Responses to Negative Data: Four Senior Leadership Archetypes.

Not everything a company does works out.

(That is different from everything that a company is doing not working out. :))

If you are in the data business – my bread, butter and tofu – you often carry the burden of being the bearer of bad news.

The conversion rate is down 30% at launch.

The goal was to deliver a 30% increase in revenue, the team delivered 1.7953%.

During 2019, our Net Promoter Score has dropped 15 points.

The average length of our video ads is 30 seconds, less than 10% of the audiences watches beyond 5 seconds and 90% is exposed to less than 1 second.

Our Market Share in the 2-ton truck market shrunk by 1.5% (= -$3 bil).

Negative data.

Accurately collected. Intelligently analyzed. Factually presented.

Sadly still, negative data to the person/team receiving it.

Why be hurtin’?

A decade ago, data people delivered a lot less bad news because so little could be measured with any degree of confidence.

In 2019, we can measure the crap out of so much. Even with the limitations of tools, government regulations, and the astonishing fragmentation of everything (attention, devices, consumption sources, identities and more).

Companies have also evolved to be significantly more complex beings, who have to do so much more than what they did 50 years ago. Think of all P&G had to do to sell soap 50 years ago, and now reflect on the baffling array of things they have to do today to sell a bar of soap. Add on top of that, where P&G could sell soap, the purposes it could sell soap for, and imagine both of those things now. It is a lot of stuff!

When you do that much stuff, and you can measure almost everything… The result is that our ecosystem of data people are returning a lot more negative data when measuring performance of Marketing, Sales, User Experience and Customer Service.

Let me repeat this one more time: It is not that companies have slowly over the last decade started to suck more (well, maybe some). It is that we are able to analyze and identify bad performance with greater accuracy.

While that change has occurred, two things have obstinately stayed the same:

1. Company cultures are rarely open to hearing anything negative.

2. The top leaders in your company grew up, succeeded, and were promoted during the era of no data (and hence a ton less negative news). They are not natively wired to receive data-delivered reality checks.

The combination means no red carpet for negative data. It is not hard to see that a modern large corporation is likely missing out on the benefits of all they should know about their business through data. It also results in a depressing existence for data people.

Short-term, this let’s not listen to the negative data strategy sometimes actually works. No one is telling the Emperor he is naked, and the Emperor is delighted everyone loves his clothes so much.

Long-term…. : (

Four Negative Data Leadership Archetypes.

The solutions to this big opportunity have many dimensions.

I want to focus on the massive “make or break” dimension: #2 above, with Extremely Senior Leaders (ESLs).

Through their words and actions, ESLs can quash data's learn to improve spirit, or they can nurture that spirit and deliver a transformative, positive impact on the company's culture + profit.

In my work with clients around the world (all continents except Antarctica), I’ve encountered a whole host of reactions to when I have shared negative data with ESLs. From the patterns in those reactions, I’ve developed four archetypes of leaders.

While people are never starkly black and white, they typically have a dominant archetype – the one they most frequently demonstrate.

I’ve also observed cultural implications that each leader-type ends up creating from their reactions to negative data. For three of the four, I’ve seen individuals successfully navigate the leader-type – never without scars though – and individuals emotionally burn-out due the environment the leader creates.

Today, I want share the four leader archetypes with negative data as the lens. Included below is my accumulated wisdom, with the hope that you’ll fall in navigate category and not the crushed one.


Archetype #1: The Bubble King (/Queen).

Archetype #1: How they react:

This individual lives in a bubble, so their reaction to any data is… Nothing. Data, unless it is super-positive, never makes it to them. Bubble Kings are comfortable making decisions that sound good – decisions just as likely to be informed by their long experience as the quest for shiny objects.

Bubble Kings most commonly reside in organizations where there is little to no accountability (or misplaced accountability, ex: celebration of vanity metrics).

Their most common reaction to negative data, if it makes it through, is to try to discredit it by asking analytically-nonsensical questions: What are the p-values of your multi-channel attribution model applied to performance of my strategy?

Archetype #1: Cultural implications:

In small or medium sized companies, Bubble Kings (/Queens) have short reigns. Not all that hard to imagine why – you don’t listen to data, ignore reality checks, and the transparently oriented accountability loop ensures there is nowhere to hide.

In large companies, or teams with massive budgets, Bubble Kings (/Queens) have long reigns. The accountability loops are larger, less transparent, and the natural large-company multi-layer organization complexity does not help. Typically a change in the C-Suite layer above will transition them out of the company (fresh eyes, sunshine … call it what you will).

However, while they still reign – since feelings matter more than data – sycophantic behavior is common and often encouraged.

Archetype #1: How to deal with them, their org:

Data will never play any impactful role on strategy. Since Bubble Kings live in a, well, bubble, you can often form relationships and influence at lower levels in a Bubble King’s org, and you can have a positive influence on tactics. Absolutely take advantage of it.

If you want to get promoted, give up the quest to identify factual real-world performance and focus instead on proving that the Bubble King's decisions deliver excellent results. Don't compromise on your ethics. But on this blog and in my newsletter I’ve shared enough strategies you should not use to slant data – use them.

[Bonus Reads: A Great Analyst's Best Friends: Skepticism & Wisdom! & TMAI #154: Irrationality, Cognitive Bias, and Us.]

Archetype #2: The Attacker.

Archetype #2: How they react:

They attack.

They attack the data. They attack your knowledge. They attack your intent. They bring up that one time in 2013 when your analysis missed an important assumption. They attack your personal attributes.

In the face of factual negative data related to their decisions, they will counter-attack. At times, harshly. Sometimes they counter-attack, in a twist of irony, by trying to drown you in enormous detail and minutiae.

You will be branded Ms. Bad News or Mr. Not A Team Player or some such ugly moniker.

Archetype #2: Cultural implications:

In extremely senior positions, Attackers fuel the creation of a culture where no bad news ever filters through. When business performance is non-positive, every employee, at every level, will work super-duper hard to look at every dimension of data to find any semblance of good news (no matter how small). Only this good news will make it to the top (Attacker ESL).

A typical example: The entire house is on fire but the analysis of that situation will focus on the one unsinged rose in the font lawn and how beautiful the rose is.

Attackers lead can last for a surprisingly long time in an organization, for a whole host of strategic reasons (as I’m confident you’ve observed as well).

Archetype #2: How to deal with them, their org:

If you are a data person and you are in a small organization lead by an Attacker, you need to update your resume and find a way out. There is no hope for your career (or emotional positivity).

If you are a data person and you are in a large organization lead by an Attacker, also update your resume. If, for any number of valid reasons, you are stuck there my advice is to focus your analytical efforts exclusively on the Attacker's biggest fears. It might take a little bit of effort to discover them, but it is so worth it. Even an Attacker has a point at which their instinct for self-preservation kicks in, in those rare (often hidden) situations they’ll be open to negative data.

And this is key: If you can provide solutions and not just data, you might even become a trusted adviser. This will do nothing to advance your acquired negative branding of Ms. Bad News, nor will this change the broader team/company culture… But…You'll have an impact with data, providing a pretty decent existence in an Attacker created culture while you look for a way out.

Archetype #3: The Rationalizer.

Archetype #3: How they react:

Their trigger instinct in face of factual negative data is to make excuses. To provide context. To identify circumstances to blame. To poke holes in the data/methodology (regardless of the Rationalizer’s analytical competence). To create enough uncertainty to fuzzy up any negative – or remotely negative – data.

If we were stack rank the four types, the Rationalizer would come on top as the most undesirable leader (often corrosive for the institution).

You might think it would be the Attacker. It is the Rationalizer because their approach to dealing with negative data is not as overtly corrosive. A Rationalizer subtly sows doubt. They dilute the analysis with non-facts. They force the inclusion of non-related nonsense in the quest to paint a fuller picture. At their worst, they commonly turn diamonds into coal.

Archetype #3: Cultural implications:

Everything data people do to highlight reality, to bring truth to the fore, to identify positive solutions from negative data, will be discounted, buried, and compete for impact with faith. Questionable analysis and slanted views will have equal footing with the most factual and intelligent analysis.

When people say "this team’s culture runs on BS," they are describing an organizations run by a Rationalizer.

Status quo will rule the day in such organizations, unless there is a big external force that creates change. The operative instinct is to maintain mediocrity with just enough reality massaging flowing upstream to ensure existing mediocrity is not utterly obvious.

One identifying attribute of Rationalizer organizations is the overwhelming abundance of data pukes. Why? Data pukes do nothing to make an organization intelligent, while providing the feeling of competence and productive output.

Archetype #3: How to deal with them, their org:

Rationalizer org’s are hardest to deal with because you are not obviously being ignored (Bubble King) nor are you being openly challenged (Attacker). You are just constantly being undercut to the point where the data represents a watered down version of an adjacent reality.

If you are a data person full of courage and determination, find the largest element of the business' strategy and unpack the power of strategic analysis to present factual data. Lead with as many things as you can find that are going right, then follow that with the most material two things that are factually not going right. Present the collection directly to the Rationalizer if you can.

On that note… Since the Rationalizer is an ESL (Extremely Senior Leader), it is quite possible that you have to work through many layers of people in-between you, my peer data person, and them. In a Rationalizer’s culture, every layer you go through will instinctively take the material two negative news and will try to kill it or fuzzify/massage it. In these cases, if you can make cosmetic changes to pass each layer, do so. Don't give up on the core of the positive and negative stories.

When you are in the presence of a Rationalizer, bring overwhelming analytical competence – there is no better way to deal with their reactions (see above). A Rationalizer never gives up trying to rationalize every small bit of negative data, persistence is a virtue that’ll come in handy.

Keep in close contact with your soul. At some point you’ll find it is sapping, it’ll be your clue that you need to find it a different professional environment.

Archetype #4: The Curious One.

Archetype #4: How they react:

In face of negative data, the Curious One asks you questions to understand the why behind what you are presenting.

If a period has elapsed where the data person has demonstrated competence, the Curious One does not question the analytical approach of data collection methodologies (they trust you to have applied fanatical quality control). The Curious One demonstrates, well, curiosity about what biases might be in the data or what assumptions you might have made.

They have two critical attributes: 1. They demonstrate open mindedness in the face of negative data. 2. Their posture is not to instinctively blame (backwards looking), but rather the posture is to identify and fix (forwards looking).

Archetype #4: Cultural implications:

Due to the demonstrated behavior at the top, open mindedness is usually encouraged in organizations led by Curious Ones.

Negative data is never a delightful experience, but the trust fostered amongst senior leaders results in a lot more truth telling, and is as good of a welcome mat as will ever be provided to the data people.

It might seem odd that in such a positive posture to negative data that there is still accountability, but incredibly in my experience it exists in spades in such organizations. It flows down from the clear measurable goals, an empowered data organization, and a close and direct partnership with different leadership levels (VPs, Directors, Sr. Managers).

Archetype #4: How to deal with them, their org:

Pinch yourself every day.

Don't take your position for granted. Invest in self-learning every week – even couple hours a week – to ensure you can keep pace with the demands for sophisticated analysis which will be expected at an agile pace.

You know my Care-Do-Impact model for analysis and storytelling. Organizations led by the Curious Ones are the very best places for you to slowly migrate your sophistication in Do and Impact. This, in turn, means that your demonstrated sophistication will open up new career options, for example becoming a business line leader or moving on to the strategy side of the house. Joyous outcomes for you, your company, and your company's customers.

Two Inspiring Examples | Curious One Archetype.

Paul Polman.

One person who demonstrated Curious One behavior to me was the recently ex-Global CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman. I had an opportunity to spend time with him and his leadership team. My role was to be a challenger, to share stories about what Unilever did well and focus on the challenges faced by vividly demonstrating things they did not do well. The latter part of the story qualifies as negative data.

It would be normal CEO behavior to be defensive, to pick the story apart, to make excuses. But, no. Through his words and actions to me and his brand CEOs, Mr. Polman demonstrated every attribute of the Curious One. This opened mind share required to re-imagine the future.

As with inspiring leaders, there is a whole ton lot more as to why I admire Mr. Polman.

Alan Mulally.

Mr. Mulally’s stewardship of Boeing and Ford is legendary. I want to share one story that Mr. Mulally shared with us in a meeting (and in his book).

When he got to Ford he instilled the same colored charts approach to identify what's working and what needs more attention. All the charts Mr. Mulally got were color coded green (#everythingisawesome). The problem was that Ford was on track to lose $17 billion dollars that year. Ford's culture was such that business leaders would hide problems, therefore making issues "disappear." Mr. Mulally set a different tone of honesty and looking at negative data as an opportunity to improve/change/fix (classic Curious One approach). In next meetings, things slowly started to turn Red… and Yellow… and some real Green.

There is a lot more to Mr. Mulally's turnaround of Ford. Eleven principles actually (buy the book!). But in this anecdote you can see the central reason that I adore him, and the leadership skills that can turn even the most intractable business problems in some of the largest companies on the planet.

A Plan for Action.

Humans are complicated beings.

No individual is just one black and white type.

Yet, humans, at least professionally, tend to demonstrate a dominant type. It is what they are natively comfortable with.

With that in mind, a suggestion for a plan of action…


Introspective is in order. Assume you are doing this only for your own selfish benefit reasons, no one else has to know.*

Take a quiet moment.

Reflect on what your dominant type is: Bubble King or Attacker or Rationalizer or Curious one.

Once you do that, consider the impact that your leadership posture is having on your team, on your data people, on the ability of negative data (or negative anything) to help stop/rethink strategy, and indeed on the corporation.

The global maxima is that you consider a personal shift towards exploring the benefits of evolving to become the Curious One type (if you are not there already).

An incentive is that at some point in a long career, one does tend to reflect on the personal impact of one's professional accomplishments. In that moment, on that day/week/month/rest of your life, realizing the heart-breaking impact you delivered by being a Bubble King, Attacker or Rationalizer does deliver a heavy emotional burden and a personal crisis. So. Not. Worth it.

There is a meme that people can't really change who they are. You'd be surprised how untrue that is.

* Your team already knows what type you are. You might as well be honest with yourself for all the benefits that will come.


Self-reflection is in order for you as well.

Set some quiet time aside so that you can consider the how they react and cultural implications demonstrated by the leader who has the biggest influence your personal work. (Sometimes this is your direct manager. Other times it is someone a few levels above yours.)

In your mind only, assign the archetype (BK, A, R, CO) to the leader. That act will bring clarity as you ask yourself these three questions I recommend…

What is your behavior in response to that dominant leader?

Is it as suggested in the how to deal with it section of each leader type?

What will it take for you to change your behavior to optimally deal with the situation you are in?

Make a specific plan.

Act on it. Life is short.

It is always better to be on a path chosen after careful self-reflection and planning, even if you find yourself in an undesirable situation. It might not deliver world peace, but it will reduce your emotional burden.


We've used leader reaction to negative data as a vehicle to discuss creating an optimal professional path for ourselves (as leaders or as individuals).

The framework I've shared, how they react, cultural implication, and how to deal with it, can be applied to multiple dimensions of our professional ecosystem. Give it a try.

If you are a leader, if you have a choice, be the Curious One. Here are a recap of the benefits: 1. Lighter personal emotional burden. 2. Cultures where the goal is not blame, it is making progress. 3. People who love you (yes, love, in a workplace!) and will help you deliver transformative results – in good times and bad.

So. Worth. It.

Good luck!

As always, it is your turn now.

What archetype identifies the most influential leader in your organization? If you are a leader, what archetype is reflective of your impact? If you’ve successfully worked inside organizations lead by a Bubble King (/Queen), Attacker, Rationalizer… What worked, what did not work? Have your seen a leader transform into a different archetype – do to an HR-induced or personal induced change? What worked, what did not work? Is there an archetype you would have created, if we are looking through the lens of negative data?

Please share your reflections, critique, culture-shifting strategies, and tips for individuals or leaders via comments.

Thank you.


  1. 1
    Devorah Shoal says

    Thank you for the leadership responses to data.

    I definitely want to be the Curious One!

  2. 2

    This was great to help me think through my approach to different types of leaders.

    I do often come across what I'll call "The Fearful One". Completely afraid of data because they don't understand any of it. Still talks about "Hits". Must be approached through education but not talked down to. Is easily frustrated due to their confusion. Often does not know negative data from the positive. Loves voice of the customer comments as those are easy to understand. When VOC is combined with the quantitative and education they start to get it.

    • 3

      RJ: Great addition.

      I have been in the presence of the "Fearful One." Though it has been less and less in recent years as the general data savvy of leaders has gone up to a level where atleast they don't know that they don't know… And, they know enough to hire you and I to do the job. :)

      Your advice on VOC is wonderful. Thank you.


  3. 4
    Brent Miller says

    Brilliant! As usual, you've taken a complex reality and simplified it in a way that makes it accessible.

    In my short professional career of five years I've only worked for "Bubble Queen" and "Attacker" archetypes. Reading through the first part of each I kept nodding. What I did not know was how to deal with the situation I find myself in. Your advice is immensely valuable. I know what types of things to try.

    Thank you for covering leadership, in addition to the usual deep analytics.

  4. 5
    Nancy Wood says

    This should be prescribed reading for every leader. It is another deeply insightful post Avinash.

    The descriptions are so real and vivid that I could visualize specific leaders who have fit those archetypes during my career. It was insightful to see you draw out the reasons for why such leaders might survive. The note on lack of accountability loops is spot on.

    The frighting part is the lessons that employees with less experience learn from influential leaders. They end up emulating them, causing a bad practice to continue. This part of the long-term harm leaders cause is less appreciated, but important.

  5. 6
    Paul Audino says

    I love this article!

    In my career as a marketing person I have most often encountered The Rationalizer. In addition to fully agreeing with your comments on this archetype being most corrosive, I'd add a few observations:

    – This type is oft prone to believe that a sales organization cannot be trusted to think critically about about a business challenge, and must instead by whipped into a "selling frenzy" state of mind.
    – When the organization manages to survive a difficult challenge or occasionally pulls a rabbit out of the hat the above belief is (unfortunately) reinforced in the mind of The Rationalizer.
    – This type is also the most likely to ignore opportunities to turn smaller, easier to execute incremental improvements in efficiency into a significant cumulative gain.

    I really appreciate the framework for self-reflection and suggestions on how to deal with the archetypes. I shall always strive to be more like The Curious One!

    • 7

      Paul: Thank you so much for these additions! Having worked with Rationalizers, I could not agree more with you.

      Of all the frustrating things about that, your third bullet is the one that I personally find the most difficult to deal with. The win is there, but the vision is not there to see it or support it.



  6. 8
    Eva Lopez says

    While the entire post is wonderfully incisive, my favourite part was that you highlighted two "traditional" leaders as your role models. There is such an obsession with Tech, it is nice to see someone in the Silicon Valley living outside the bubble.

    I can vouch for the kind words you have shared about Paul Polman. I was greatly inspired by his leadership during my time at Unilever. He displayed a sincere commitment to listening to multiple points of view, and made hard decisions to focus on tough issues like the environment and Unilever's impact on the societies we operated in.

  7. 9
    Robert McLean says

    This post simply articulates what I've struggled to express clearly: The broader cultural impact of a CxO that ends up influencing a couple hundred or couple thousand people.

    Thank you.

    Across my 27 year career I have seen two leaders change their behavior. In both cases it was due to the expansion of responsibility that delivered a "oh crap" moment. In neither case was it fast, but in both cases the impact for the organization was transformative.

    In most cases even with incentives or HR infusion, leaders stay who they are at their core.

  8. 10
    Sarah Rosier says

    Thank you for this article.

    Only one thing: this is true for young leaders as well. I think it's more a matter of psychology than a matter of generation :)

    In my opinion, the first 3 archetypes have kind of a fragile ego and are afraid to be found "wrong". Their seniority/age doesn't change a thing…

  9. 11
    Onnik Shahinyan says

    So true, thank you. Over the years, I had different bosses from each category.

    I was thinking about 5th type but RJones did it before me. But here are my 2 cents – a boss who lives in a bubble of the known data (the data is more than only ‘hits, time to time includes conversion rates and customer’s value), but once you start challenging how the known data is collected or how to enrich it with new setup, he/she starts with the counter-attacks. So, you might call it ‘The Fearful Attacker coming out of the Bubble Kingdom’.

    Thank you once again this article.

    • 12

      Onnik: Sounds like a deadly combination! :)

      I am a big fan of one of the core principles of enneagram, that humans are x when they are in a "steady stage" but can shift to being y when under stress (including threats). Your individual reminded me of that.

      Thanks so much for sharing.


  10. 13

    Amazing post, captures the pain of our existence so perfectly.

    I once worked for a "Rationalizer" who prohibited post interaction customer surveys because of all the negative comments in the surveys. This is not great for the morale of the analytics team. The impact on the broader culture of the selective truth telling is quite bad.

    When leaders act badly they act as if they are cleverly hiding bad data. The employees always know what is actually going on as they are close to the frontline. The hiding seems to be in service of the bosses of our senior leader, where sadly the hiding does seem to work.

  11. 14

    Great post!

    Unfortunately I work in an organization full of rationalizers in an industry that has very deep pockets. Any attempt to show analysis that provides insights in an attempt to help course correct is discounted on the basis of faith and "this is how our industry has always worked".

    Your observation about a decade ago we had much less data so much less bad news rings so true and the fact the industry I am in has printed money I feel compounds that fact and created a perfect storm.

    Simply reflecting on this post while writing this comment has me wondering if it is time for a change.

  12. 15

    The attackers are a great example of Persian messenger syndrome.

    • 16

      Murad: I had to google that! :)

      For those who want a quick explanation: "The first messenger, that gave notice of Lucullus’ coming was so far from pleasing Tigranes that, he had his head cut off for his pains; and no man dared to bring further information. Without any intelligence at all, Tigranes sat while war was already blazing around him, giving ear only to those who flattered him."

      Translation: When a leader "shoots the messenger" pretty soon, as the messengers don't want to "die," the leader is living in a, quoting Charlie Munger, a cocoon of unreality and only bad things can come from it.

  13. 18
    liam friedland says

    Thank you Avinash for another excellent piece of writing + perspective. In my experience, cognitive + social biases, as well as ego-attachment are seriously at play in the "damaged" archetypes.

    Appreciate the advice for coping with each.

    Mindful leaders look problems squarely in the face, understand what is happening without getting averse or delusional, and use them as creative opportunities for pivoting and doing something different / new / better.

  14. 19
    Mark Bailey says

    This felt cathartic. Thank you.

    Based on the attributes of your four archetypes in this post, I can happily report that our current senior leader is a curious one. Your assessment of their impact is completely on-point. The leader's impact sets an example that flows through the company's layers. The result is a very low turnover for the company as it is a great place to work.

    Above and beyond all else, it is their response to negative data that sets the tone of honesty and humility.

  15. 20
    Patrice Ng says

    This will go down as one of your classics Avinash.

    It is an underappreciated reflection on how data's impact is so rarely connected to the things that we in the analytics field care about: data quality, multi-channel attribution, adobe's latest innovation, reporting schedule, and so on and so forth. These things matter and yet so often not solving the problems you are shining a light on means all those analytics obsessions are for naught.

    If knowledge is power, this article has given us a lot of power. Thanks.

  16. 21

    Excellent post. As an analyst working in a large organisation with complex org structure across geographies with many dotted authority lines, have seen all these types – so could relate to them easily.

    Trouble is when you have a mix of these types. Your immediate line manager (or division manager) is Curious One, but her manager (or the big boss) is Rationalizer (or worst an Attacker) – or the other way round. Serving data and insights needs of both becomes a tightrope walk. One wrong slide and it may trigger a world war III inside the company!

    • 22

      Vibs: Tough being the bringer of truth! : )

      My solve in these cases is to focus my strategy on the individual who has the most influence in the organization. In this case it might not be the Big Boss, it could very well be the Manager. Then, let that individual help drive resolution when conflicts exist.


  17. 23
    Matthew Kylis says

    A great article Avinash, thank you for diving deep into your experience. The actionable next steps that an individual can take are a strong encouragement to take charge of our careers assertively.

    My experience has mostly been working for Agencies. It was not difficult to assess which cultures were open to negative data. The fear of saying anything negative was an almost physical presence. There is usually no support to hear the truth from external consultants. My strategy was to focus on what to do differently. This focus on the future was a good way to focus on actions rather than the negative data.

  18. 24
    Inigo Antolin says

    I cannot recommend you enough to you and the readers the book Principles, by Ray Dalio.

    So much of what you explain here is expanded in that book!

    I remember I sent you an email time ago recommending it. Did you have a go at it?

  19. 26

    I am one of the very few branding consultants that actually look at data very often and early in my strategy development process. As I am usually hired if something is wrong with a brands positioning in the market, I usually find a lot of negative data. Market share going down, problems in certain demographics, decreasing conversion rates across the board, funnel losses early… and so on.

    The leaders (I am usually working with C-Level) react exactly as you've outlined. I kept nodding and grinning throughout reading this article.

    However the basic psychology tells us that bad news are percieved a lot better if you can provide one thing: Hope. An outlook. An actionable insight how to fix that. This is why I don't do SWOTs anymore. There are no Weaknesses – only opportunities to be better.

    So presenting bad data as bad will get you in trouble. Presenting bad data as a starting point to be better and giving just a glimps of how to do that – this is actually fun.

    • 27

      Pascal: A very solid perspective, thank you for sharing it.

      Analysis and deep understanding of weakness is important, from that identifying where hope exists for improvement (or even world domination) is critical. The emphasis should be what to do.

      Smart leaders sometimes can see that value, and change their posture.


  20. 28

    Wow! This has been such an entertaining read!!!

    You described these roles so well I could literally picture the various characters and compare to people I already know who share similarities, hahaha!

    Additionally, consider me me warned when I finally get to a leadership position! In the meantime, I strive to be a great team player :-)

  21. 29
    Cristofer Odqvist says

    Thanks! Really interesting perspectives.

    I feel that it applies to the freelance life as well.

    I've surely been guilty of being a "bubble king", and now I have a name for it :)

  22. 30
    AParker says

    Another great post! Thank you for continuously handing out your wisdom and experience in your always well written and interesting posts.

    Since I started in a junior online marketing position, I have enjoyed your posts, learned and benefited from them. Now 10 years later, I am the HIPPO in the online team, and you and your posts deserves part credit for turning me into the "The Curious One" ;)

  23. 31
    David Dinger says

    I would recommend a 5th Archetype, the Senior Leader (who's been a previous data guy) who fires their "data guy" for just presenting data without risk, risk mitigation, consequence management, the why behind the data, a recommended way forward, expected timeline, next update, resources required, a candid discussion and opportunities to leverage because of this failure. All four Archetypes could easily be handled through this approach.

    I am not in favor of the data guy who presents the data and gives the polar bear salute trying say it's my job to give you the data….grrrr. But hey, that's me.

  24. 32
    Sonya Agrawal says

    This is such a great piece of writing and a unique perspective. It was not only insightful but incredibly entertaining to read and i could literally picture all kinds of archetypes vividly.

    I would rather prefer the curious one over the rational one any day! I have worked with the attacker before and it was an experience of its own.

    Great insights!

  25. 33
    Leonardo Candoza says

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with these archetypes, it's a really great way to think about something that afflicts all of us.

    My vote for the most common senior executive is the bubble queen. It probably is a function of what it takes to rise through a modern organization. I can validate that in my experience you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to the cultural implications.

  26. 34

    Thank you for a great post, Avinash. I have worked with the Rationalizer type for a couple of years and god, they were frustrating. At that time, I wish I knew how to deal with them. I do now :)

    As your rightly pointed out, their entire team performed in a mediocre fashion (still does!) and almost everyone is dissatisfied with what they do. I did notice one thing though – the rationalizer may undercut and undermine the data but they use it carefully and positively at a later stage when they are questioned on negative performance.

  27. 35

    I had a couple of really bad experience with Buble Queene and the Rationalizer. but never realized they as different types of leaderships. They were just bad leaders in my eyes.

    But there is a lot of analytical things. You know, your knowledge (and your sharing) makes me think what the archetype is me. Do I really the Curious One in all my work situations.

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    Alexzander says

    WOW, excellent article which I stumbled upon when reading one of your analytics posts. I though I was reading something that was about a previous boss i had the pleasure (sarcasm) of working with! They were actually a mix of the Bubble king/queen and attacker. I guess you could say attacking bubble king/queen.

    The negative data should present an opportunity to enhance upon strategies that are clearly not performing as well as they could but as you said unless its a super positive data set then at times its pointless presenting it at all. Going to pass this round the office in the hope it will liberate a few minds :)

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    Dave Finnigan says

    Avinash – I come to you as a Curious One in a leadership position of my own creation as CEO of a startup, begun at this opportune or disastrous time in history, depending on your mind-set. You can see what we are trying to do at

    My problem is that I have been using the energy of undergraduate interns in the social and life sciences to create and now to promote what we feel is a vital mission-based book and website designed to get families to take action on the next crisis that we must address. Now we need to really pull out all the social media and digital marketing stops and move our project forward, but you can see we are only 42 backers and 16% of the way toward our goal (after 3 days).

    What I wonder is whether you have contact with students/colleagues who might want to "practice" with our program as their material, and see how far they can take this project in the realms of marketing and eventual analytics? We can wait until June and see how well we have done using our limited abilities (the control) and then let another team take over either on Indiegogo or another platform, and see how far they can take the effort (the experiment). Or "helpers" could come to the fore now and raise our curve and take deserved credit for the rise.

    Either way it will be helpful for the planet, and whoever helps will get praised in the book and thanked by the future.

    To establish my Curious One cred let me tell you that I'm 78 years old and did have a marketing plan which I had enacted before which was to launch in the Fall, going to elementary schools, convening Family Nights, and marketing the book to parents. I did this previously with great success with a program called Juggling for Success touting several books I was offering to families. (Google "books by Dave Finnigan") Over a 30 year period I visited over 2,000 schools in 56 states and sold over 1,000,000 books. With everyone "home schooling" that tried and true plan went out the window, but we still need to finish the book and the website, so as a certified Curious One I set out on the current path, to use Indiegogo.

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    Navjyot Pandey says

    Really nice post avinash, your words are really helpful to your readers

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    Patrick Hudson says

    Great insight!

    I have grown accustomed to thinking of my own "spin" on negative data before they are presented. I realize, perhaps subconsciously until reading this, that by doing this I am often just covering up a deeper problem within the organization. However, I often feel that it is not worth the argument with ESLs who see this as a stain on the business and not an opportunity for improvement.

    In the past, I have seen the power to promote change that negative data can influence. Unfortunately, without a CO in charge, this change often comes only when that negativity is thrust into view as it begins to affect other aspects of the business that cannot be ignored or pushed aside.

    Data is powerful, and I will use this perspective to improve my own analysis and attempt to educate other leaders within the organization to foster a culture of Curious Ones

  32. 40

    Thank you for this article.

    This is true for young leaders as well. I think it's more a matter of psychology than a matter of generation

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    Julian Regina says

    What an interesting take, I am definitely a part of the curious category that's for sure!

    Always a great read at Kaushik dot net! Many thanks Aninash! Need you back on the 6 Pixels podcast! You were great!!



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