Leadership: Art & Science

My experience, both personally and professional as an executive coach, is that leadership requires an intentional blending of both Art and Science.

The Art encompasses the Willingness to try, to test, and to take risks. Without visible and evident Willingness in a leader, what would be the point and who would follow? This requires a deliberate state of mind; a daily intention. For leaders, this is foundational to all else.

Humility and Curiosity are two other critical elements of the Art. Without these a leader is at risk of not learning. Humility helps to deflate the political attributes of titles and org charts. Humility creates a space for learning. Curiosity is necessary for fostering continued exploration of others beliefs, perspectives, knowledge and expertise.

Though there are many more components within the Art of leadership, I need acknowledge the one that is the most powerful to practice and difficult to master: Inquiry. Having the ability to lead with pure questions of inquiry. To humbly ask in order to seek improved understanding. This is art at it’s finest.

The Science of leadership is systematically practiced through critical thinking and the consistent application of the scientific method.  It mandates the disciplined experimentation of PDSA cycles. The solicitation and use of data in root cause and problem analysis on a daily basis is not an optional activity.

The kicker is that we rarely think of science as being applied at a personal level. And yet we know that we cannot improve upon an unstable platform. Therefore if we wish to improve as leaders, then we must first create stability within ourselves; stability in our principles, beliefs, behaviors, etc.

This brings us to Leader Standard Work; the most powerful to practice and difficult to master on the Science side of leadership. In short, Leader Standard Work drives the daily, weekly, monthly execution of not only tasks & deliverables, but just as important, it guides the relentless practice of daily reflection, specific behaviors, personal goals and outcomes.

Think of Leader Standard Work as your personal PDSA; the platform for stabilization upon which you are intentionally blending the Art and Science components of leadership on a daily basis in order to improve as leader.

Leadership requires both Art and Science. If you are Willing, practice some Leader Standard Work. If you have questions, Inquire away.


5 thoughts on “Leadership: Art & Science

  1. Great post Karl. The concept of intention is critical for us to create new habits and lead in ways that might not be our ingrained habit. And Leader Standard Work is a powerful tool to help us create new habits, and learn about what is getting in our way. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Katie, Couldn’t agree with you more on the “leading with intention” concept, the creation of new habits and practicing some sort of mindfulness to learn about what is getting in our way. Great topics for further reflection and discussion. – Karl

  2. Karl, This is definitely one of your best. You integrated the leadership components into a single focus. Thanks, gave me lots to think about today. – Darryl

  3. Karl, thanks for the reminder. I use my LSW for daily tracking, weekly reflection, and to keep my quarterly and annual goals alive. I totally agree that the form and the process integrates both art and science. I have become completely dependent on it, thanks to you!

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