Lifetime Achievement Awardee

John Adair

John Adair is one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership and leadership development.

A prolific writer, Adair has published 48 books on leadership, organizational effectiveness, and military history, among other topics. His books are frequently among the most popular leadership titles on Amazon and several, like Great Leaders (1989) and Effective Strategic Leadership (2002), are considered classics in the field. His most recent publications include the series John Adair’s 100 Greatest Ideas for… (2011) and The Leadership of Muhammad (2010).

Adair is extremely adept at crossing the boundaries between scholarship and practice. While his books are written for leaders, as opposed to leadership scholars, they are based on careful analysis and, as Jonathan Gosling writes, repeatedly demonstrate “a keen appreciation for the systemic complexity of the contexts in which an individual struggles to fulfill a leadership role.”1 Adair himself believes that the future of Leadership Studies lies in the development of scholar-practitioners, “[Y]ou cannot do Leadership Studies… if you are interested only in theory and not at all in practice. It would be like trying to study pharmacology… but leaving out any knowledge to whether or not the drugs worked…” 2

ILA Lifetime Achievement Awardee John Adair discusses his book, The Art of Judgment, a pioneering exploration of practical wisdom, a key leadership quality, particularly in challenging times. Moderated by Professor Richard Bolden.

Adair’s contribution to the field of leadership studies is immeasurable, extending far beyond his writing. In addition to holding the U.K.’s first Chair of Leadership Studies from 1979 at the University of Surrey, more than a million people around the world have taken leadership development courses based on his concept of Action-Centered Leadership, which he developed in the 1960s and 70s while lecturing at Sandhurst. Adair is also credited with having helped change the perception that leadership and management are one and the same. He was also among the first to demonstrate that leadership can be developed; it is not exclusively the domain of inborn traits.

A successful public speaker and consultant to both the public and private sectors—most famously he introduced a leadership development strategy that turned around Imperial Chemical Industries, making them the most profitable company in Britain—he is frequently mentioned in lists of the top thinkers, worldwide, on management. Adair is currently the Chair of Strategic Leadership at the United Nations Staff College in Turin, and also Honorary Professor of Leadership at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai.

1. Gosling, J. & Witzel, M. & Case, P. (2007). John Adair: Fundamentals of Leadership. New York: NY: Palgrave. p. 1.

2. Adair, J. (2007). The Forward View. In John Adair: Fundamentals of Leadership. p. 214.