The four X Factors of Exceptional Leaders
Building on data collected from 2008 to 2018 and in-depth interviews with more than 2,500 executives, four X factors that distinguish great leaders emerge clearly.
1- Great leaders simplify complexity and operationalize it
2- They drive ambition for the whole organization
3- They play well on teams they don't lead
4- They build leaders
How to develop X-Factor leaders ?
These four leadership traits can be cultivated and measured on a variety of objective and subjective levels. Much of the data and capability to measure the traits already lies within organizations, which just need to prioritize what to look for. We see three guiding principles for developing the four leadership traits described above.
First, organizations must decide if they are going to be explicit about reinforcing these traits as measures for success. If yes, the traits must be communicated and reinforced at three different levels to be effective: with the board, with the current C-suite, and within executive development strategies and architecture.
Second, their development programs for grooming senior leaders should be more integrated around business strategy and on-the-job coaching. In this way, coaching avoids the pitfalls of becoming theoretical or strictly behavioral, and instead becomes tied in with experiential development.
Third, organizations must establish a simple but long-range metric or dashboard for tracking the leader’s performance or development on these traits over time and across different roles. Yes, there are clear core deliverables required of any new role, but organizations must also be developing and assessing the X factors of their performance during each assignment.
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