Executive Leadership Insights

Join 6000+ global readers receiving an original take on career strategy each Thursday morning.

SUBSCRIBE

The 4 X-Factors of Today's Leading Executives

clarity empowerment leadership self understanding Sep 22, 2022

As more and more armchair quarterbacks, sitting on their thrown of perceived influence, look downfield to make hail-mary predictions about our economy, you'll notice that some made-up amount greater than 90% of people have no idea what they’re talking about.

But what do I know? 

My talking head Tik Tok influence is zilcho millions of Gen Z followers. And I can't bother to post half-baked unpopular hot-takes on LinkedIn...

line break

line break

line break

emoji 👍🏻

...for the Millennial crowd. Plus, I prefer not to post to the world when I cry about laying off two employees.

We live in tumultuous times.

A real estate agent will tell you to double down on your home and buy high at triple the interest rate. A leftist economist will say that two negative quarters of GDP isn’t a recession (but only until after midterms)—and a right-aligned economist will tell you the world is burning to rubble (but only until the elephant steps on the donkey). 

A car salesPERSON will argue why you should spend $10,000 above MSRP for a BMW, pickup truck, or used Kia, for that matter. A stock broker would have you throw it all on red and spin the wheel—after all, that’s where wealth is really made, right?

Everyone has an agenda, and you ain't it.

Printing ten trilly bucks, global resource depletion, declining fertility rates, jacked-up supply chains, and the widening gap for low-skilled work are too complicated for the laity to understand.

And our latest America vs. China vs. Russia global superpower WMD showdown via proxy war in a politically manipulated middle-of-nowhere country like Vietnam Korea Afghanistan Iraq Ukraine and Taiwan should NOT cause concern. Nothing to see here… Move along…

There is one thing you can always bank on, the times they are a-changin.' And there is opportunity in chaos. Or haven't you heard? 

 

Raising The Executive Leadership Bar

History has shown us that when long periods of peace and prosperity decline into disarray, Herculean leadership must emerge to restore calm. 

As the volatility of the masses increases, so shall the need for truly unprecedented leadership. 

Maybe it's your time to shine.

Today's executives must decide to raise the bar on their leadership or wither on the vine. Conflict doesn't build character; it reveals it. 

(Political leaders should also raise the bar and lower the temperature—but hell, some say politicians aren’t real people—they’re demons mainlining adrenochrome sapped from sex trafficked migrant children.) #Q

Execs with big paychecks that fail to adapt must realize that they are oversized line items on the spreadsheet of corporate life. As a result, magnified cross-hairs focus on their back. 

I'd argue that many executives are overcompensated. 

Many engorged on the molten hot economy and catapulted into leadership positions. Their shortcomings were masked during the universal rising financial tide and the hyper-demand period for “any-body will do.” See also what was once “The Good Times.”

The faux-execs time to shine now fades beyond the horizon. But—the executives with the following x-factors will live to fight another day. 

 

X-Factor 1: Have A Strategic Mind & Tactician's Toolbelt

Executives must lead strategic vision and move quickly with tactical execution—BUT—any over-indexing in either direction will spell imminent doom to their tenure. Catch-22.

Execs that only excel at strategic positioning get replaced in organizations that need tactical agility to survive cut-throat economies. 

Conversely, execs that roll up their sleeves too much diminish their competitive leadership value and are consolidated in favor of cheaper independent contributors.  

You must understand your corporate playing field quickly and master the double-edged sword of strategy and tactics to stand a chance. 

PRO TIP: Align your work with revenue and prove your impact. Take extra hours to prepare your story and ensure that your performance is well-known by all key stakeholders. 

Rod Tidwell told Jerry Maguire to show him the money because if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense to keep your agent—or executive, no matter how much you like them as a person.  

 

X-Factor 2: Own A Positive Narrative & Create Safety 

Speaking of over-indexing, I enjoy my fair share of doomsaying. Fox and CNN should recruit me to fuel their propaganda engines. 

Okay, I recognize the media is doo-doo paper, but my point is that the media influences the teams you lead. (And maybe you too). 

The persistent doom and gloom affects team performance and it needs to be addressed. 

Remember that big tech layoff? That affected your team morale. 

Remember that military threat overseas? That affected your team morale. Remember Fauci? Jerome Powell? The housing market, the price of milk, the deplorable pissed-off middle America, and the nosed-up ambiance of coastal elites? 

Yes, all of that bombardment of negativity affects your team morale. You must be the buffer and build a safer environment. Maybe your staff can even find relief in the team setting you build. 

Exec leaders must acknowledge these highly publicized events and recognize that they will uniquely affect different team members (whether they politically agree with what’s happening or not). 

2x, 5x, or 10x these factors if you're leading a globally remote team with its own set of distinct cultural and geographical challenges.

You must address these challenges, even if you don’t have the answers. 

Your team needs to know that you recognize their frustrations and understand or have a shred of compassion for them if you ever hope to redirect them to more positive areas to concentrate their minds. Like working for you.

In other words, you need to get ahead of the chaos and keep your team upbeat and focused—not bury your head in the sand and avoid the conversation because it’s difficult.

 

X-Factor 3: Adapt The Communication Style

Following a similar thread, executives must adapt their communication styles to meet contextual and cultural demands. Diversity isn't going anywhere. Teams are still remotely dispersed worldwide, plus Timbuktu (much to my chagrin).

You must draw on a broad range of approaches to deepen your influence on others. 

Dwindling are the days where (generally speaking) toxic masculinity and shouting the same tone-deaf message will force your organization into submission. I'm unsure whether Oracle and Amazon got the message, but I'm often wrong. 

TL;DR Have empathy and adapt to the context.

 

X-Factor 4: Agile Learning

If I could only pick one x-factor, agile learning is the area where executives should concentrate most. No matter how intelligent and accomplished you are, you must humble yourself and never quench your thirst for knowledge. 

Is it due to the speed of innovation? Perhaps. Though, I'd argue that we're not always innovating for the betterment of humanity these days. 

Instead—we must recognize that the speed of change is breakneck fast. Trends rocketship into unicorn territory and magically disappear with little trace. Just ask SoftBank.

Data is growing at a faster rate than ever before.

90% of the world's data was created in the last two years. And every two years, the volume of data across the world doubles in size.

The pace of computer technology wipes the floor with our squishy human brains and it isn't even close. It's funny because we did this to ourselves. 

Put your learning cap back on. Admit when you don't know the answer. Take ownership of closing the deficits on your soft and hard skills—and never give up on learning.

EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS NEWSLETTER

Get the latest executive career insights each Thursday.

“I get a lot of newsletters. I skim most of them. I read to the end each time I get one from Jacob. Sign up, you won't be disappointed.”

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.