What is analytical leadership and who can do it?

Analytical leadership is a professional way of working with data, analysis or statistics that enables them to be consistently, confidently and competently produced and used as evidence. Effective analytical leadership ensures the right data and analyses are available for informed, effective policy- and decision-making within government; that analysts are skilled and resourced to answer society’s most important questions; and that analytical evidence is more routinely made available to the public. It supports public confidence in how analytical evidence is produced and used by government, and in the government policies and decisions based on that evidence, with potential to narrow the current gap on this between those working inside and outside of government.

We saw first-hand how data and analysis entered the spotlight and were used and valued across government during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, there was demand from both within and outside of government, including from citizens, for data on which to base personal and organisational decisions. The demand for information about increased costs of living shows the continued profile of analytical evidence and its influence on what is happening within society across important policy questions.

Everyone working in government can and should demonstrate analytical leadership, regardless of profession or seniority. Senior leaders have an important role to play, but everyone, if properly equipped and enabled, can help support and foster a professional, evidence-driven culture across government.

Analytical leadership is key to realising many of the ambitions in the UK Government’s Declaration on Government Reform, which set out commitments to put data more fully at the heart of government decision-making. These commitments include:

  • using data to evaluate the effectiveness of programmes against ambitions;
  • sharing data across government so that policy is informed and government can be held to account;
  • bolstering traditional skills in drafting and understanding statistical concepts, with expertise in digital, data and science;
  • training ministers in how to assess evidence.

In this context, developing analytical leadership skills and having confidence when working with data and analysis is important for everyone in government.

How can analytical leadership be demonstrated?

Analytical leadership is best demonstrated when departmental cultures and governance structures actively promote the benefits of evidence-driven collaborative working and the development of analytical capability and skills. Crucially, analytical leadership requires recognition of the value and power of sound analytical evidence for informing robust policy and decisions, and for individuals to be champions for it – recognising it as both an essential government and a public asset when published.

OSR’s interest in analytical leadership builds on its previous work on Statistical leadership. Although within government we often differentiate between statistics, data and analysis, to the outside user there is often no difference. Statistics and analysis are intertwined: strong statistics support strong analysis, and both require effective communication to support decision makers and public information needs.

This report shows how analytical leadership can support successful policy and decision-making to ultimately improve the lives of UK citizens. It provides a range of case studies, gathered by OSR through discussions with senior analytical leaders (see Annex A) to illustrate some of the impressive things that are possible when people working in government demonstrate effective analytical leadership. We hope these case studies will inspire and help others in government to take similar positive action. They are grouped under six enablers of analytical leadership, which people from different professions and levels of seniority can draw on to enable a stronger, data-driven culture within their organisations.

Enablers of analytical leadership

  1. Foster an evidence-driven culture. This enabler highlights the importance of facilitating evidence-based policy and decisions; having non-analysts create demand for analytical evidence; having visible analytical leaders at the highest levels; and championing outstanding analytical work.
  2. Demonstrate transparency and integrity. This enabler demonstrates the need for analytical evidence to feed into policy and meet public needs in an orderly and transparent way; to demonstrate leadership through the effective communication of evidence; and the integrity to challenge evidence misrepresentation and misuse, including by correcting the public record.
  3. Collaborate across organisations to add value. This enabler shows the importance of working across professional and organisational silos; combining expertise from multiple professions; and adding value with external expertise.
  4. Embed structures to support evidence. This enabler illustrates the need for structures that integrate evidence into policy and decision-making by default; and structures that support effective cross-profession collaboration.
  5. Invest in analytical capacity and capability. This enabler highlights the importance of improving analytical capability; embracing new tools to meet future evidence demand; and pooling resources to improve capacity.
  6. Draw on analytical standards and expert functions. This enabler demonstrates the importance of promoting and following professional analytical standards; and drawing on UK analytical expertise.

By combining the six enablers of analytical leadership with a commitment to ensuring Trustworthiness, Quality and Value in evidence – a ‘Think TQV’ approach – everyone in government can demonstrate analytical leadership when working with data, analysis or statistics used as evidence. Through this, everyone can contribute to the UK Government’s Declaration on Government Reform commitments to put data more fully at the heart of decision-making.

TQV: a framework to support analytical leadership and public confidence

Different professions across government utilise many important frameworks that support aspects of analytical leadership (see Section 6). The standards for government official statistics, set out in the UK Statistics Authority Code of Practice for Statistics, are one such framework.

The three pillars of the Code – Trustworthiness, Quality and Value – can be applied more widely than official statistics, to support the way that all government analysis is produced, used and valued, and to support public confidence in government’s production and use of evidence. Anyone in government can demonstrate analytical leadership by taking a ‘Think TQV’ approach, asking themselves questions like:

‘How do I and my organisation ensure…’

  1. …we produce and use data, analysis and statistics to inform policy and decision-making with professional integrity in an orderly, secure and transparent way which supports public confidence and helps demonstrate that we are Trustworthy?
  2. …the analytical evidence that we produce and use to inform or evaluate policy and decisions is based on appropriate data and sound methods, and is of known and suitable Quality?
  3. …the analytical evidence that we produce and use is sufficiently relevant, accessible and clear and helps to answer questions of significantValue for our users, stakeholders or customers, and for public citizens and other beneficiaries, wherever possible?

OSR has published a suite of universal principles that distils the Code down to a few key aspects, which organisations can draw on when thinking about the relevance of, and how to apply, TQV.

However, ‘Thinking TQV’ is most powerful once individuals or organisations recognise the value of having a strong evidence-driven culture for informing effective policy and decision-making, and/or are motivated to develop one. This is where a focus on the six enablers of analytical leadership is helpful.

The following sections of this report show how ‘Thinking TQV’ aligns with the enablers of analytical leadership. They present a range of case studies to show how these cross-cutting enablers are important in driving a mature, evidence-driven culture that supports confidence in both analytical evidence and the decisions based on that evidence. The case studies highlight the important roles of various players in enabling a stronger, data-driven culture within their organisations, including senior analytical and non-analyst leaders, as well as policy, operational and communications colleagues.

Next steps

Everyone in government has an important role in championing the use of analytical evidence and being confident in engaging with analytical experts. It is everyone’s responsibility to think about their interactions with the data that is produced and/or used as evidence in their roles, and to consider how best to demonstrate analytical leadership in their work. Doing so will help to ensure that analytical leadership is demonstrated at all levels and in all parts of government, and that the information needs of public citizens are supported. Efforts made here will also support confidence beyond government in how analytical evidence is produced and used by government, and in the policies and wider decisions based on that evidence.

OSR is always delighted to hear and champion case studies that demonstrate effective analytical leadership, or to discuss barriers to analytical leadership. If you have a case study or would like to discuss a topic covered in this report, or analytical leadership more generally, please get in touch at

Back to top
Download PDF version (368.96 KB)