Analyst manager vs. analyst leader: Which should you be?

Delivering results through a team of analysts is a challenging task, each individual has their own strengths, weaknesses, methods and preferences. To produce truly valuable, actionable insights every time, your team of analysts will need guidance and support.

Some analytics professionals are inherently self-sufficient and like to work independently, whereas others need to be directed and appreciate managerial steer. Neither of these personalities is “better” or “worse” than the other.

This brings us on to the idea of managers versus leaders – two seemingly synonymous titles that are actually not the same thing. Running a well-oiled analytical machine doesn’t necessarily require you to be both – but it might help if you can.

The differences between management and leadership

First of all, it’s important to consider how these two concepts relate to analytical work specifically – where there is a mixture of repeated tasks and one-off projects.

Analyst management is mainly concerned with…

Whilst analyst leadership is more focused on…

One succinct way of viewing the difference is that managers work mostly in the moment, “getting things done”, whereas leaders look ahead, figuring out how to do things better.

Manager? Leader? Or both?

There’s nothing to say that you can’t manage and lead your analysts, but at the same time, you shouldn’t automatically strive for a 50/50 balance.

Your approach should depend entirely on your own KPIs, as well as your team’s collective dynamic and the shared skill-set.

Are you responsible for driving innovation and formulating new strategies, or is your main objective to improve operational efficiency? Maybe you’ve been tasked with all three of those.

Do you have any senior analysts who can assist with day-to-day planning, organisation and prioritisation? If so, that presents an opportunity to free up some time for yourself.

Have you identified any skills-gaps across the team? Is there a promising graduate who’s just struggling slightly with certain parts of the job? Whatever the areas for improvement are, you need to make the analyst aware and motivate them to achieve their goals.

Adapting your approach

You may well find that you flip between “manager” and “leader” depending on the analyst in question.

It’s true that experienced analysts tend to need less instruction than beginners and graduates do, but it’s not that black-and-white. For example, even some veteran analysts struggle to be assertive when communicating with stakeholders about workloads and deadlines, which then has a knock-on effect on outputs. It’s your job as their manager to identify these issues and facilitate the necessary training, so that the analyst gets to the stage where they can collaborate well with decision-makers and manage expectations.

Similarly, new employees – regardless of experience – will lack the deep company knowledge and context needed for strong commercial recommendations, so you need to provide the time and support required to get them up to speed.

Running an analytics team effectively

To deliver consistent results through your analysts, you have to be adaptable, as we’ve covered. You also have to be self-aware, with a clear understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you can expand your skill-set and adopt the mindset of an effective manager.

Our training course, Managing analysts, covers all of this and more. We also offer tailored training packages for full analytics teams, focusing on the development of soft skills such as communicating, influencing and negotiating, storytelling and managing stakeholders. Take a look at the course details, and please do get in touch if you have any questions.