What a CEO Needs – Part 2

Where science meets philosophy…

Let me begin by thanking all those who put in the effort to comment on my last blog posting. The feedback has been informative. Interestingly, every option listed had at least a few supporters. The cumulative verdict, however, seems decisively in favor of ‘calmness’. The sample size is a little small, but the mini data analytics achieved the intended objective. Hopefully, a few senior executives of other IT companies who end up stumbling on this blog are also able to take back this useful learning—‘calmness’ in their executive management is a trait that is greatly valued by employees.

Now, coming to my choice, the clue ran through the central story line of my previous blog. The Déjà vu concept itself is all about pattern recognition of repeatable events, and thus closely resembles one specific trait amongst the five choices I have listed. Even the opening flow of this present blog has a hidden hint; namely, what methodology did I use to figure out that ‘calmness’ is the temperament I need to focus on when it comes to employee dealings? A similar poll that involves a different set of voters (say, customers or mid-management layer) would probably throw up a different choice that is more relevant to that specific cluster.

Before we probe further on the merits of my pick, let’s evaluate the commonality of the other listed traits—grounded, diplomatic, collaborative, calmness—all four of them are very noticeable human characteristics, even an informal chat in a social gathering will give you some idea about these oddities of the other person. Why? That’s because these traits have a strong emotive connect that all of us can easily relate to. The attached example aptly illustrates the importance of these four qualities to become a well-rounded human being.

So, the next logical question then is—does it mean that any person blessed with these four attributes qualifies as an excellent CEO candidate? No doubt, a good CEO needs to be a well-balanced human being, and therefore needs to have these sensitivities in abundance. But vice versa doesn’t hold true; that is, just because someone is a well-balanced human being, it doesn’t automatically mean that the person will make a good CEO!

The above assessment, while sounding intuitively correct, has a logical explanation as well. For humans to be well-balanced, the quality that is of paramount importance is their EQ . The matters of EQ have a strong instinctive flavor, these qualities generally are imbibed in our DNA by the time we turn 30 or so, as correctly pointed out by one of the commenters on my last posting. Then, as we get older (which, unfortunately, encompasses most of the CEO-age group ), the law of diminishing changes kicks in. That is, all our instinctive traits have only a marginal scope of improvement.

Data-driven temperament, on the other hand, is the only fabricated scientific trait amongst the qualities listed in the earlier blog. It is not a ‘reflex’ quality, rather a ‘practiced’ quality. The relevance of this trait has gained enormous prominence in the past decade, influenced by the widespread penetration of the Internet and the availability of high computational power. There are many undergrads, postgrads, even PHDs that delve on this subject (Statistics, Actuarial Sciences etc.). Even with a high IQ and profound appreciation of technology, a person will make a fine data-driven professional only if the individual is willing to commit several hours a week toying with intelligent statistics-focused systems. In fact, people who embrace data-driven methodologies in true spirit have a better shot at improving their other EQ-related shortcomings. For example:

arrow A person becomes data driven only when the person gives more importance to the information arising out of data, rather than personal intuition. In other words, the decision points can’t have an autocratic or dictatorial flavor. And without autocracy, all that is left behind is flat ground! For instance, I always thought ‘collaborative’ was the primary ingredient employees look for in their boss, but this poll has proved me wrong. So what choice do I have now but to humbly accept that my assessment has been erroneous!

arrow Employees, customers, and vendors are amongst the primary ‘data points’ in business on which decisions are made. So, by default, the data-driven methodology has an inbuilt collaborative nature. The poll question itself in the previous blog is an illustration of a collaborative decision. If a data-obsessed professional didn’t believe in collaboration, why would the individual take this kind of a poll that involves collaborators to give feedback?

arrow The entire charm of the data-driven approach lies in the heterogeneous mix of data points. For instance, if everyone who responded to my blog posting had picked the identical ‘calm’ choice, then in all likelihood I would have preemptively known the result as well and, therefore, would have never triggered this poll. Fact-driven professionals are usually diplomatic for they have a fascination for peculiar behavior patterns. People’s idiosyncrasies are not points of frustration; rather, they represent a statistical spread of data points.

arrow Finally, the primary reason for people to get agitated is the unpredictability of events; that is, things not going the way they were expected. Data-driven methodologies bring greater predictability; if things still end up in the unexpected direction, the reason is mathematical probabilities being played out. Data-focused people are able to recognize life’s eventualities for their clinical value; thus they enjoy a greater sense of calm.

As we wrap up this blog, I will leave the readers with one thought to mull over. Per say, data-driven methodologies are all about scientific approach. But hidden behind this approach is a very important but subtle philosophical message: an individual human mind on its own is a tool incapable of learning all that it needs for making accurate professional decisions. By shedding our egos and whole-heartedly adopting knowledge-driven approaches, we have an opportunity to stretch our capabilities beyond our genetically gifted abilities. Any organization or professional who understands this point and acts on it stands to gain a distinctive competitive edge over those who have lesser appreciation for this thought process. Oakland A’s Moneyball and Cybage’s Excelshore adequately exemplify the triumph of data-driven methodologies.

Original, Data, Leader, Style


  1. Pleasure to read your thoughtful and real world write-up Arun.
    I feel that persisting competitive edge is more challenging than building a competitive edge as in todays bussiness world competitors and rivals are good at immitating the one having competitive edge among others . For ex: When Air Deccan started operations it always had an edge of a low cost flyer but other functions like delay and cancellation of flight shedules made Deccan loose its rapport and thus slowly it lost the competitive edge as others succesful fliers had maintained their operational excellence while slowly trying to immitate Deccan’s low cost flying .

    Any organization has multiple operations to perform .So, to gain the fruits of competive edge in long run , all the operations performed by any organization should have a balance to maintain the advantage while further moving towards growth .
    And yes, data driven decisions always have a higher probability of meeting the targets . Forecasting is always the function of management which provides clarity to Planning which moving forward ensures Decision Making is efficient.

  2. Good connect with the previous blog as the title says by explaining WHY & How..! Thanks.

  3. I think calmness is the result of EQ. It shows that the object is neutral at the due circumstances. Also, EQ (calmness) grows with the age i.e. the experiences from life. That’s why we see few college drop-outs conquer the world. (Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg…). No doubt they have some instinctive traits which further grew with time and the atmosphere and technology they brought up with.

    • Going deep into my above comment, I was feeling that something was going wrong. I was collecting the information from net and trying to digest the relation betweel EQ and calmness for last few days. But I am glad to say that I got a lot understanding about it. Calmness is related to individuals state of mind whereas EQ is broad phenomenon which deals with a lot of factors specially related to other peoples behaviour. I am really thankful to Arun sir for the thoughts and language in the blogs which has deep meaning. Thanks a lot 🙂

  4. Very nice lines 🙂

    By shedding our egos and whole-heartedly adopting knowledge-driven approaches, we have an opportunity to stretch our capabilities beyond our genetically gifted abilities.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. Learning from the past experiences and building up for a better future or having the capability to sustain the worst or tide through the waves is possible only through a “data driven” statistical approach and I think data driven approach is not only necessary for CEOs or CXOs but for all of the management function as a whole for a successful enterprise. Probably, which is why the managerial economics is a mandated subject in any B-School of the world. Not an easy subject .. I can say from my current experience. 🙂

  6. Very true and well said Sir.

    I would like to throw light upon the last sentence where you say that :-

    “By shedding our egos and whole-heartedly adopting knowledge-driven approaches, we have an opportunity to stretch our capabilities beyond our genetically gifted abilities. Any organization or professional who understands this point and acts on it stands to gain a distinctive competitive edge over those who have lesser appreciation for this thought process.”

    I am teaching MBA in a Management Institute in Pune,
    Our Institute is just 4 years old but the kind of team we have has earned a lot of respect from the Academia and because of which we have a huge chunk of students taking admission.

  7. Data driven approach is also an acknowledgement of the fact that there exists pattern in all activities that we see around. Individuals or organisations may believe that they are free to behave independently and wisely, but their minds are programmed to behave in a manner which is heavily influenced by their surroundings, their upbringing and their sense of right and wrong. Hence knowingly or unknowingly the scope of actions they perform is very limited.
    It is no better than any other species on this earth. If a person takes a neutral and macro level view of all our actions, he/she will find that it is no better than that of a proverbial sheep, so castigated for its ‘bhed chaal’.

Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


What a CEO Needs – Part 2 - Arun Nathani Blog