Lessons in Leadership: 12 Key Concepts, by John Adair is available to buy here.

Designed to challenge and inspire anyone who is seeking a deeper understanding of management, Lessons in Leadership provides a series of reflections on the very fundamentals of leadership as a management function.

Key Messages:

  • Effective leadership must be a constructive and proactive endeavour. To inspire trust and respect leaders must be honest, humble, warm and enthusiastic.
  • Leadership cannot be separated from the organisation and position. Leaders must know their organisation and their field to lead others effectively.
  • Some people do have natural leadership capability, but leaders must also be cultivated and developed.
  • Examples from classical literature, philosophy and military history provide useful examples for modern-day leaders.

John Adair’s Lessons in Leadership is an enjoyable read that brings together lessons from his own considerable expertise alongside very cohesive and consistent messages about leadership. The leadership lessons are explained through Adair’s personal history in the Armed Forces alongside stories from military history and literature.

The book is easy to pick up and read from any point, each of the chapters contains a standalone lesson for leadership. The narrative structure of the book provides interesting and instructive examples that demonstrate Adair’s impressive knowledge of leadership history and firsthand experience in military leadership. Any reader with an interest in military history will enjoy how historical lessons are woven into lessons which will resonate with contemporary leaders.

The broad themes of the book are used to develop additional lessons in leadership. In Chapter 3: Sharing Dangers and Hardships, the importance of identifying and developing potential leaders is explained, then picked up again in later chapters.

Adair’s picture of leadership is clearly and consistently that of a constructive, trustworthy and honest approach that inspires the best in teams and organisations. The role of Integrity in leadership is explained in Chapter 8 where Adair emphasises the importance of honesty and its’ clear link to creating and maintaining trust. In Chapter 7, on enthusiasm, the words of Confucius are used: “Rule over them with dignity and they will be reverent; treat them with kindness and they will do their best; raise the good and instruct those who are backward and they will be imbued with enthusiasm”.

Lessons in Leadership does exactly what it sets out to do. It provides general lessons for leadership and guiding principles for leadership effectiveness. It uses universal lessons that will be useful to any leader, without getting bogged down in the day-to-day practicalities of everyday management. It provides exactly what it promises: Lessons in Leadership. The lessons are set out clearly to leave the delicacies of implementation up to the individual leader’s judgement and expertise.


John Adair is one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership and leadership development. The world’s first Professor of Leadership Studies, he advises many organisations in business, government, education, health and the voluntary sector. An effective speaker with a valuable message, he is one of the very few figures in recent years to have transformed the debate as to what effective leadership is all about.

John Adair has recently been made United Nations Chair of Strategic Leadership. Based in Turin, he has launched a strategic leadership programme in association with the UN. He has also received the Lifetime Achievement in Leadership Award and China has made him its first Honorary Professor of Leadership. The author of over 50 books, now in 25 languages, on leadership and management development, he continues to write and teach throughout the world, inspiring new audiences with his timeless and timely vision of leadership.

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