following you.

But, you are right. You do need to develop leadership skills to make the most of these actions!

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