The Art of Leadership

Leadership is both an art and a science. Many leaders, however, emphasize the science of leadership at the expense of the art of leadership, which often leads to less than desirable results in terms of engagement, performance, and teamwork. Whether you are a business leader, coach, or parent, you know that leadership is hard work but can have a lasting and meaningful impact in the lives of the people you lead and influence when delivered in the right way.

business team at table

To understand these terms more and explore what effective leadership looks like, it is important to define what the art and science of leadership means. You can apply both of these terms in all areas of life including sports and business. The “science of leadership” refers to instructing and teaching a technical discipline or path. It includes directing and guiding someone on how to do something the right way effectively and efficiently. It is the most common technique that leaders demonstrate, because most leaders were promoted based on their ability to produce and do things well.

The “art of leadership” is more subtle and esoteric and is often forgotten, discounted, and abandoned when trying to get people to accomplish a task or achieve a mission or goal. Yet, the art of leadership is essential, because this aspect of leadership penetrates to the heart of the people you are leading and influencing. It engages their minds AND their hearts and allows them to perform with purpose and passion. In fact, Max DePree, the former CEO of Herman Miller, wrote a whole book on this topic entitled Leadership is an Art. In this great book on leadership, he said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”

Here are 10 things you can do to improve your leadership effectiveness through the “art” of leadership:

  1. Encourage the heart of your people.
  2. Reinforce your belief in their abilities.
  3. Empower them by trusting them with opportunities.
  4. Care for them by coaching them and delivering both positive and constructive feedback that will help them grow.
  5. Lead them by communicating a shared vision that includes their contribution to the mission.
  6. Remind them of times when they have succeeded when they are in the midst of a setback.
  7. Instill confidence in them, so they can perform on “game day.”
  8. Listen to them.
  9. Invest time with them.
  10. Be responsible for their development.

The art of leadership is about helping individuals or a team perform on “game day” with trust, belief, and confidence. Yes, the science of leadership is important, but once people have a base level of skills and mastery of something, leaders must demonstrate the art of leadership to help them unleash their potential and consistently perform at their best. As DePree also said, “In a day when so much energy seems to be spent on maintenance and manuals, on bureaucracy and meaningless quantification, to be a leader is to enjoy the special privileges of complexity, of ambiguity, of diversity. But to be a leader means, especially, having the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who permit leaders to lead.”

By applying the ten tips mentioned above, you can become a more effective leader, and the people you lead will be appreciative of your interest in their growth and dedication to their development!

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