Leading a research project

Leading a research project successfully will require you to take on some very different types of responsibility.

One way of understanding these areas is provided by John Adair's three-circle model which identifies the following key areas of responsibility for the leader.

John Adair’s model shows three interlocking circles. These represent Achieving the Task, Building and Maintaining the Team and Developing the Individual.

 TM John Adair

Your responsibilities as a  leader or manager are to:

  • identify aims and vision for the group, purpose and direction - define the activity (the task)
  • identify resources, people, processes, systems and tools (including finance, communications, IT)
  • create the plan to achieve the task - deliverables, measures, timescales, strategy and tactics
  • establish responsibilities, objectives, accountabilities and measures, by agreement and delegation
  • set standards, quality, time and reporting parameters
  • control and maintain activities against parameters
  • monitor and maintain overall performance against plan
  • report on progress towards the group's aim
  • review, re-assess and adjust plans, methods and targets as necessary.

The pages below this will take you through elements of Achieving the Task, adapted to reflect the role of a PI:

There are separate sections in which you can explore Building and Maintaining the Team and Developing the Individual.

Dealing with project finance

An important aspect of being a PI is ensuring that when you are planning a research project you apply for an appropriate amount of funding from a suitable funder. Similarly, when you are successful in being awarded a project grant you will need to ensure that the funds are utilised properly. Organisations vary in the way they provide support for you at these different stages in the process; for the purposes of these pages a single entity called 'the research office' has been assumed.