On Leadership, Sherlock Holmes and The Analytical Leader

Sherlock Holmes

Being Holmes

Known particularly for his shrewd logical reasoning, Detective Sherlock Holmes most certainly possesses a strength both envied and despised. Despite the efforts of those he seeks to thwart, Holmes’s uncanny ability to weed through the details of a case, find the facts, and solve the puzzle has proven he is the best at what he does.

Some might call his methods perceptive, systematic, logical, or even rigorous.

In the Strengths world, however, it is known as Analytical.

Being Watson

One must wonder, what’s it like to work for someone who is Analytical? No one knows the answer to this better than John H. Watson, Holmes’s very own assistant.

As an Analytical leader, Holmes constantly challenges others, following the motto “Prove it”.

When developing a theory of his own, Watson can count on Holmes to ensure his thinking is sound and essentially bullet proof. In Holmes’s more unsophisticated moments, Watson is also aware his ideas may be destroyed. In fact, if Holmes allows his Analytical to run amuck, he may all but completely deter Watson from speaking his mind ever again.

If you’re like Holmes…

Chances are, if you’re Analytical, your work rarely (if ever) has a mistake. You base your conclusions on proven data and facts, rather than “what ifs” and possibilities. You are able to create patterns and make connections to provide solid, agenda-free solutions, making you extremely valuable to your team and organization.

To others, you are unbiased, meticulous, and logically sound; for these reasons, you are the go to person to diffuse “fanciful thinking” and implement concrete ideas.

As a leader, you are able to provide your team with:

  • Substantial support for the bottom line
  • Relatively error free production
  • Trust worthy decision making
  • Stability in data based solutions

As with any Strength, you also need to be aware of the dark side of being Analytical.

Effectively Leading Watson

Below-the-line perceptions can be extremely powerful when leading your team. Not everyone on your team will have Analytical anywhere hear their top five, much less their top ten, so it’s critical that you understand how your feedback and/or direction are received.

Possible below-the-line perceptions are:

  • Paralysis by Analysis– too many reasons why a plan WON’T work
  • Seem argumentative
  • Ask too many questions
  • Struggle with Abstract thinking
  • Dream killer

Though your intention is to help Watson develop a sound theory, you may actually be creating an unproductive work environment for him. If Watson is high in the themes of Activator or Futuristic, your tendency to get “stuck in the weeds” will be very frustrating.

Remaining Engaged

In order to guarantee Watson remains engaged, and also develops a well-thought out plan, it’s important for you to see the forest for the trees. Remember the bottom line and present him two to three questions that can help him head in a solid direction.

There may be times when it is necessary to deconstruct Watson’s theories and redirect him to a more tangible path; be aware of how you deliver the information.

If you are too harsh, your feedback has the opportunity to be taken personally.

When you begin your line of questioning, be fastidious about which questions are essential to the bottom line. Remember, the big picture is the ultimate result of the details!

If you’re a leader strong in Analytical, how have you been able to balance your need for detail with the essentials of a particular project? Are you able to leverage the talents of other team members to get projects started? Have you found a way to deliver feedback to an employee in a way that is productive and leaves them feeling valued?


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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP
Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
She helps building Strong Leaders through Strong People Strategy
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. kwalitisme on June 21, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Reblogged this on kwalitisme.

  2. Hal Portner on June 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    “People function differently when it comes to gathering information. Some go about it like Sherlock Holmes, for example, who operates in contrast to the styles of Dr. Watson and the detectives at Scotland Yard. While they zero in on the “obvious” suspect, and fit the evidence
    to justify their case, Holmes instead picks up on unusual facts and minute details, until he eventually builds a scenario that leads to the murder.
    When gathering information for purposes of program improvement, don your double-visored Sherlock Holmes cap and activate your receptive information-gathering persona. Focus on details. Digest and ponder individual facts and clues without trying to fit them into any preconceived conceptual scheme. Be aware of the feel and inherent qualities of new information. Suspend judgment. Save your Dr. Watson style for accountability-focused evaluations.”

    … except (c) from the book “Leader of Leaders” by Portner and Collins, in press, due for publication Sept.9, 2013 (Pearson/Allyn & Bacon)

  3. René Broekhuis on July 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Reblogged this on René Broekhuis.

  4. mercin12 on July 20, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Reblogged this on Michael E. Roman and commented:
    If you tend to analyze deeply before you make decisions, this article is a great reminder about how that might affect those you lead.