John Adair (Effective Leadership): Books, Quotes & Biography

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John Adair (John Eric Adair: born 18 May 1934) is an internationally well-known author, public speaker, and expert in the field of leadership and leadership development. John Adair created the Action Centered Leadership model, and he has today authored a significant number of books on subjects such as leadership and organizational effectiveness. This article contains his biography, quotes and publications.

His most famous books include but are not limited to Effective Strategic Leadership and Great Leaders. John Adair’s leadership books are also one of the most popular books on various online marketplaces such as Amazon and are, for this reason, regarded as must-read titles.

The early life of John Adair

John Adair was born in Luton in the United Kingdom. In his early life, John first attended St. Paul’s School, an independent school in London that provides education solely to boys aged from 7 to 18 years. John Adair obtained excellent results and received a scholarship to attend Cambridge University to study a Bachelor of Arts.

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Before John Adair went to Cambridge University, he first served the Scots Guards, one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army. He next worked as an adjutant, an officer who assists the commanding officer with unit administration, in the Arab legion. Next to this, John Adair has also worked as a deckhand, someone who works on a boat or a ship, and he worked in a hospital.

He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University in 1959. John Adair continued his study by following the post-graduate course Master of Letters at Oxford University. In 1966, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy from King’s College in London.

After John Adair has gained many experiences in the field of the military, and together with his educational background, he decided to apply for a position at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was appointed a senior lecturer in military history and additionally advised the organization about leadership training. He served this position until 1967. As a result of his contributions, John Adair became an associate director of The Industrial Leadership Society.

His work in the military came to an end in 1979 when John was offered a job as a professor of leadership studies at the University of Surrey, a leading university in London. He worked as a professor at the University of Surrey for five years. John Adair has also worked as a visiting professor, someone who is invited to teach at another college or university for a short period such as one term or one year, at the University of Exeter.


John Adair receives recognition for connecting science with practice. His thoughts are thoroughly analyzed based on academic concepts and theories. His ideas are additionally practical and suitable for different types of situations. John also argues that the future role of leadership is strongly depended on the development of post-graduates.

Although John Adair’s book won international popularity, his contributions to leadership studies go beyond the contributions he has provided through his books. John Adair was a pioneer in designing leadership studies, and as a consequence, John created the initial concept of leadership studies that have adopted globally. Because of this, millions of people around the world have been exposed and worked with John Adair’s leadership concepts.

John Adair was the first person who claimed that leadership and management are different concepts. He additionally showed that individuals are not always born with leadership characteristics, but that leadership can be developed by practice and experience. For this reason, he argues that leadership skills transferred. John Adair developed various leadership development strategies for businesses, of which one has been implemented by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).

The incentive of the leadership development strategy was to tackle the bad financial position with many loss-making cash flows and took place from 1981 until 1986. As a result, ICI developed the first company in the United Kingdom with a profit of more than one billion pounds.

John Adair is today a public speaker and an emeritus fellow, a retired chairperson, at Windsor Leadership. As an emeritus fellow, he provides speeches about leadership development programs. His motivational concepts are closely related to those of, for example, Maslow, and Frederick Herzberg. For instance, John Adair created the concept of 50:50 rule, which is similar to the Pareto principle.

Next to this, John Adair received various awards for his outstanding contributions to the field of leadership. For example, John Adair was recently awarded Honorary Professor by the People’s Republic of China, and he also received the Lifetime Achievement in Leadership Award. John Adair was additionally appointed Chair of Leadership Studies United Nations System Staff College in Turin in 2009.

John Adair authored more than 50 books that are available in approximately 25 languages and currently still writes about leadership- and management development.

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John Adair Quotes

  1. “A good manager is now by definition a leader. Equally, a good leader will also be a manager.”
  2. “Communication is the sister of leadership.”
  3. “Effective leaders treat individuals differently but equally.”
  4. “Humans are not machines, and some of their energy during the day will go into discussions or activities unrelated to the common task.”
  5. “Leadership is essentially another-centered activity not self-centered one.”
  6. “Work groups and organization come into being because there is a task to be done that is too big for one person.”
  7. “There is a useful distinction between good leaders and leaders of good.”
  8. “The price of excellence in teamwork is eternal vigilance.”
  9. “Success is often to be found at the edge of failure.”
  10. “Praise and recognition based upon performance are the oxygen of the human spirit.”

Books and Publications

  • 2019. Decision Making and Problem Solving: Break Through Barriers and Banish Uncertainty at Work. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2011. The John Adair lexicon of leadership: The definitive guide to leadership skills and knowledge. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2011. John Adair’s 100 greatest ideas for smart decision making. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 2011. Effective Leadership (New Revised Edition): How To Be a Successful Leader. Pan Macmillan.
  • 2010. The leadership of Muhammad. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2010. Strategic leadership: How to think and plan strategically and provide direction. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2010. Leadership for innovation: How to organize team creativity and harvest ideas. Human Resource Management International Digest, 18(6).
  • 2009. The inspirational leader: How to motivate, encourage and achieve success. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2009. Not bosses but leaders: How to lead the way to success. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2009. Effective time management: How to save time and spend it wisely. Pan Macmillan.
  • 2009. Effective teambuilding: How to make a winning team. Pan Macmillan.
  • 2007. The art of creative thinking: How to be innovative and develop great ideas. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2007. Develop your leadership skills (Vol. 11). Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2007. Decision making and problem solving strategies (Vol. 9). Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2006. Leadership and motivation: The fifty-fifty rule and the eight key principles of motivating others. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2005. How to grow leaders: The seven key principles of effective leadership development. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 2002. Inspiring leadership-learning from great leaders. Thorogood Publishing.
  • 2002. Effective strategic leadership. London: Macmillan.
  • 2002. Effective innovation. Pan.
  • 1998. Leadership skills. CIPD Publishing.
  • 1990. Understanding motivation. Kogan Page Publishers.
  • 1989. Great leaders. Talbot Adair Press.
  • 1973. Action-centred leadership (pp. 07-084428). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • 1944. The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths (Vol. 25). University of Oklahoma Press.

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Published on: 12/17/2019 | Last update: 12/13/2022

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Alexander Zeeman
Article by:

Alexander Zeeman

Alexander Zeeman is Content Manager at ToolsHero where he focuses on Content production, Content management and marketing. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business school. Currently, in his study, working on the development of various management competencies and improving operational business processes.


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