Where's Your "X Factor" of Leadership?

mindset for leaders x factor x factor of leadership Apr 20, 2022

Mindset: The "X Factor" of Significant Leadership

Yes, I talk a lot about mindset as a component of successful leadership. Over the years, we’ve had lots of blog posts on creating a growth mindset as well as podcasts on the topic (check out our podcast on mindset). In my mind, it is THE foundation of all success...and failure. If you think it, it will happen. I believe that thoughts become things. My focus on mindset is because, I too once had a negative mindset myself– truly I did. It took years to develop that negative mindset, and it took just as long or longer along with an intentional focus on developing some new habits, that helped me become more positive in my outlook on life and leadership.

This week, I focus on this key area again, because I want to talk about how Mindset is truly the X factor of leadership (and life). I want to offer you, the reader, some things that helped me create a success mindset that I believe will make you a better person and a significant leader.

The X Factor is a popular show on television and in their definition, the  “x” factor is defined as “a noteworthy special talent or quality,” much as the show demonstrates. But when it comes to leadership, the “X” factor is really that variable that in any given situation could have the most significant impact on the outcome. This is why mindset is the “x” factor in leadership.

You know those days when you feel just awful to be you or something happens with your spouse or child that turns your mood upside down? Or maybe you’re feeling terrific as you walk into the office only to have a member of your staff derail your good mood with bad news.

You know the days? Right?

Well, when we have a not-so-good or negative mindset, you can bet that your “x” factor will negatively impact your thoughts and actions. Conversely, when you are in a positive mindset, your “x” factor will be more positive thus creating more positive thoughts and actions. As leaders, we want to make our actions and decisions from as clear-headed a space as possible. Having the right mindset is a key factor in making quality decisions and to having the most impact as a leader. Yes, it sounds simple, but it isn’t easy.

So, how do we keep our “x” factor (mindset) in the positive or at least neutral position?

Well, there’s a lot of advice out there and believe me, in the law enforcement profession, it isn’t always possible to stay positive or even neutral despite our best efforts, but I do believe with some practice, you can develop some good habits that enable you to enhance your mindset and have an “x” factor that significantly impacts your leadership outcomes.

Let’s look at some of the habits that I have and continue to cultivate that I have found most helpful in reshaping my mindset:

  • I.G.O. Garbage In, Garbage Out: This is a term made popular in the early days of the internet and referring to the fact that if you put in garbage, you’ll get garbage out. The same is true of your mind. If you consume an endless stream of negative news, videos, t.v. shows, etc., you are likely going to have a negative view or paradigm of the world. Your mindset will be the direct result of your paradigm or lens through which you view the world. Of course you have to stay on top of the news and stay informed of what is going on around you, just develop habits that create positive inputs as well.  Be sure to read books and biographies of people who overcame difficulties or that instill a sense of confidence and enthusiasm.  Watch YouTube videos that are inspirational, especially when you are not feeling on top of your game. Knowing who inspires you and motivates you positively are great “tools” to have available. Developing a routine that enables you to consume positive media (while still staying informed) is a key habit to cultivate.


  • If You Think It, You’re Right: There’s a famous saying that whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. Another family member used to always say thoughts are things so beware of your thoughts including your “self-talk.” We have something like 70,000 thoughts daily and nearly 80% of them are negative AND self-deprecating! So, find a way to get out of this loop! Some habits that work include using a journal to record the positive things about yourself.  I met a lady in one of my classes who used to put “post-it" notes on her bathroom mirror that had all of the positive things about herself on them AND what her goals were like “become a lieutenant” The point is to begin to counter the negative thoughts and self-talk with positives. Find ways to compliment others as part of this process. When you are positive, it will tend to come back to you.


  • Establish daily rituals that feed your mind, body, and spirit: I work out just about every morning whether I’m traveling or at home; whether it’s raining or not; whether it’s weekend or a weekday. You see it’s a huge part of my daily ritual that helps me feed all three areas. The workout feeds my body which in turn gets my mind working and, in doing both, my spirit is filled with more optimism overall. Some of my best ideas come to me during this time. Find the daily ritual that works for you and see what happens.


  • Surround yourself with people who instill a success mindset: Did you know that each of us is a product of the 5 people with whom we spend the most time? Now, I realize that we can’t always pick our co-workers and sometimes our life partner may not be the ray of sunshine and positivity that we would hope, but we can find people in our personal and professional lives who possess a success mindset. Whose goals are in line with ours and who exhibit the traits and talents we want in ourselves. By taking the time to find these people and to spend time with them, you will be setting good habits for years to come.


  • Develop A Success Mindset: When you have your 5 people with whom you are surrounding yourself, you’ll want to work on cultivating your success mindset. In fact, all of these suggestions will hopefully lead you to this outcome, but what is a success mindset? Well, those leaders that have it do these things consistently:
  1. a) They take action despite our fears and doubts – be brave as a leader is key. Followers know you don’t know all the answers and may even be wrong, but they respect leaders who take action even in the face of danger and doubt for success. They are willing to take the calculated risk
  2. b) They look at problems as challenges - part of that growth mindset that Carol Dweck talks about where problems are there to be “solved” not to “prohibit” you from succeeding
  3. c) They stay grounded and calm in stressful situations – never let them see you sweat probably sums this up best
  4. d) They are resilient - in fact, being resilient is key component to long-term success. Find ways to overcome obstacles and setbacks by developing resiliency
  5. e) They are proactive and decisive - through their experience, knowledge, and observations, they see more before others and can therefore be proactive in their decisions. Because of their proaction, their followers see them as decisive.

Mindset is truly the “x” factor for leaders. It is my wish that these suggestions will help you develop an “x” factor for success. Make sure your mindset is in the right place and you be amazed at what you can achieve. As I always say, “change your mindset, change your life.”

Until next week,


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