The X Factor Leader


“X Factor”: An unknown or indefinable element.

With all of the hype about Simon Cowell’s X Factor singing competition show opening in the U.S. this fall, I thought it would be fun to try to define what we’d see in an X Factor leader.

It isn’t often that we have the opportunity to observe a leader with the X Factor. The X Factor is a set of special qualities that set a leader apart from the crowd. It’s something followers wish all of their leaders had, but it is rare indeed.

The manager with the X Factor does so much more than lead. The X Factor leader brings a certain grace, deeply held beliefs and core values into her work. She understands that her job is not only to complete the mission of their organization, but to also care about the people in it. And in that caring, the X Factor leader “gets it”. She knows that nurturing a culture of learning, respect, service, values and (dare we say the “L” word) love – will not only inspire and motivate employees, but will also have an effect on the organization or community served.


The X Factor leader is ever-aware of the impact she makes on others. She knows that when she models behavior, there is a ripple effect. She chooses wisely to model desirable leadership behaviors and is present to his behavior at all times. She holds other leaders in the organization accountable to:

Know when to manage and when to lead;

Provide ongoing and frequent communication about vision, mission, strategy and values;

Make professional learning and personal excellence a priority for themselves and others;

Intentionally seek out feedback and frequently take the pulse of the organization;

Believe that most employees are smart and able to make sound decisions in the areas they are experts in; and

Express gratitude for the hard work done by employees at every opportunity.

One can sense that employees are engaged and motivated when they walk in the door of the organization led by an X Factor leader by the way they are greeted, helped, valued, and thanked. Without prompting, employees will tell you that they LOVE their job. They do whatever it takes to get things done.


The X Factor leader must be ever careful to avoid stepping over the ego line. They must remain humble by practicing gratitude, asking for feedback, and keeping trusted advisors around them to let me know when they’ve gone too far. When that happens, they admit their mistakes, ask for forgiveness and correct their behavior.

X Factor leaders are out there. Are you one? Do you know of one? What qualities have you seen in X Factor leaders?

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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