Saturday, October 27, 2007

Leadership with Data Intelligence

One of the most underestimated facets of Data Intelligence and Analytics is its usage for executive leaders. I strongly believe that statistics can help someone to become a better leader, it should be part of any leadership practice. Unfortunately most leaders don’t embrace even the most basic statistical methodologies or principles.

There are primarily three areas of how leaders can use analytics and statistical methodologies to improve their leadership practice:
  • Identifying and Monitoring key success metrics: Every leader, independent of functional practice, should identify and fanatically monitor the top 10 to 20 performance measures that are relevant for understanding the dynamics of the function for which the leader is responsible. Most leaders don’t invest significant time and statistical expertise to identify these core performance metrics that are highly correlated to current and future functional success. They are accustomed to just reviewing the previously used metrics without ever truly understanding and questioning if these metrics are helpful, relevant, or predictive.
  • Setting Quantifiable Goals and Measuring its Deviation: Most leaders are slowly getting used to insisting on quantitative and measurable goals, not just on soft and vague high level goals like “Improve the overall talent quality of the sales team”. The good thing of quantifiable goals is that every leader can calculate the deviation of its team member’s goal achievements. The overview of the different deviations of a leader’s direct reports can facilitate a much more objective review of a team performance, especially if one tracks the performance deviation over a significant time period. This will provide not only a more systematic performance review for a leader’s direct report but also for leaders themselves: The more negative performance deviation a leader’s direct report has, the more one should question his or her leadership qualities
  • Insisting on data driven Insights as part of any decision process: I have seen too many leaders who are either totally obsessed on purely intuitive decision without ever considering data insights and I have met too many leaders who are only relying on data insights without ever considering anything else. A really talented leader is able to balance intuition and data intelligence in a productive manner and not getting paralyzed by one or the other. Unfortunately I haven’t met too many with this simple talent.

Hopefully popular books like “Freakonomics” and “Super Crunchers” will open up the eyes of more and more executives, so they can embrace data intelligence and analytics as part of their own personal leadership practice and capability.


Blogger Jacky said...

Agreed. Leaders could become better leaders if they are quantitatively inclined. Embracing statistical and advanced quantitative methods is indeed emblematic. But, I strongly feel that the quantitatively astute will be better leaders themselves in today's morphing marketing world.

Number-fancy to give an illusion of precision is blasphemy. To become quantitatively astute for the non-quants is not impossible. But, it is not lip service. Not easy.

To become charismatic is not impossible for quants either. Only a lot easier with a better probability of success in testing times.

I feel that quants should extricate from their back-seat roles. In my opinion, the quants expect their work to speak for itself. They tend to hand over the rest and their seat at the table. In the name of presentation skills and personality, leaders especially in marketing are defined and packaged with pervasive charisma. Leadership with just charm is passé. Leadership with substance delivers. Quants can rock at that.

In this era of accountability, quants should march ahead and garner the power to be heard directly. Placing their thoughts and work on 'conveyor belts' will lead to nothing but a generation loss. All those who sincerely believe that quantitative expertise is a definite edge should whole-heartedly promote the quant-brigade and pave their growth path.

The books you listed and many others have certainly elevated the quantitative disciplines and their effectiveness. I am hoping that these awaken the quants. Maybe Freakonomics is a good example of a quant's chic move - teaming up to communicate cogently without abdicating leadership. I am certain that there are books waiting to be written extolling the virtues of quants as leaders and leadership recipes for quants.

The quant realm is ruled by passion. It is not simplistic. We need super cruncher leaders. Rest assured that their infectious passion will thrive in this information democracy.

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