Leadership as More of an Art Than a Science

By Reynolds, Amy Zachary | Government Finance Review, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Leadership as More of an Art Than a Science


Reynolds, Amy Zachary, Government Finance Review


Leadership as More of an Art than a Science By Amy Zachary Reynolds The Dance of Leadership The Art of Leading Business, Government, and Society Robert B. Denhardt and Janet V. Denhardt M.E. Sharpe Armonk, New York 2006, 175pp

What traits define a good leader? Perhaps your answer would include words like intelligent, fair-minded, diligent, or courageous. What traits would you use to describe a "born leader?" This phrase leads one to believe that perhaps this person has characteristics beyond the norm.skills inherent to them as a person. But what qualities or skills makes that so? Would you expect the description of these leaders to include words related to energy, rhythm, or improvisation?

In The Dance of Leadership: The An of Leading in Business, Government, and Society, authors Robert and Janet Denhardt examine key qualities employed in art, music, and dance and how those skills can help leaders. Having devoted their careers to learning, teaching, and writing about issues relating to public administration, the Denhardts decided to explore a connection to the much alluded to, but seldom discussed, relationship between leadership and art.

The focus of this book can best be summarized with a quote from Colin Fbwell,"Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible." The premise reaches beyond an academic explanation of traits necessary to be a leader to ethereal, or intangible,skills,much harder to define in rational terms. The result is twofold: an exploration of parallel disciplines required in art and leadership and an expansion of the idea that leadership itself can be viewed as an art.

Through in-depth interviews with dancers, choreographers, musicians, actors, and writers, the authors identified many traits important to creating works of art, distinct from those defined in cognitive sciences, but employable in leadership. Then the authors interviewed CEOs, public officials, coaches, and others to understand business-related instances where those traits and disciplines were employed in leadership.

The seven chapters of this book focus on subject areas relating to space, time, energy, rhythm, communication, and improvisation in which art and leadership achieve shared meaning. For example, the ability of a dancer to deliver emotional content that resonates with an audience requires the visualization of space within which human energy moves. This concept has applicability to our everyday lives if we pause to recognize the choreography of moving through our morning routine to undertaking various activities around the office each day Awareness of this concept affords better capacity to give shape and direction to that flow of human energy As part of the intuitive process, individuals can become better leaders by learning to better recognize and organize the flow of energy within an organization to achieve desired goals.

Another characteristic identified by the authors is the aptitude of a leader to understand communication, whether verbal or nonverbal, and use it to connect with people emotionally. Through this ability to listen, hear, and communicate messages the leader is able to motivate his or her audience by delivering perspective. …

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