The art and science of leadership: what every leader should know

Leadership is a skill

I have always held this impression that leadership is a science. It is scientific in the sense that, it deals with knowledge of the physical world through experimentation, hypothesis, collection of data, analysing of data and coming out with the needed recommendation which are relevant for human development. Once leadership is scientific, it means every leader of a group of persons should learn the art which is dynamic in nature and wisely use the right knowledge in leading a group of people to a common goal.

In most jurisdictions, in-service training for most heads of establishments is either minimal or totally absent hence, their environment is polluted with antipathy, grumbling and resentment. If promoting people is only by an examination without competence and self-assessment skills, the organization in which the person leads will be muddled or chaotic. I know there cannot be a perfect organization, however, certain leadership skills learnt can make our space of influence better. What then is leadership?

Leadership has been defined by several authorities. For example, Jago (2014) defines leadership as ‘the capability to coax others enthusiastically to behave in a different way.’  In other words, leadership has a principal function of achieving tasks set with the help of the group. Thus, the key variables in any leadership situation consist of the leader, the members of the group (both as individuals and as a whole), the goals and tasks set for the group and the external environment in which the group operates (structure, culture).

Jago continues to say that effective leadership amounts to finding the finest balance between these four (4) sets of variables mainly within small groups and work teams. However, a leader’s response to a situation will depend considerably on the support received from the rest of the organization and on the leader’s own resourcefulness, which usually manifests itself in the leadership style.

Again, one of the definitions of leadership I greatly have a high regard for is by Kotter of the Harvard Business School, USA. According to Kotter (1999), leadership is the broadening of vision and strategies; the alignment of relevant people behind these strategies; and the empowerment of individuals (group and societies) to make the vision happen despite obstacles. It means that leadership is the process of influencing people towards the achievement of predetermined ends.

With these two definitions, I personally define leadership as knowing where you are going as a leader and adequately preparing your team to willingly follow in achieving collective results. In order to execute the plan of action in any leadership process, there must be a leader who charts the course for others to follow in achieving the set goal or vision.

In this article, The Art and Science of Leadership: What Every Leader Should Know, I bring to the forefront several issues raised in leadership discourse in leveraging our worth. Today, I discuss the skill of cautiously handling followers in order to achieve a common goal. Other issues shall be discussed in my subsequent articles.

I’m of the opinion that when the skill of professionally handling followers is carefully studied and put into practice, it will help equip stakeholders in industry, service, corporate organizations, colleges/schools, and public officials in ensuring excellent leadership dynamics towards an effective and efficient way. Consequently, this is the purpose of this article – to teach leaders to develop the right rhythm in humbly making the worth of their followers more meaningful instead of considering them as insignificant individuals. So, let’s get started:

Learn to respect your followers/subordinates

You will be unproductive as a leader, if you discredit the worth of your followers. Many who took their followers for granted by virtue of their position(s) and undermined the latter’s value paid heavily for their negligence more especially, when the latter’s true essence was under covered. It should be noted that every employee of an organization is uniquely unique in personality. Everyone’s temperament is different and outstanding. It is left with a wise leader to intelligently lead like Noah whose mission of building an Ark was to inhabit several species of animals including his immediate family. I examine the dwelling of these animals and humans in a single ark and wonder how Noah was able to logically deal with each being’s eccentricity.

I believe with divine wisdom, he knew how to handle a lion whose make-up is totally different from a snake, elephant, crocodile or a goat. I still wonder how Noah was able to handle, for example, squirrel, tortoise, and all these creatures with different spontaneous significance in the ark. It takes a leader with a large heart to handle all these creatures who come in different sizes and persuasions.

I have come to know that leading people calls for wisdom, patience, and tactfulness. Indeed, the art of leadership must be learnt. It is not a matter of long talk or having an upper hand over communication skill to manipulate some people who are beyond your exposure. Leadership is a skill that involves knowing how to manage the minds, hearts and skills of the people you lead. It is unwise for a leader to use the appointment of a preferred employee to tease or pull the legs of other individuals who were genuinely or unaffectedly due for appointment or promotion but were not considered.  The system of unfairness, prejudices, preconceptions or weak mindset developed by some people that every leader has his or her own way of leading people is totally wrong especially, if the leader’s act is not in conformity with the health of the organization.

Don’t intentionally and continuously step on the feelings of your workers especially when you expect productivity at the workplace. The workplace should be a place of synchronization, conducive for peaceful co-existence, regardless of hiccups and minor emotional snags. It takes a visionary leader to lead a group and build a solidified organization using the strengths of all workers or employees. Where you identify any challenge, intelligently draw the attention of your worker in a pleasant manner.

In the absence of a worker at a meeting, don’t pass any sarcastic statement about that worker. As a leader, you therefore lose your respect especially if that said subordinate also has a large following among the workforce or employees. Remember every worker within every organization has a level of influence. Be a leader whose word uplifts, encourages, inspires and motivates group members towards achieving a bigger dream. In the words of Maxwell (2007), everything rises and falls on leadership. In other words, the growth of your organization depends on you and not necessarily the workers.

As a leader, it is traitorous to be led by off-beam people in taking harsh decisions in your organization. There are some despicable employees who are negative influence on their leaders. They influence their leaders in taking some hasty decisions at the expense of the growth of the organization. These weak leaders are afraid of those subordinates.

Such leaders cannot take decisions on their own without first of all, consulting such malicious subordinates who are a grim thorn in the flesh on these leaders’ effort(s). Do you know that there are some deputy line managers who are so afraid of their CEO’s autocratic style of leadership that they cannot openly discuss issues with the latter? Painfully, important decision-making processes are delayed because everything must be done by the Oga (a literal Nigerian word for boss).

Today’s leadership is not about victimizing, harassing or abusing people who share a divergent opinion with you. What leaders should know is, sometimes, these employees or subordinates’ constructive opinions help you to build upon your value as a leader. So, instead of seeing divergent views as an opposing blow at the workplace, embrace them as a wakeup call to transformation. Don’t shut the apertures of your workers when you are fuming and expect them to contribute to your debate when you are in a good frame of mind. Remember, most intelligent workers will never speak and the culture of silence is unhealthy to your organization.

Today’s leadership is about the feelings of the people we lead and not quick results or high productivity.  Of course, you cannot do everything to please everyone but where your imperialistic style of leadership does not appeal to majority of your subordinates, umbrage or bitterness becomes the order of the day. Remember that, consensus building to gain holistic confidence is the key to the success of every organization.

The art and science of leadership teaches that every leader should humbly listen to their employees and intelligently weigh all their suggestions before settling on the most appropriate ones for execution. Never devalue your subordinates or employees’ inputs, thinking you are all-knowing. Weigh what is best for you and where appropriate, implement them to bring uniformity and growth. For your information, your position doesn’t make you a leader.  Interestingly, occupying a high table at a function doesn’t make you a leader. It is rather your functional ability to lead a group of people towards a common goal that makes you a leader. What is your vision? What are your goals to help you achieve the set vision? Learn to lead properly, Mr. Leader.

Hypocritical attitudes are dangerous to the growth of any organization. Upon observation, I have seen some leaders who carry dual or two-fold character. Discuss your personal issue(s) with them and in no time, it will be in the public domain. That is an immature, ill-advised and a two-faced leader. It must be noted that not every information you hear or receive should be put in the public domain. You should dissect every information received and bring it under the lens of maturity. If you take decisions based on your impulse, you make the biggest mistake which may be disadvantageous to the growth of your organisation. The way you speak to your employees or your subordinates will either attract their support to your vision or total withdrawal. In every organization, when most employees withdraw from their CEOs or managers, it is a depraved signal to the physical condition of the organization.

As a leader, you should do an introspection of your style of leadership and ask why some core supportive employees or assistants withdraw from you. For all you know, their continuous stay may be for the deep affection for the organization and not necessarily you, as the leader. When you have quite a number of your employees resigning or leaving your space, you better sit up and do your homework. In a lecture, I always share this thought with students that whether you like it or not, some subordinates will leave your space. However, when the rate of departure is rampant, proper self-assessment should be done to question one’s capability.

Know that the most important element in every organization is the people and not the substructures or the buildings.  So, Mr. Leader, respect your subordinates or employees and they will accord you the same deference. Honour is reciprocal or mutual. Though there will always be some recalcitrant, obstinate or intractable employees or workers, it is incumbent on leaders to intelligently handle all issues with tactfulness, and patience. Where a situation is beyond you, consulting the right people whose knowledge, experience, and expertise synchronize with your vision must be sought.


When kind-hearted people offer great suggestions, they are not giving out measly theories but time-tested principles to help you navigate the road of successful living as a leader. Intimidating workers for expressing their view is not the key to building a healthy organization. Openly listen to your followers or subordinates and glean wisdom from their suggestions. Honour your followers with your positive affirmation and they shall reciprocate your kind gesture as well.

Remember your success or failure as a leader depends on how you treat your followers or subordinates. Though whatever you do as a leader will call for criticisms (both destructive and constructive), one thing you must learn to do is to be nice to the people you have general oversight over and wisely lead them with love to achieve a holistic goal. Remember, your longevity in your sphere of leadership depends on how you value people especially your immediate subordinates. Today, lead from the back. In other words, place a special premium on the worth of your people and avoid divisive tactics.


  1. Jago, G. H. (2014). Leadership: Perspectives in theory and research. Management Science, http/www. Research gate. net/…Leadership_ and …/0046351b8d43cf238f000000, accessed on November 25, 2015.
  1. Kotter, J. P. (1999). What Leaders Really Do, Boston: A Harvard Business Review Book, pp. 45-85.
  1. Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, Nashville Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., p.33.
  1. Owusu, P. (2016). The Leading Edge, Kumasi: Streams Publishing House, pp. 79-100.

For copies of the writer’s books, contact: Kingdom Bookshop, KNUST, Kumasi and in Accra, contact: Mrs. Justina Asempa (Phoenix Insurance, Ringway Estates, Osu) on 0244 20 88 43 and Pastor Stephen Gyamfi (ICGC, Asylum Down, 054 679 7323).   In Sunyani, contact: Miriam on 054 929 89 16.

The writer is an Academic, Visiting Lecturer, Leadership Consultant and a Reverend Minister with the WordSprings City Church, Kumasi-Ghana.

Email: [email protected]

Contact: +233 (59) 5 71 08 01

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