Leadership Is Like Being a Chemist

Team meetings in board rooms and science experiments in laboratories are not that different. Both require mixing the right ingredients to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. Leadership is like being a chemist.

Business leaders are currently facing the challenge—or experiment—of balancing in-office work and remote work in a post-pandemic world. What’s the right mix? What roles can work remotely, and what jobs must be done in person? What’s the effect on team chemistry?

No industry is immune to this workplace phenomenon, and it’s not going away any time soon. Set yourself up for success by thinking of leadership like chemistry.


Reasons Leadership Is a Science

As a leader, you’re constantly experimenting based on your goals, environment, people, resources, and timelines. Leadership development requires trying different things to see what works. Thinking about leadership as a science helps you develop the skills and mindset to face changes, challenges, and failure. It ultimately allows you to develop the formula to elevate your business to success.



Thinking about leadership as a science provides a roadmap for facing changes and challenges. Science follows procedures and methodologies, and it’s grounded in facts built on a solid foundation. Similarly, great leaders of the past can guide today’s leaders. New leaders often try to reinvent the wheel when solving problems, but that simply isn’t necessary with history to rely on. 

Approaching leadership as a science also helps you learn to accept failure and hone your leadership skills. In a laboratory, failure happens all the time. Hypotheses are often wrong, but scientists discover new data along the way. Failure is often a necessary step on the road to success. 
Thomas Edison famously said that he had not failed 10,000 times—he’d successfully found 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work. Edison’s optimism and resilience represent leadership skills to keep alongside empathy and compassion in your toolbox, whether your specialty is science or business.



Great leaders elevate their business to success by taking a scientific approach. Study your environment. Predict outcomes based on your present knowledge. Implement processes and policies to achieve your desired result. Evaluate effectiveness. Draw conclusions and adjust as necessary.
In business and in science, things change all the time. Just because you have the right formula today doesn’t mean that it will be right two years from now. Scientists are always adjusting variables, and leaders should do the same by constantly evaluating their team performance.


Leadership and Human Chemistry

One of the branches of leadership as a science is, of course, human chemistry. Like a laboratory scientist studying chemical reactions, business leaders must carefully examine the mix of personalities, attitudes, skills, and work experience of their team members

Internal factors influence team chemistry, or the lack thereof. In science experiments, sometimes two ideal chemicals mix well together and sometimes they don’t. As a leader, you may have two people who are experts at what they do, but egos may prevent them from gelling together. If they mix—or rather fail to mix—like oil and water, your team chemistry will suffer.

Chemists and leaders must also consider external variables. These factors are not manipulated as part of the experiment but may exert some influence on the study. The personal attributes of each employee clearly affect team chemistry, but external variables—like in-person versus remote working conditions—impact your team chemistry too. As a leader, you have to be aware of the external factors impacting your team.


Creating Effective Team Chemistry 

One of your jobs as a leader managing a team is to evaluate and maximize your team’s chemistry. You need the right mix of people to make your team most effective. As a leader, you must consider what qualities you and your team members bring to the table.



As a leader, you need to understand your own impact on your team’s chemistry. Examine your leadership style. Whether you are chief executive officer or hold a middle management leadership position, your attitude and behaviors impact your team.

To generate good chemistry within your team, return to approaching leadership as a chemist. Monitor how the ingredients—in this case, your team members—interact with and react to one another. Keep an open mind, be willing to change the formula if necessary, and remember that you don’t have all the answers. 



Each team member plays their own role in creating team chemistry and maximizing team performance. You don’t want everyone on your team to have the same personality, but you do want everyone to be willing to learn and grow while actively participating in the organization. 

The takeaway for you as a successful leader is that there’s a science to picking the right people for your team. Different people provide different skills in different situations. Don’t choose people randomly or even seek to eliminate conflict. Rather, combine the right blend of personalities, strengths, perspectives, and cultures you want represented on your team.


Leadership as Chemistry in Action

As a leader, remember that it takes the right mix of people and skills to achieve the best results. Great leaders are never complacent. Whether evaluating their own team, looking for innovative solutions, or participating in leadership training, they’re constantly solving problems and seeking new ways to maintain team chemistry.

Facing a challenge as a leader? Put on your lab coat and follow the scientific method until your experiment results in success.

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you have the right mix of personalities on your team?
  2. Are your team members focused on the we or are some more concerned with the me?
  3. Does your team work collectively to challenge each other, and you, to produce the best outcomes?

I’d love to help you further your leadership skills. Contact me to learn more about leadership development, coaching services, and additional resources.