Leadership: The Art and Science of Influence
Leadership is an incredibly simple art. It can be defined as the ability to influence someone. It requires creative skill and imagination to influence others. Positively or negatively – if you are influencing them, you are leading them. Simple.
And yet, leadership is an incredibly dynamic science at the same time. Because, there are thousands of factors and variables that determine our influence at any given time with any given person. Complex is an understatement.
Leadership is a science because it’s based on structure and principles that can be applied by anyone to increase influence and change behavior. Anyone and everyone can learn to improve their leadership skill because the science of leadership is based on principles that can be learned and applied. And, like any skill, we can get better with practice, time, experimentation, observation, and a willingness to learn.
But leadership is also an art because we are trying to influence other people. And, those other people have thoughts, feelings, values, opinions, and past experiences that make them different, unique, and always changing. Which means that leadership and influence isn’t just about what we do (the science) – it’s how we do it (the art).
Whether leadership is an art or science isn’t really what’s important or relevant here though. It is relevant to note that leadership isn’t a title, position, or the “authority” that comes with either of those. What is important is there is no doubt that life would be better if we had more influence. Over who? Anyone! Everyone! More influence over our boss, co-workers, team members, children, and even our spouse. We all need influence to be successful and we all want influence to be significant.
In truth, we all have some natural leadership ability. We are all influencing others in some way (positively or negatively) by the choices we make each day and the actions we take each day. So, how can we more effectively apply the science and develop the art? Or in other words, how can be become more effective at influencing others?
That’s easy – if our influence is based on the choices we make and the actions we take, then we must make better choices and take better actions. It’s a very simple equation that is very difficult to apply because it begins with leading ourself well in order to lead others well. And, I promise you the person sitting in your chair right now is the most difficult person you will ever try to lead and influence. Don’t believe me? Have you ever set a New Year’s Resolution and later bailed on it? Have you ever set a goal to lose weight, stop smoking, eat better, exercise more, etc. and yet failed? Have you ever made a commitment and didn’t keep it? I think everyone has been in a situation where they didn’t have the influence over themselves – and therefore didn’t have as much influence with others.
Just like anyone else, I had some natural leadership ability. But, it wasn’t until I became very intentional about making better choices and taking better actions that I started to see my leadership ability increase. One of the best choices I made was buying my first real leadership book in 2008. And, one of the best actions I took back then was to start reading it and applying it. But, the second best choice and action was to not stop there. My personal growth determined my professional success. And, it still does. Because leading myself comes down to developing myself (personal growth) and that determines how effectively I can lead others.
Leadership is an art. We must be able to imagine a better future state. And, it’s a science. We must be able to apply the practical activities encompassing behavior – namely, ours. The rest will take care of itself.
What does your better future state look like? What do you need to do to get there?