The One Thing that Makes a Great Data Leader

by   |   June 12, 2017 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr

What’s the one thing that makes a great data leader?

Well, it’s not the data, nor the typical passion most data leaders have for big data sets, new storage solutions and the latest algorithms. It’s their business acumen.

A great data leader is focused on business and doesn’t make it about the data, analytics or technology. Those are just the tools that help them solve business issues and create business opportunities.

Although the majority of data leaders have a background in data science, they won’t get very far with the rest of the organization if they aren’t able to speak the common language of business.

Great Data Professionals Are Renaissance Leaders

Great data leaders first identify the most strategic challenges and business questions that need to be resolved for the company. Although they collaborate with other execs and leaders in the company, data leaders are the bridge that helps connect the business issues and opportunities with the solutions data might be able to help provide. These data professionals not only have solid business skills, they are also highly informed about the particular industry they work in.

The most successful data leaders I have worked with are those who are able to frame their priorities around things such as delivering better customer service, fostering a better understanding market opportunities, improving internal business processes, driving efficiency, generating new income streams and ultimately increasing profits and shareholder value. These are the business concerns that data can influence. Successful data leaders don’t collect data for the sake of collecting data, they know what they are looking for and how it can make a difference to the company’s insights, efficiencies and success.

These professionals are adept innovators and uncover opportunities to drive change that will result in a better market position and a competitive advantage. They understand the business model and can recommend shifts that result in positive momentum. They start with the most strategic business success metrics and identify how their projects can influence them. After that, they are able to determine the data and analytics tools required to answer those key business questions.

Successful data leaders clearly connect any of their top priorities and initiatives with strategic business goals. Just like their high-performing colleagues in other areas such as finance and human resources, data leaders link what they do to measurable business results and some of the strategic key performance indicators for the business.

Data leaders who don’t have a strategic business focus are like the captain of a plane who just gets really excited about playing around with all the dials and dashboard controls but has no idea where the plane is or its final destination. Successful data leaders use their passion for data to propel the organization to achieve its key business objectives.

Great Data Professionals Are Great with Other People

As mentioned, data professionals are the bridge between the business units and tech team, but they also have to work with, persuade and get buy-in from every area of the organization. A data leader helps others in the organization understand the potential applications of data for their particular department to enhance performance and to create success. The ability to build trusted relationships is a crucial skill set of any successful data leader.


Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling business author, keynote speaker and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He is one of the world’s most highly respected voices anywhere when it comes to data in business and has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the world’s top 5 business influencers. In addition, he is a member of the Data Informed Board of AdvisersYou can join Bernard’s network simply by clicking here or follow him on Twitter @bernardmarr


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