Three Leadership Outcomes – Direction, Alignment and Commitment

Army March

A useful framework to assist leaders in identifying where leadership is working well and what needs to change to improve our leadership effectiveness is the DAC Leadership Framework. The framework is from the work of Drath, et el. (2008) as discussed in their Leadership Quarterly article, “Direction, alignment, commitment: Toward a more integrative ontology of leadership” . In the article the authors propose an leadership framework comprising of the following three key leadership outcomes:

  • Direction. Shared and collective agreement on the vision, mission, goals and aims of the group. Direction implies change, a change from the current reality towards some future state.
  • Alignment. The coordination and integration of people, structures, skills, process and systems to produce collective work in service of the shared direction.
  • Commitment. The willingness of people to prioritise the success of the collective work above their own interests, to devote their time and energy in service of the shared direction.

Using the above framework leadership has happened when the outcomes of direction, alignment, and commitment have been produced. Successful leadership requires that all three of the leadership outcomes be produced in a coordinated way. Looking for evidence of the leadership outcomes of direction, alignment and commitment is how we know that leadership has or has not happened.

The leadership outcomes can be applied to all the levels of leadership, leaders of teams, leaders of leaders and leaders of organisations. Although relationships, structures and process may differ across the various levels of leadership the outcomes remain the same. At each level the outcomes may be produced in various and different ways.

Leadership Beliefs and Leadership Practices

There are two important ideas that Drath, et el. (2008) discuss in the article, these are leadership beliefs and leadership practices.

  • Leadership beliefs are the the beliefs that individuals and the group hold about how best to produce the outcomes of direction, alignment and commitment. For example you may believe that commitment is best produce by inspiration, as opposed to threats of negative consequences. Leadership beliefs are important drivers that influence how people go about producing direction, alignment and commitment.
  • Leadership practices are the observable behaviours, resulting from their beliefs, that produces direction, alignment and commitment. All of the leadership practices reflect the leadership beliefs held by individuals and the group about how best to produce direction, alignment and commitment.

The leadership outcomes are supported by the beliefs of individuals and groups as to what behaviours and processes are effective for producing direction, alignment and commitment. The behaviours and practices that produce the leadership outcomes of will differ from organisation to organisation and from group to group. This is because the beliefs as to what create direction, alignment and commitment differs amongst these individuals and groups. Leadership practices are leadership beliefs in action. Leadership practices are the observable behaviours and processes occurring in the group. So all leadership practices are supported by a specific leadership belief.

Direction, Alignment and Commitment as Leadership Tool

When we approach a discussion of leadership with these three outcomes in mind the leadership conversation changes. The conversation changes from one about leaders, followers and goals, to a conversation focused on how to produce direction, alignment and commitment. When we pay attention to the three leadership outcomes, we become aware of opportunities where more leadership support is required. The three leadership outcomes help to increase our awareness of where leadership is effective, where leadership is lacking and where leadership requires strengthening.

The benefits of looking at leadership as a set of outcomes is that it makes leadership immediately more tangible and provides a practical diagnostic tool. This assist in ensure we apply focus on the right areas to improve our leadership outcomes.

  • How effectively is your organisation creating the three leadership outcomes?
  • How is direction being produced in your team and organisation? What need to be changed or improved?
  • How is alignment being produced in your team and organisation? What need to be changed or improved?
  • How is commitment being produced in your team and organisation? What need to be changed or improved?


Photo Credit:  U.S. Army Europe Images


Wilfred H. Drath, Cynthia D. McCauley, Charles J. Palus, Ellen Van Velsor, Patricia M.G. O’Connor, John B. McGuire, (2008) “Direction, alignment, commitment: Toward a more integrative ontology of leadership”, The Leadership Quarterly


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  1. says

    Yes. I get it. Simplifying leadership makes great sense as I think that people find the concept a bit mystical sometimes. Beliefs or attitudes and practices or habits, simplify it to this and everyone can take part. Great attitudes for leaders I think are Compassion, Courage and Responsibility. Fits in nicely with your Direction, Alignment and Commitment.

  2. Haikal Ahmad says

    Hi George!
    Great article I must say.
    In fact, I am writing to feature this article in our Guild of HR e-Mag which is published online monthly.
    Let me know if you’re keen for us to take this forward.

    Haikal Ahmad
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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