While listening to the radio in the car this morning , I heard that The X-Factor would be returning to our screens this weekend, marking the start of autumnal TV. I haven’t watched it since it first started, so most memories I associate with the series are fragmented, including Simon Cowell rolling his eyes frequently and performers such as Darius (or was he on Pop Idol?) crooning into the microphone, remember him?
The reason I it stuck in my mind today is that I went to an event last week entitled “Have you got the Leadership X-Factor?” The event was presented by Gail Logan of Kore Transformation and organised by Sharon Moore MBE through the BCS Women Scotland and RBS Women networks and it was held at RBS Gogarburn just outside Edinburgh. The audience included women from large organisations such as universities, the NHS and banks, coders, team leaders and entrepreneurs.
The title was inspired by a book called The High Potential’s Advantage by Jay A. Conger and Allan H. Church that focusses on how to be seen as a high potential leader in your organisation. As Gail highlighted during the session, most large companies have a talent list comprised of promising individuals that the company aims to develop and promote within their ranks. The list, and how to get your name on it, is usually a well kept secret: what are the criteria they are looking for in a future leader? What do they expect from people on the list already? This is where the X-factors come in.
Initial discussion in the room about the elements of inspiring leadership centered around authenticity, being visible and having a positive impact on those people around you. The session expanded to describe the five X-factors that differentiate those who make it on to the talent list:
- Situation sensing
- You figure out what your boss needs from you and deliver it;
- You understand how your boss operates so that you can be complementary and easy to manage;
- You seek new opportunities and problems to solve, even if they are outwith the scope of your role.
- Talent accelerating
- You motivate the people that work with you and manage them well, optimising your team’s performance;
- You spot talented people and help them to develop, giving them relevant opportunities.
- Career piloting
- You accept tasks that stretch you, give you broader experience and expand your skillset;
- You are comfortable with ambiguity and ask for help to perform;
- In pressured situations, you remain calm and help others to focus.
- Complexity translating
- You are aware of how to communicate with everyone effectively at all levels of the organisation and others engage with you, no matter how complex or technical the subject matter.
- Catalytic learning (underpins 1 – 4)
- You regularly reflect on your career and how you can improve and develop.
- You look to the future, are a lifelong learner and have a personal action plan based on your past experience.
Though these will not all necessarily apply to academic roles or entrepreneurs (who might be the creators of their own talent lists) as the book targets a more corporate setting, I found them interesting to reflect on and discuss with the other participants. In particular, complexity translating: entrepreneurs are frequently asked to communicate with customers or pitch to investors and this often requires putting together a more succinct, clear and easily understandable message; academics regularly do the same, explaining their research to a variety of audiences including undergraduates, policymakers, the public and interdisciplinary colleagues with the aim of educating, inspiring and collaborating.
With regard to X-factor 5, lifelong learning and personal action planning, this is something I’ve been thinking about more this year. Being self-employed, I find that I need to take more time to plan my own learning and development, as opportunities to do so are not necessarily as accessible as they were before. Attending events such as this is always helpful and makes me realise I should be doing this more regularly, not just for the subject but also because of the people you meet and the insightful discussions you have there.
Hopefully this short post has encouraged to think about your own X-factors. Alternatively, if it’s Darius that has stuck in your mind as you were reading, I believe you can find him performing in musicals these days…