Science or Art?

Richard Borland once said, “The problem with managers is that they do the first damned thing that pops into their head.” Borland’s argument is that management should be a science, not an improvisational art. Many managers today improvise in a way that supports Borland’s statement. But this is a view of management as a locked-down science of control, not as the art of leadership.

Drucker would argue that management is a practiced art. If it is an art, it must be practiced. And the goal of practice is practiced mastery. When a master works, their work is beautiful, fun, enlightening, and inspiring.

The classic idea that management is getting others to do work misses the fundamental point entirely. Management is not controlling others; it is contributing to the creation of value by organizing resources and assets. Managers create value by:

1. Setting objectives

2. Organizing

3. Motivating and communicating

4. Measuring

5. Developing

While there are structured scientific tools used in each of these activities, they are still activities. There is no single “best way” to practice, to “skin the cat.” Highly successful managers and leaders develop a style, using tools and developed skills. One artist creates a painting by applying paint to canvas with brushes while another creates with pastels on paper. One manager creates value by leading a team on the factory floor and the other does it on the ball field. The tools are different, but the activities necessary for success are the same.

Art requires talent… and practice. Michael Jordan is gifted, gifted enough to have become great with practice. Van Gogh, Picasso, Bach, Babe Ruth, Hemmingway—all gifted and all practiced.

Are you practiced? Are you tending to your five responsibilities?

Management is an art to be practiced.

Management is a verb.

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