Putting a Data Leader in their Place

I’ve been interested a lot recently in what it means to be a data leader. I had the opportunity this week to have a wonderful class with the participants in the recent cohort of the Leadership Institute, sponsored by the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Called Leveraging Analytics, we were intentionally provocative in asking them what these 25 leaders from across various agencies saw as their role in the process of developing and delivering quality analysis.

Here are some of those questions:

  • Is your job to do the analysis or support the analysis?
  • If you are the smartest, most capable data person on your team, are you really building up the best team?
  • Who’s giving data analysts/scientists/engineers the vision they need to understand the purpose behind their work?
  • Does it take an expert to be a leader?

In wrapping up the class, we asked the participants what they were taking away from class. One person expressed relief in realizing their role wasn’t to be a data expert but to ask the key questions to help his data people find the important answers.

We spend too much time thinking leaders are the best at everything. They only need to be the best at providing the vision necessary to bring out the best in others.

Seeing these moments of revelation and growth are what make what we do so fulfilling.

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