Have you got the Leadership XFactor?

Have you got the leadership XFactor?

I was delighted to have the opportunity to run a workshop and create a briefing paper for Girl Geek Scotland as part of their Critical Skills for Leadership programme.  We had an amazing venue for the event courtesy of White Space in Edinburgh. My topic was ‘Have you got the Leadership XFactor?’ based on research from the Harvard Business Review into what it means to be a high potential employee.

Baseline Criteria

I kicked off with a facilitated discussion on the table stakes criteria for being a high potential employee or leader which are suggested to be:

Deliver Results

Learn & Aquire New Skills


We also considered why it’s important, as a leader, to be able to demonstrate these skills.  The key call outs being:

Opportunities for Development


Access to the Top Talent List

The session then turned to the suggestion that high potential employees also tend to exhibit some key differentiators that truly set them apart from the rest of the pack.  These are not necessarily skills or competencies but rather intangible qualities that the authors of the research call ‘The XFactors’.

The XFactors

A Drive to Excel – a thirst for accomplishment, going the extra mile and making hard decisions

Catalytic Learning – being able to apply what has been learned for business impact and solution orientation

Enterprising Spirit – a hunger for new challenges, risk-taking and the ability to seize the right opportunities

Dynamic Sensors – an innate ability to be in the right place at the right time and being able to avoid foolish decision making




We explored these XFactors in small groups, each group probing into one specific XFactor and discussing:

  • how the XFactors can be applied in practice
  • how they can be developed
  • what pitfalls to expect
  • how to avoid them






I concluded the session with a summary, noting that a combination of the baseline criteria, together with the XFactors ultimately lead to success and promotion.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top