Management is Both Art and Science

I have a lot of respect and admiration for good teachers, for those who can relate to their students, convey information in ways that stick, and leave a lasting impression over time. It always amuses me how often content experts believe they will be good teachers solely because of that content expertise. They massively under appreciate the specific craft of teaching itself. The same can be said of management. Technical pros are often promoted into positions where they must supervise, decide, and resolve conflict. Many have been in these shoes and then subsequently told me: “it’s harder than it looks.”

I think this happens because many focus on the science of management and there are numerous how to books, videos, courses, and coaches that aim their efforts on those who aspire to become a manager. These efforts are often methodology intense and, unfortunately, sometimes wildly over simplistic cook books that provide a false sense of confidence for those who may be masters of a topic but who struggle to lead a team.

That’s the science side of it, but then there’s the art side. This includes relying upon emotional intelligence, experience, and having a good feel for the situation in the moment, being able to read a room, and being skilled at persuasion and resolving conflict. This is hard to teach in a book or video.

I liken this to products that aim to teach photography. They are highly technical, focus on camera mechanics, software post-processing technique, and compositional tools like “rule of four thirds”. This science is important, but the great artists understand mood, tone, movement and flow, and invite you into their work so that you will linger and appreciate. This is art.

The strongest leaders will have a good foundation in the science of management but will also show proficiency in the art side, capable of influencing organizational culture, persuading others to listen, and can credibly build hope and meaning for those who are willing to follow.

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