Data Doesn’t Lead

We are inundated with data these days. It comes at us from all points of the compass, and it’s available instantaneously.

Yet despite having access to all this data, our decisions aren’t necessarily better or easier.

For leaders, data can be a trap. We often believe that if we can amass enough data, we will make better decisions. But there are three facts that undermine that belief:

  1. We can never amass enough data.
  2. And even if we could, data is not the same as information; facts and figures aren’t insights.
  3. And even if it was, it would only address the intellectual part of the equation.

That last point is important  when our decisions involve humans. And don’t they all? At the very least, they involve ourselves.

There are two parts of the decision equation: Intellectual and Emotional. As humans, we think and feel. And data alone won’t solve that equation.

People don’t fit neatly into spreadsheets. We are predictably unpredictable, rationally irrational and consistenty inconsistent. When leaders only address the Intellectual, they may miss the Emotional. And there is ample evidence to suggest that—even when we think we’re being Intellectual—we often let Emotions drive our decisions.

So it makes sense to at least consider the Emotional as a leader.

This can be squishy stuff, and our fear of those zany emotions can drive us into the arms of data alone. The siren song of the Intellectual is that we can think our way out of any situation. But more often, we also have to feel our way out.

Great leaders use their heads and their hearts. They think and feel through their decisions, and they use both to influence their organizations.


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