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The Business Analyst – A Leader Without the Title!

Robin Sharma, a prolific writer in the leadership area wrote a book, and is one that I really like – “The leader who had no title.” As I was pondering about this book and also the quaint title, it dawned on me that a business analyst is really a leader without the title – and is always leading from within.

A definition of leadership that I read somewhere says – Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. In my work thus far, I have often faced this challenge where I had to lead and found myself short on authority. Nevertheless my facilitation skills have stood by me in good stead. What I started doing was to create an environment where people could to contribute everything; the business case, the vision, the scope, and most importantly their “real” requirements.

All traits of leadership are woven into the skills of a Business Analyst. As BAs we have to use influence to get others to work to accomplish a task especially when these tasks may not be what they like doing: without any real authority. Most people in leadership positions have the authority of their position (designation) to help them influence others. Business analysts are not generally in a position of authority to provide them the influence they need, so they have to be very innovative and creative.

What does “A leader without a title” imply?

The role of a BA primarily is doing analysis, recommending solutions, and utilizing the right tools. In projects, it usually means eliciting the requirements to create a product or solution that is expected to delight users / customers, while making their tasks simpler, while also achieving benefit for the organization. This sounds fairly simple, but is it really so?

The BA works with business users and technical teams simultaneously – and both groups see the BA as a member of their team (or in some situations visualize the BA as a person on the opposite team), which can pose interpersonal challenges.

Many times I have heard BA’s using the phrase – “I feel like the meat in the sandwich, being crushed from both sides,” and I usually retort = “It is eventually the meat that provides the taste.”

To be able to overcome this lack of authority a BA needs to utilize the following:

  • a. attentive and centered listening, and do this while challenging the brain to process information in parallel
  • b. influencing people, dealing with hidden agendas, and resolving conflicts (that range from professional to political to personal)
  • c. influencing people to perform tasks, often which they may not really like to do
  • d. interrogating people while building and maintaining relationships
  • e. educating and training people who may not want to be educated or trained in the subject

In short, a BA is expected to push people towards results using influencing skills.

As Scott Adams says – “You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential. In fact the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.”

In essence the BA is expected to do everything that a CEO or a leader is expected to do, while often having an additional handicap – no authority. The handicap reminds me of the ultimate leadership sport – Golf. It is all about handicaps, and you learn to play better than the handicap to win. The BA does precisely the same thing, lead better even without the authority. Truly, a leader without a title.

Imagine if corporations eventually allowed the BA’s to take on the mantle of a leader and also provide them with the appropriate level of authority – how much more effective BAs could be as a leaders.

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Sanjay Dugar, MBA, BE has 24+ years experience in the corporate world of IT and ITeS. His exposure to the international markets in the quest of business and deployment of solutions has brought him a wealth of insight across multiple cultures and types of organizations. He is an effective communicator with exceptional presentation skills and abilities.