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What is the Art & Science of Leadership For A Good Leader?

There are many roles that a good leader must handle. A different situation may require the leader to wear a different metaphorical hat than the next. Yet a good leader mastered both the science and the art of leadership.

The Art Of A Good Leader

So what is the art & science of leadership? It is a combination of many attributes that would require many books to list them all. This article covers a high-level understanding of the two concepts. You will learn examples of how the art and leadership show up within the big 4 departments of organizations.. Have you ever met a new leader that, when they take over a team, the performance skyrockets? The kind that does not know how to do any reports correctly or the detail of the standard operating procedures. The one that cannot teach others how to lead because they do not know their own process. You probably wondered why they are so successful. It must be luck, right? No, this is the art of leadership at its prime example. This type of leader is like a people whisperer. They can just sense what a person feels and what the team needs. It like a sixth sense that they have developed. One acquires this sense through experience. That experience does not always have to be professional. It could come from leading in other places like sports teams, clubs, and community service.

The Science Of A Good Leader

People groomed to lead master the science of leadership. Some mastered the science of leadership in college when they were doing their Ph.D. studies. Others learned from a mentor. irrelevant of where the knowledge came from, they know the systemic approach to leadership. They know how to go from a to z and be able to teach others to do that. They are brilliant in theory. Yet not all grand philosophy translates into action as intended. Sometimes these people, if they do not have the art within them, struggle to get the desired outcomes. This yet again reinforces the need for the presence of both components in a balanced and effective leader.

Now we will look at examples of the contrast between art and science of leadership within each of the Big 4 and how a great leader would handle it or how a bad one did.


We were 10 team members below the waterline, and my Sr Management was pushing me to hire faster to get up to the staffing number we needed. If you are not familiar, a staffing waterline is the number of employees that a team must have to effectively conduct all its operations—the amount needed to achieve the budgeted Key Performance Indicators. The problem was that when I took over this team 5 months ago, we had to let go of some team members and some left on their own accord. So we started with 23 team members under the waterline. The science, which is a formula that calculated waterline, showed that I needed to hire more. Luckily, this was the 3rd team that I was pulling out of a recovery situation, so I knew that it was not all about the science. I pushed back and did not hire more team members, and it allowed for a much quicker recovery and better performance than if I had followed what the science said. I knew I could not support those team members with development and leads to fill their calendars. That is why I stood up to my superiors and asked them to trust me. The rest of the country continued to follow this formula for a few more months and strictly let the science dictate what to do for hire. The difference between my retention and team member productivity compared to the rest of the nation was large. And it was a positive one, so the company realized there were many variables that the waterline formula was missing.


One of the most common science-driven sales processes is reverse engineering quotas to a more controllable act. An example is taking a monthly quota, and with formulas calculating the lead generation phone calls, a rep must make per day. A new Area Director came to the market when I worked with a sales team. The team was operating at budget, but not near its full potential. The rest of the region was in a slightly worse situation. The new Area Manager decided to try to implement the type of science that I just mentioned. He calculated it all out and gave each rep the number of calls they needed to make. Then he started to verify compliance. The call volume went up compared to averages. The month ended, and we did worse than the month before and ended up missing the budget for the first time in 10 months. What happened? We made more calls and did what the science says. The problem is the same as in the previous example was that the science missed many variables that are on the art side of sales reps. The reps were bogged down so much with phone calls that they were not spending as much time with customers and prospects. They were rushed and out of their element. The main thing that suffered is one of the most important art forms of sales… RELATIONSHIPS!


An example of an inferior art and science synergy that we see in operations is when the science of chasing better margins causes turnover. It is not cheap to hire and onboard team members. There are many hidden costs like the time of expensive managers that goes into developing them. I have witnessed many managers chase higher productivity or try to cut costs and, in the process, burn their team out. People perform at their best when the task at hand is pushing the limits of their current capabilities. When that task becomes too far beyond their capabilities, that is when performance absolutely plummets. On top of that, the team’s mental health becomes negatively impacted, and they decide that working there is no longer the best thing for them. So, by chasing a few dollars, they create a turnover problem that costs thousands or more.


So far, the examples have shown how the art was better than science, but I want to make sure that it is not the message you are getting. The reality is that there always needs to be a balance between the two to be a good leader. In a marketing example, I think of a time where we had a discount culture. We had conditioned or members to buy when we had large scale events. It had gone on for years. We became excellent at generating insane amounts of revenue on specific weeks or days. Still, it was only possible if we marketed discounts. We brought on a new marketing leader, and she wanted to get away from this way because our average sales were down year over year. She tried to change how we market to do less discounting. Everyone that had been with the company said she was a lunatic. They relied on their art of “this is how we have done it for years.” She was a numbers person, and she conducted a thorough analysis of all of our data to show our executives that we had to make a shift. We began to focus on experience invites. Not trying to do these massive events that were for everybody, but instead, doing smaller, more targeted activities more often. The results were astonishing. Not did just our average sale go up, everything went up except for the number of discounts we were doing. Without her science of data analytics, we would have always missed the golden egg we were sitting on.


Hopefully, through seeing these examples, you have empowered yourself with an understanding of the art and science of leadership. Use this when you need to say one or the other is not the way to go. Stay firm even when it goes against the current status quo because otherwise, you and your team could be missing your golden egg.

Remember, you are not here alone. If you or your leaders need to get better at the art and science of leadership, we at Prospective Force have amazing coaches that can help you get there.

If you would like to watch the full recording of our HumanSOS Show that discusses this topic, please visit this LinkedIn post.

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