The Business Analyst – A Leader without the title!
Robin Sharma, a very popular and 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 a bit of facilitation skill development that I had stood me in good stead, and helped me achieve the bit that I have, and now I understand it a lot better – what I started doing was to create an environment where people could contribute – contribute everything really; the business case, the vision, the scope, and most importantly their “real” requirements.
All traits of leadership is woven into the skills of a Business Analyst. We have to use influence to get others to work to accomplish a task – many a times these tasks may not be what they like doing; that too without the authority of position. Most people in leadership positions have the authority of position (designation) on their side to help them in influencing others. Business analysts are generally in a position of not having authority to help them influence, 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, and also achieving benefit for the organization. Sounds fairly simple, is it really so?
The BA works with business users and technical teams simultaneously – and both groups see the BA as part of their team (and in some situations visualize the BA as a person on the opposite side), which poses interpersonal challenges to some degree.
Many a 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.”
Is this all – yeah – but to be able to do this a BA needs
- attentive and centered listening, and as if this itself was not tough, do this while challenging the brain to process information in parallel
- influencing people, dealing with hidden agendas, resolving conflicts that range from professional to political to personal
- influencing people to perform tasks (that they may not really always like too)
- interrogating people and yet building and maintaining relationships
- educating and training people – many of them would not want to be educated or trained in the subject
In short, a BA is expected to push people towards results using a high degree of influencing skill.
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, and he has one 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 companies eventually got the BA’s to take up the position as a leader and also provide them authority – how much more effective they could be as a leader.