I’m on the school council for an elementary school in our area. Recently, we interviewed applicants for a key leadership position and made our recommendations to the school board. We were to interview them one at a time using 12 questions, then rank them in several areas, number our preferred candidates from first to third choice.

I’ve interviewed people several times before but this was the first time I was to interview people whom I knew nothing about until the day of the interviews. The applicants did not have the questions in advance and really had to “shoot from the hip”. Furthermore, they had to sit down before a small group of strangers who were going to fire these questions at them. And this was the last step in the school board making their final decision. Talk about pressure.

It was apparent that all of the candidates had done their homework and prepared for the interview. All of them had impeccable qualifications and experience. These were the top 3 candidates who had made the cut several times to get to this point.

Before interviews began, I wondered how I could really give a recommendation (possibly effecting someone’s career advancement potential) without really knowing them and without seeing each candidate in action over a period of time.

The answer? Leadership. When all things are equal, leadership is the X-factor. I don’t mean, they are able to say all the right leadership catch phrases and describe leadership styles. I mean, there’s just something about them that demonstrates their understanding of leadership and an ability to lead effectively. The dictionary defines “the X-factor” as “a quality that you cannot describe that makes someone very special.”

With one candidate, I clearly sensed the X-factor in my gut, but I forced myself to list what some of the leadership traits were that I saw in this person. Here’s the list I came up with. These are key qualities found in a good leader.

7 Key Leadership X-Factor Qualities

1. A Quiet Confidence
2. A Sense of Calling
3. Extreme Self-Awareness
4. A Clear and Compelling Vision
5. An Ability To Empathize
6. An Ability To Apply Wisdom
7. Courage To Be An Individual

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