Edgecumbe’s Primary Colours® Model of Leadership

A simple and practical leadership language

Taught at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and adopted by some of the world’s leading organisations, including Rolls-Royce and BSI, our leadership model allows us to measure and develop what leaders do and how they do it at individual, team and organisational levels.

What is the Primary Colours® Model of Leadership?

The Primary Colours® Model is Edgecumbe’s proprietary model of leadership. Developed over 25 years of research by Edgecumbe founder Dr David Pendleton, it defines the tasks leaders must perform in order to create the conditions for sustained success. By mapping the three domains in which leaders work – the strategic, operational and interpersonal domains – it provides a simple, memorable and actionable description of WHAT leaders need to do, not HOW they need to do it.

Over 100 years of research suggests that WHAT leaders do is consistent across geographies, industries, organisations and functions. However, HOW leaders need to work varies a great deal, based on context. We think that’s why traditional competency and behavioural models fall short of their aims.

The foundations and development of the model are set out in Leadership: All You Need To Know (2016, 2nd Edition) by David Pendleton and Professor Adrian Furnham.

How do we use it?

The model provides a common language and set of criteria for assessing and developing leadership at all levels for individuals, teams and whole organisations. Its focus on tasks makes it easy to translate business challenges into leadership challenges and to define WHAT WE NEED TO DO as leaders to meet our specific challenges.

Because the model focuses on tasks it is often overlaid on existing competency or behavioural models to provide an over-arching framework for leadership. It can then be used to frame the curriculum for leadership and team development programmes, and the core architecture for leadership talent processes.

Because the underlying structure of the model is consistent with the psychological factors which are most influential in shaping an individual’s leadership strengths and weaknesses, it supports a leadership assessment approach that reflects enduring differences between people. As such, it helps to clarify the kinds of leadership role for which an individual is fundamentally well-suited, and those in which they are never likely to thrive.

Finally, because it is based on broad leadership tasks rather than detailed competencies whose importance depends on context, it enables benchmarking of leaders across functions, organisations and industries.

 The Primary Colours® Model of Leadership

What our clients say

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Whether you want to introduce and implement the model throughout your organisation, or simply use some of the thinking or ideas behind it, we can help.