What are the X Factors to Get to the Corner Office?

Hola Todos!

I am happy to say that the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University has an excellent leadership development program for undergraduates run by my friend Michael M. Reuter.

Mike stays in constant contact with his current and alumni leadership colleagues and loves to send out leadership nuggets. He calls blog Three Minute Leadership and always addresses his posts to “The Great Leaders Who Have A Passion for Continuous Learning.” Mike leans more towards the Y-type/servant leader side of the leadership continuum so needless to say, we get along well.  It is my absolute pleasure to forward along Mike’s words of wisdom and I only hope you get as many nuggets out of them as I do.


Dr. Dan-o


Three Minute Leadership: What are the X Factors to Get to the Corner Office?

By Michael M Reuter [Michael.Reuter@shu.edu]


To:  The Great Leaders Who Have a Passion for Continuous Learning


In a recent NYTimes.com article, “Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s,” Adam Bryant writes from his new book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed. From his interviews of 70 chief executives he shares his “five essentials for success – qualities that most of the C.E.O.’s share and look for in the people they hire.”  He sets the stage with the following:

“IMAGINE 100 people working at a large company. They’re all middle managers, around 35 years old. They’re all smart. All collegial. All hard-working. They all have positive attitudes. They’re all good communicators.   So what will determine who gets the next promotion, and the one after that? Which of them, when the time comes, will get that corner office? In other words, what does it take to lead an organization — whether it’s a sports team, a nonprofit, a start-up or a multinational corporation? What are the X factors?”

These qualities, he states, are not “genetic” but are “developed through attitude, habit and discipline – factors that are within your control.

Passionate Curiosity

“They ask big-picture questions. They wonder why things work the way they do and whether those things can be improved upon. They want to know people’s stories, and what they do.”

“You learn from everybody,” said Alan R. Mulally, the chief executive of the Ford Motor Company. “I’ve always just wanted to learn everything, to understand anybody that I was around — why they thought what they did, why they did what they did, what worked for them, what didn’t work.”

Battle-Hardened Confidence

“The best predictor of behavior is past performance, and that’s why so many chief executives interview job candidates about how they dealt with failure in the past. They want to know if somebody is the kind of person who takes ownership of challenges or starts looking for excuses.”

Team Smarts

“Early on, I was wowed by talent, and I was willing to set aside the idea that this person might not be a team player,” said Susan Lyne, chairman of the Gilt Groupe. “Now, somebody needs to be able to work with people — that’s No. 1 on the list. I need people who are going to be able to build a team, manage a team, recruit well and work well with their peers. The people who truly succeed in business are the ones who actually have figured out how to mobilize people who are not their direct reports.”

A Simple Mind-Set

“Most senior executives want the same thing from people who present to them: be concise, get to the point, make it simple. A lot of people have trouble being concise. Next time you’re in a meeting, ask somebody to give you the 10-word summary of his or her idea.”

“There was a time when simply having certain information was a competitive advantage. Now, in the Internet era, most people have easy access to the same information. That puts a greater premium on the ability to synthesize, to connect dots in new ways and to ask simple, smart questions that lead to untapped opportunities.”


“One of the things that I characterize as fearlessness is seeing an opportunity, even though things are not broken,” said Ursula M. Burns, the C.E.O. of Xerox. “Someone will say: ‘Things are good, but I’m going to destabilize them because they can be much better and should be much better. We should change this.’ The easiest thing to do is to just keep it going the way it’s going, especially if it’s not perfect but it’s not broken. But you have to be a little bit ahead of it, and you have to try to fix it well before you have to. Companies get into trouble when they get really complacent, when they settle in and say, ‘O.K., we’re doing O.K. now.’ ”

Adams concludes saying: “These five qualities help determine who will be chosen for bigger roles and more responsibility.”  Adams defines these as the ‘X factors’ that will differentiate the great leaders, and they are all within your control.  Yet, there are many others (e.g. integrity, creativity, emotional intelligence) defined by situation or culture, that the great leaders require to be effective and successful in leading their people and organizations.  It is their challenge and desire to be more than they ever dreamed they could be.  As John F. Kennedy once said:  “Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other.” Enjoy the beauty, joy and magnificence of your leadership journey, and be an incredible teacher and inspiration to those you serve.

Have a beautiful day and a fantastic week!!!



Contact Information:

Michael M. Reuter

Director, Center for Leadership Development

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

Tel: (Office) 973.275.2528; (Mobile) 908.419.6060

Email: Michael.Reuter@shu.edu 


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