Five X-Factors that Mark Out a Leader

When we think about leadership, we are often conceptualizing it in terms of the very top level of leadership – the CEOs, directors and other senior executives. But in my experience, leadership can be found at every level of a business – in fact, it should be. For without a culture of leadership, organizations suffer under their own weight, perform poorly and lose connection with their customers, stakeholders and employees. But what do these leaders look like? I tend to agree with the breakdown from this infographic by the Harvard Business School. They identify five “X-Factors” that mark a leader out for the C-suite – passionate curiosity, battle-hardened confidence, team smarts, simple mindset and fearlessness. Allow me to expand these from my own point of view (and I’d encourage you to reframe these from your own experiences as well):

1. Passionate curiosity

The leader must not only show an interest, but also have the drive to follow that interest. Where will this lead you? Perhaps into conflict with your current boss – or up the corporate ladder. But many of us lose our curiosity and our passion as we grow older. This cannot be allowed to happen to you – for the challenge of the leader is to cultivate their curiosity in all circumstances and situations.

2. Battle-hardened confidence

A leader, and particularly a CEO, must wear their experiences as a badge of honor. We must use our experiences in a way that shapes and feeds our sense of confidence, which in turn, radiates through the organization. For the aspiring leader, this means not shying away from difficulties but dealing with them with all the grace that you can muster.

3. Team smarts

You can’t be the chief executive of a one person business – despite what a million startup founders will tell you. To accomplish good, great or amazing things, you will need to work with teams. And across your career you will collaborate with teams of all shapes and skills. Learn to learn – and work to understand the way that your different teams work and you will achieve the goals that you set not only for yourself but for everyone involved.

4. A simple mindset

Complexity is the enemy of success. You will find that there is always a reason for making a situation, project or product more complex. But for the leader, the challenge lays in ignoring the noise and focusing on the signal. This means simplifying.

5. Fearlessness

We all have doubts – but leaders must be willing to back themselves. This can be characterized as fearlessness, but I prefer to think about this as imaginative risk taking. The leader must be able to weigh up the options, assess the risks imaginatively, and then take decisions.

With these X-Factors in mind, look at the people you admire and respect within your business. Can you see their qualities? What else can you see? What X-Factors have I missed? Leave me a comment and share your observations.

Nina Simosko

Nina Simosko serves as President and CEO of NTT Innovation Institute Inc. (NTT i3), the prestigious Silicon Valley-based innovation center for NTT Group, one of the world’s largest ICT companies. She previously held executive leadership roles with Nike Technology and SAP, and currently serves on the advisory boards of two early-to-mid stage technology companies: Reflektion and AppOrchid. Nina’s blog, www.ninasimosko.com provides current and aspiring leaders with a forum for ideas and discussion. Follow @NinaSimosko on Twitter.

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020
20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020

20 of our favorite leadership quotes by women At Be Leaderly, we’re on a mission

Happy Holidays 2019
Happy Holidays 2019

May your Holidays sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year

5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading
5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading

To become a leader, there is a series of key shifts in mindset and behavior

You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths
You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…
Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Book Review of Woman of Influence: A Handbook for Building a Professional Brand
Book Review of Woman of Influence: A Handbook for Building a Professional Brand

The first book review of Woman of Influence is in! Here’s what Jo Miller’s hometown

Leaderly Quote: Don’t become indispensable for doing work that hides your potential
Leaderly Quote: Don’t become indispensable for doing work that hides your potential

Don’t become indispensable for doing work that… • hides your potential • sells short your

Unhappy at Work? Persuade Your Boss to Redefine Your Job.
Unhappy at Work? Persuade Your Boss to Redefine Your Job.

Every morning, Jonas backs into a parking spot at work so he can leave faster

If You’re Not Seizing Stretch Assignments at Work, You’re Doing It Wrong.
If You’re Not Seizing Stretch Assignments at Work, You’re Doing It Wrong.

These bonus opportunities have the power to boost your leadership cred and wholly transform your

The Case for Why Millennial Women Should Job-Hop
The Case for Why Millennial Women Should Job-Hop

There are strong arguments for and against the debated practice, but for millennial women, job-hopping

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2020, Be Leaderly