Adair's Three Circles

John Adair developed his three circles approach to leadership at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst during the 1970's.  He observed what effective leaders did to gain the support and commitment of the followers.  His model is important for two reasons: it's simple, so is easy to understand and apply, and he was one of the first to look at effective leadership from the point of view of those being led.


John Adair found that effective leaders pay attention to three areas of need for members of the team: those relating to the task, to the team itself, and to individual members of the team.  At any time, the emphasis on each circle may vary, but all are interdependent and so the leader must watch all three.

Task needs include setting a clear goal and objectives, and organisation and management of the process.

Team needs are things like effective interaction, support, shared work and communication within the team and with other teams.

Individual needs will of course vary from person to person, but the effective leader will pay attention to, and deal with, how each person is behaving and feeling.

The three circles model is nowadays seen as rather basic, especially by managers who want to be considered sophisticated and up-to-date.  However it's a good approach to learn early in your leadership career, providing a solid foundation for more complex human relations.


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