Given organizations’ growing adoption of a data-driven approach to work, the ability for individuals to influence in an environment where decisions are based on big data and technology is becoming increasingly important. Due to the vast amount of information available, the skill to leverage this data for collective decision-making to achieve goals is a key driver of successful individuals and organizations. Taken together, this ability to effectively influence within the context of this data-rich environment is the hallmark of an analytical leader.
At the core, an effective analytical leader embodies three fundamental qualities:
Given the ever-increasing amount of data and information, analytical leaders need to be aware of their environment and recognize potential myopic assumptions they hold. In this regard, analytical leaders are cognizant of potential inattentional blindness that occurs when one does not see or perceive an unexpected stimulus that is otherwise readily apparent. Inattentional blindness occurs when one is under cognitive load, as is often the case with large amounts of data and information, or when one expects a certain outcome based on past events, thereby discounting this data. Therefore, by cognizantly recognizing this possibility through awareness, analytical leaders can remain open to important information in the data that may otherwise be unseen.
Influence is at the core of leadership, and is especially needed for an analytical leader. Given the number of options available due to the increased variety of information, leaders must be able to effectively guide others to achieve desired goals and outcomes. To do so, analytical leaders leverage fundamental influence principles such as consistency through having others make clear commitments with regard to approaches to data and information. Further, analytical leaders utilize social proof to support decisions by highlighting and leveraging peers’ use of information.
Information sharing and collaboration
Building on these perspectives of others, analytical leaders foster information sharing and collaboration among team members. To do so, they rely on effective information elaboration whereby they leverage a variety of individuals’ and team members’ access to different sources of information in order to generate appropriate knowledge for decision-making. Further, analytical leaders do this in a way that cultivates psychological safety such that individuals feel free to speak up and share unique information that they may otherwise not feel is relevant.
Taken together, analytical leaders strategically combine awareness, influence, and collaboration in order to effectively leverage the available data and information for achieving organizational goals.
Jonathan Ziegert serves as an executive faculty member for LeBow Corporate and Executive Education. His research examines how leadership is structured and carried out in organizations and team-based contexts. He led a pre-conference session at the 2017 HBA Annual Conference.