An art or a science? How to master Leadership

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An art or a science? How to master Leadership

Posted by: Phil Kelly
Category: Articles

“Leadership is the science of understanding people and the art of directing them toward a shared vision.” – Warren Bennis, US scholar and author, pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies.

The debate over whether leadership is an art or a science has been a perennial discussion in management.

Definition Of Leadership   

Leadership responsibilities can be found across all levels of an organisation; it includes strategic leadership, direction setting, and vision casting, managing daily activities, processes, resources, teams, and projects. Lastly, it can include personnel leadership focusing on nurturing employees’ and managers’ growth and development.

Leadership plays a crucial role in influencing, motivating, and enabling others to contribute to the success of a team, project, or organisation. Effective leaders possess a deep understanding of ideal outcomes. They ensure that all team members work collaboratively towards a common goal.

Leadership as an Art

Creativity and Vision

One of the hallmarks of artistry in leadership lies in the ability to envision a compelling future. Leaders, like artists, often paint a picture of what could be, inspiring others to see and strive for the same vision. Creativity in leadership can be crucial for motivation, involving thinking beyond the conventional, fostering innovation, and challenging the status quo.

“The best leaders are artists, painting a vision of the future that others are inspired to follow.” – Simon Sinek, author, and speaker.

Emotional Intelligence

Artistic expression often involves a deep understanding of emotions, and leadership is no different. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can navigate the intricacies of human relationships, inspire trust, and cultivate a positive organisational culture. The ability to connect with others on an emotional level is an important aspect of leadership as an art.

Individualised Approach

Just as artists tailor their work to a specific audience or theme, effective leaders recognise the uniqueness of each team member. The art of leadership involves adapting one’s style to the strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations of individuals, creating an environment where everyone can flourish.


Leadership as a Science

Systematic Approaches

Scientific principles underpin many leadership theories and practices. Scholars and practitioners have developed models and frameworks based on research and empirical evidence. These systematic approaches aim to identify patterns, traits, and behaviours that contribute to effective leadership. This provides a structured foundation for leadership development.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

In the scientific realm of leadership, data plays a vital role. Leaders analyse metrics, performance indicators and feedback to make informed decisions. This data-driven approach allows for a more objective assessment of leadership effectiveness and aids in the continuous improvement of leadership strategies.

Having factual evidence or data references can support a leader in making informed business decisions. This can be especially key when in a high-pressure, highly emotive environment.

“Effective leadership is a disciplined science, grounded in principles, and constantly refined through observation and analysis.” – Douglas R. Conant, Businessman and author, Former CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Leadership Development

Leadership development often takes a scientific approach, with structured programmes designed to enhance specific skills and competencies. These programmes are rooted in research and utilise methodologies to measure progress and success, aligning with the scientific aspect of leadership.


So, is leadership an art or a science? The answer is not an exclusive “either/or” but rather a harmonious “both/and”.

Visionary thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence are essential for the artistry aspect, while structure, analysis, and evidence-based approaches are critical for the scientific side.

The most successful leaders can seamlessly blend both artistic and scientific elements. The key to this success is knowing when to be creative and adaptive and when to rely on data and systematic methodologies.

Successful leaders embrace the creativity and intuition inherent in artistic expression while leveraging the systematic approaches and evidence provided by the scientific and facts. It is the combination of these elements that defines the art and science of leadership, creating a dynamic and evolving landscape for effective leadership in the modern workspace.

Acknowledging your natural strengths and style preferences is also helpful. It ensures you are thinking broadly and have a levelled approach to how you manage. It can also ensure that you identify areas of leadership where you may feel less competent, or want to build on your skills, to enhance your effectiveness.

Author: Phil Kelly
An award-winning business owner and TED presenter, Phil lives and breaths performance. Having designed and delivered successful training packages across various industries worldwide, he now spends most of his time within business development and consulting. Phil Kelly
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