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Author: Mindy Duvernet

The Nebulous Nature of Leadership

Leadership has many faces, from teachers, to organizational executives, to the President of the United States, and we look up to our leaders for various reasons. One big reason we look up to them is to be a part of something larger than ourselves, to find meaning and purpose; whatever the purpose might be. In fact, based on some recent research by the statistical scientists at Gallup Poll, it was discovered that the likelihood of everyone getting more than one opportunity to lead during their lifetime has a 97% chance; an enormous stochastic percentage. So, why is it that it seems that fewer get a chance to lead?

It is the nebulous nature of leadership and the narrow perspectives about leadership. When it comes to the definition of leadership, one could call Dorothy a leader as she headed down the yellow brick road. Meeting more characters as she went and inviting them on her journey to the Land of Oz. She led them on a mission of discovery that was deeply rooted in their sense of self. Along the way each character was put into a situation that challenged them to grow. How did Dorothy gather these followers? It was mostly due to the needs of each character; Dorothy inspired them with hope that they might find a solution to their needs at the end of the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz.

This same story has been told in many different ways since the beginning of time. What people look for in a leader depends upon their own needs. Communities of practice can focus on many different domains; religion, industry, products, services, professions, and more. According to a variety of references, academic publications and Forbes articles concerning this topic, there are three basic qualities that are inherent to good leadership. 

The three basic qualities inherent to leadership are:

  1. Continual commitment to becoming more competent
  2. Comprehensive understanding of team building, and ways to maximize teams
  3. Clear understanding around the needs of the followers

These qualities cover a very board range of leaders. All of whom have one thing in common, that is the pursuit of something; happiness, success, freedom, and more. Everyone wants something, largely to feel fulfilled in some way. Part of this puzzle is acknowledging our own abilities and utilizing them to face both the personal and professional challenges presented to us.

Do you recognize your strengths and use them every day?
Do you recognized your weaknesses and try to improve?

Upon getting to Oz, what did all the characters learn? Dorothy and her friends learned that they had the ability within themselves from the very start; they just needed a situation to challenge them and someone else to recognize the strengths they already possessed. The Wizard of Oz recognized the strengths of the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodsman and the Empty-headed Scarecrow and presented them with awards to commemorate their accomplishments – which increased their confidence and inspired them to change their perspective of themselves.

One thing is certain, that leadership at any level is a challenge that requires different kinds of preparation. To that point, here are seven simple insights that are fundamental to leadership.

  1. To be able to inspire, one must know how to motivate
  2. To be able to communicate, one must know the message and the audience
  3. To be able to connect on various levels, one must practice civility
  4. To be perceived as fair, one must be open minded
  5. To be able to delegate, one must know how to enable and empower others
  6. To be appreciated, one must find ways to be grateful
  7. To understand the needs of others, one must listen, listen, listen

Many of these insights are appropriate to maintaining any sort of relationship, whether it concerns friends, family, co-workers, management, or even the general public. Leadership can sometimes even be inconspicuous to its host, as Dorothy never called herself a leader, her only wish was to find her way back home. Yet, she would never have gotten caught up in that tornado if she wasn’t running away from home to save her little dog Toto. Conflict is key to every great story; in this story Dorothy was compelled to make a choice about what was most important to her.

Likewise, in the rest of the story entitled “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (published in 1900), the author; L. Frank Baum, masterfully chose three areas where the other three characters had opportunities to grow. The lion was all about the courage to believe in something and the ability to promote and honor the cause, the woodsman was tired of being cold as metal and only wanted to have a heart and be able to empathize, and the scarecrow was all about becoming knowledgeable; where he thought he had nothing but a head full of straw, he came to realize that he actually knew something. These are the same sort of desires felt by many, as it is a shared desire to make some impact on the world, to contribute in some way and feel some measure of achievement. This desire is also what drives us to lead in whatever capacity possible depending on the opportunity presented.

These possibilities are endless, and the opportunities are everywhere. It is all about the pursuit of something worthwhile; whether it is happiness, excellence, truth, courage, knowledge, or compassion, whatever it is… it is all about attaining it.

So, if leadership is all about the pursuit of happiness, then the other side of the coin must be apathy; or in the words of Shakespeare “to be, or not to be”…because that is the question. Of course, happiness means different things to different people. Different perspectives foster different values. Yet, where it may seem that good leaders are hard to find, in reality they are hiding among us. While some want to work their magic by flying under the radar…as anonymity has its benefits, just like James Bond might convey – sometimes to be recognized for your abilities can work against you – others are raised up by the people who follow them. How did Dorothy gather these followers? They came together naturally as they all had a common goal. So, when it comes to realizing the significance of that whooping 97% percentile, look around and know that you are surrounded by all kinds of natural born leaders.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The Big BA Picture; A Landscape Without Limits

Over the last thirty years the role of the business analyst has become more and more important. While the Project Manager ensures progress, it is the analyst that has been hired to assist with the necessary thinking on behalf of management. Managers have plenty to think about regarding all the projects and goals that affect the business bottom line and their customers. The primary focus of the analyst is to know the business processes and identify possible improvements.

The fact is that while the PMI (Project Management Institute) was founded in 1969 and has more than half a million members worldwide, spanning 185 countries, the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) was established in 2003 and has about 22,000 members worldwide, with chapters in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Canada, Europe/Middle East, Latin American, Caribbean, and the United States. The comparison is telling as the role of the analyst has evolved out of the overwhelming amount of work the Project Manager saw as critical to project success. For the role of the Project Manager is centralized around managing time, budget, and scope. The role of the Business Analyst fills the organization’s need to know and identify goals, objectives, value-adds and measurements for the success of their projects.

The Business Analyst landscape is populated with every kind of business analyst you can imagine. There are:

  • Business Systems Analysts
  • Financial Analysts
  • Enterprise Analysts
  • IT Coordinator Analysts
  • Security Analysts
  • Technical Analysts
  • Research Analysts
  • And more

Each industry has its own flavor of analyst. Plus, every company has its own culture with variations of the usual artifacts that their analysts are hired to produce. The uniqueness does not stop there, as every civilization in the world has its own language. As some of us have observed, the non-verbal communication of shaking the head to indicate “Yes” or “No” means one thing in the United States and something else in India.

The entire landscape of analysts is very board. It stretches the breadth of the list of worldwide industries. There is Accidental & Health Insurance, Advertising Agencies, Aerospace/Defense, Agricultural, Air Delivery and Freight Services, Asset Management, Auto Manufacturing and Parts, and that is just the As. Other industries include Biotechology, Broadcasting (TV and Radio), Construction, Computers, Electronics, Energy, Fashion, Finance, Government, Hotel, Internet, Investment, Law Enforcement, Legal, Marketing, Medical, Music, Natural Metals & Materials, Oil & Gas, Pharmaceuticals, Publishing, Research, Retail (Food, Clothes, Toys, Furniture, Appliances), Services, Software, Sports, Wholesale, Wireless, and more. Of all of these industries the three highest profits earners are Money Centers and Banks, Drug Manufacturers, and Oil and Gas industries.

For financial management companies, like Amerprise, there are analysts on both the business side and on the technology side. Like all analysts, these thinkers leverage the organization’s methodologies and frameworks to determine what to utilize in creating the necessary deliverables. It is through thoughtful communication with the project stakeholders that an approach is formed to set the groundwork for accomplishing the results. Alignment with business processes, policies, and procedures is the analyst’s primary concern in the beginning stages of any project.

The next step requires that the analyst talk to all the subject matter experts about goals and objectives. If there is an IT aspect, there would be an analyst from the IT side to discuss automation opportunities based on their knowledge of the software and the technical experts who maintain the systems. The functional solution requirements then begin to take shape as these conversations occur and more information is evoked from the business-side stakeholders. The BA works to identify these IT capabilities and software/web functionality aspects to ensure a common understanding and set expectations.

Independent of organization or culture there is the expectation that the analyst knows the best ways to evoke the value-adds and basic benefits a project will create. Whether that analyst is strictly on the business side and has no interaction with technology, or whether they are a hybrid and have ideas related to technology, these competency distinctions are important to recognize. As many times the problems an analyst often walks into is the result of a business owner purchasing a software package for millions of users without first of all talking to the technology leaders who know their systems.

Recognizing these competencies are key to project success and that is why every team goes through a discussion about roles. On large projects a clear division of who is a business resource analyst and who is the technology resource analyst can help to clarify who has that expert knowledge. These roles are very important to ensure project progress and management when it comes to making decisions.

In this day and age, every company is on the Internet. Internet companies are largely about supply and demand, whether it is “Business to Business”, or “Business to Consumer” these companies employ analysts. Some are Inventory Analysts, others are E-Commerce Analysts, and then there are the Web Analysts that track the Internet activity based on “hits” from endless marketing and advertising efforts. In the Sports industry there is even a new job description known as a Player Analyst; an analyst that looks at athletic statistics of many talented athletes and creates teams based on the players strengths.

Regardless of which side the Business Analyst resides on, both sides are in a continual dialogue about process improvements and new ideas for creating value for their customers. These new ideas then have to be analyzed as part of a business case and then further defined to determine the size of the investment and the risks involved.

Sometimes analysts are instrumental in creating the business case. But, sometimes the analyst is engaged midway on a project or even after the first attempt has failed. If the idea is deemed feasible and the proof-of-concept portrays how the concept will satisfy more customers, which in turn shows the value that will grow the business, then the team is half way there.