John Adair on leaders and leadership, before Bucharest trip

Business, Marketing, People

John Adair, professor of leadership at Surrey University UK, will be present for the time in Romania and will be the main speaker for “How to Grow Leaders – Romania” conference. The event is scheduled to take place on November 20th at Novotel Hotel in Bucharest and is organized by Axioma Solutions.

Adair is author of Action Centred Leadership (ACL) model and initiator of the classes attended by now by over 1M managers all over the world.

Before the conference in Bucharest, John Adair answered a few questions for AdHugger, explaining more on leaders, leadership and the principles of effective leadership development.

John Adair - Casual - Print

AdHugger: What do you consider to be a true leader in a company?

John Adair: A true leader is the one whose appointment as manager is -sooner or later-ratified in the hearts and minds of the people who work with them.

Why people do give the attribution of’ leader’ (borrowed in Romanian as ‘lider’) to some and not to others?

The clue lies in the more traditional Romanian name of ‘conducator’, based on the ancient Roman verb ‘ducere ‘, to lead. England shares with Romania the historical fact of occupation and settlement by the Romans and so we have the same word, as in the conductor of an orchestra.

What does the conductor do for the orchestra ? He gives it direction, holds it together as a team so its members work in harmony, and brings out the very best from each individual. And these are the three basic functions of ACL, symbolized in the Three-Circle Model.

AdH: How did you develop the Seven Key Principles of Effective Leadership Development?

J.A.: Over years of observation, experiment and experience. These Seven Key Principles are like the Laws of Aerodynamics which explain why airplanes fly. It is no accident! Nor is it an accident why some organizations develop outstanding leaders at all levels: whether they know it or not they are applying at least some of these principles of effective leadership development .

Can you give your organization a mark out of ten in this respect?

AdH: You said that being a good strategic leader is not enough for the success of the business. What more is it needed?

J.A.: It’s just not one factor that can determine the success of a business. Product quality, market factors financing, general economic conditions and the element of luck all play a part.

What is certain, however, is that you will not get sustained business success without great people working for you. And you don’t get great teams without great leaders at all levels of the organization: team, operational and strategic .

AdH: Can anyone become a leader in business with a lot of work and practice or you need to have some inner qualities that you are born with?

J.A.: You need to have both. People do vary in their natural ability to lead others. Paradoxically, a high level of potential for leadership tends to go with the desire to learn how to be a better leader. Conversely, those with a very low aptitude tend to have a low interest in becoming leaders and a near absence of desire to apply themselves to acquiring the necessary leadership knowledge and skills. They are averse to taking or accepting responsibility, which all real leaders have to do.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Therefore most of us who cannot improve our effectiveness as leaders by 20-30%  if we are willing and eager to make the journey. That is where ACL can help, especially in the early stages of your career, because it gives you a foundation to build upon.

How long does it take? Here I can speak from personal experience . I was born the time of Stephen the Great but I learn something new about leadership every day. If you decide to go on the journey of leadership you will find-as I have done- that it is the journey of a life time.

AdH: In your experience have you seen difference between Europeans / Americans / Asians when it comes to achieving true leadership?

J.A.: Human nature is fundamentally the same and so my work is global or universal. For instance, ACL is being run successfully in Japan. But there are cultural differences, of course. Americans, for example, have a tendency to swing suddenly from an overtly ‘democratic style of leadership to authoritarian . African leaders- as exampled by Mandela – have a strong tribal tradition of decision-making by consensus.

AdH: How long does it take for someone to become a leader? (years, experience, etc.)

J.A.: To become an effective leader cannot be achieved without experience. You do not become a doctor in the lecture room; it takes practice and experience with real patients and in testing medical situations. What initial ACL training can do is to cut down the time it takes you to learn from experience.

Do not ,however, rely upon ONLY on picking leadership up in the School of Experience. The fees charged there are high. Besides, by the time you graduate you will be too old to do much good in the world!

AdH: You once said that “a leader is a leader of leaders”. Can you develop more this idea?

J.A.: There is an American fashion at present to talk a lot about ‘followership’. I do not believe in followership. A good leader creates partners, not followers. Or, as the Roman poet Ovid puts it, we are talking about someone who is ‘a leader of leaders’.

Why has Stephen the Great been recently voted the greatest leader in Romanian history? Because he was a leader of leaders. He made his countrymen partners with him in the struggle.

AdH: Do you know any Romanian true leader? Why do you consider him / her to be at that level?

J.A.: When I speak in Bucharest on 20th of November I shall ask my audience to share with me and their colleagues in this respect. Most of them will have met one excellent Romanian leader , that may be not a famous political or military figure, may be someone quite humble in the eyes of the world. What I can do is to help to explain why they were excellent.

AdH: What would you consider to be the main qualities of a leader in advertising? What about marketing?

J.A.: The qualities required in a leader are partly representative – I mean that they should exemplify the qualities of any worker in their field- and partly generic ( common to all leaders).

With regard to the former, I would expect a leader in the field of advertising to creatively-orientated,even if they are not the most original thinker in the team.

As for marketing, if you could tell me what are the five key characteristics of a salesperson or marketeer, the you will have answered your own question.