Art AND Science

Leadership isn’t as simple as some would like to make it. It’s almost as if there is an art AND a science to it. There are facts that are true about leadership. Anyone can learn those facts from reading any one of the thousands of books written on the subject. That’s the science of it. However, it takes a certain understanding of the nuances of human nature to be able to apply the facts all the leadership authors write about. An aspiring leader can be factually correct about a leadership principle but technically wrong in how they are applying it to their team. Leaders must know when to act and when to wait. This takes as much time and practice as any other art requires. Science need only be studied but art requires the technical skill of a practiced hand. The art of leadership is not different.

Respect for Authority

There are many attributes of a great teammate but I think respect for authority may be one of the most important. I have been on some great teams and they all had something in common. They all had a strong leadership culture that understood that a high respect for authority was a non-negotiable for a teammate. This wasn’t autocratic in the way some may imagine. It was simply an understanding that everyone understood their role and the team authority structure. This alone eliminated most of the potential dysfunction that I experienced on the less-than-great teams I have been a part of.

The Cost of Fear

Mistakes that go unreported out of fear are a waste for two reasons. First, the team never gets to truly resolve the problem as mistakes are never owned and discussed in a way that finds a solution. The team is therefore tasked with searching for a cause and also working around what seems to be a hole in the bucket. The second reason unreported mistakes are wasteful is that the team misses out on a moment to look back on and learn. In a sense the mistake is wasted as it gets swept under the carpet. This waste is reflective of a leadership culture that governs on fear of embarrassment and not incremental development.