The Leadership X Factor of Goodness

This article is another in the series of leadership X factors. We previously discussed the leadership X factors of attitude and respecting the office of others. Today we look at the crucial X factor of understanding our core natures or driving essences.

I have many friends and acquaintances that are making a difference every day of their lives. They are mothers, fathers, managers, spiritual guides, CEOs and international leaders. They are security guards, gardeners, lawyers, authors, poets, mechanics, technicians, engineers, accountants and editors. Those that stand out in my mind are invariably men and woman who have a profound instinctive sense of their own life or leadership essences and that such instincts or essences are by nature good. In other words, they believe that deep down, in spite of their many frailties and weaknesses as human beings, they are driven by a passion to be good people and to benefit others around them. People who doubt their essential goodness have a real problem in living up to universal values such as honesty, loyalty, charity and performance. 

Life or leadership essences

In this column we often mention the imperative of having a positive attitude or what we call a seamless attitude that moves barriers to potential. The foundation of a seamless attitude may be found in our self-image. Who and what am I really? We have written articles before about discovering our leadership or life essences so that we may more fully appreciate our deeply embedded driving instincts. It is one thing to claim that ‘I believe in my divine potential’ or that ‘I believe that I am destined to make a difference’. It is another thing to believe this to be true!

Recent research

Readers may differ in opinions of their own origin and destiny. Our experience and leadership research indicates that the vast majority of leaders when given the opportunity to examine their inner feelings become aware of the essential goodness of their instinctive drives. This has been a surprising discovery on our part because on the surface so many people on first impression may appear to be practical or even cynical leaders that do not have much interest in examining their innermost feelings. Over the past 40 days or so I have personally interviewed over 40 leaders at various levels. Our discussions were on average about one hour in duration. A relationship of trust has been built over a period of time with each of those interviewed.

I was somewhat surprised to find that in every single case the person interviewed revealed that their most inner driving motives were to be good people. I believe that each of these people was aware of their personal weaknesses and limitations but that their essential being was driven by a desire to be good people.

Defining good

The illustrated Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘good’ in several fascinating ways.  These include the following: ‘Having the right and desired qualities’, ‘efficient and competent’, ‘reliable’, ‘kind’, ‘strong’, ‘morally excellent’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘accomplishment’ and ‘with honour’. Reading these definitions of the word ‘good’ made me feel somewhat embarrassed that I allow myself at times to feel wary of the word ‘good’!  I am now more careful of having my understanding of what is good corrupted by the self-righteousness, arrogance, pride, and deceit that is prevalent around us and in me if I am not perpetually watchful. 

The leadership X factor of trusting in our own essential goodness.

In our fast paced modern economy it may not be fashionable to claim that we try to be ‘good’ people. Many of us have great difficulty in believing that the majority of people out there have deep-rooted instincts to be good. The personal research mentioned above is but one of many evidences that indicates that most of us are prepared to acknowledge that our own driving essence is to be good people, but in general we find it difficult to believe that most others have similar deep-rooted feelings. Considerable mistrust exists towards others in general as a result of the constant flow of reports of corruption and guile and selfishness that flood the world.

The cascading power of trusting in our own goodness

There are many reasons why trusting in our own essential goodness is listed as a leadership X factor.

The following may be mentioned:

  1. The most important is probably the basic truth that our self-image is the single most important element of our attitude towards others and life in general. A sense of goodness is synonymous with a sense of universal values and purpose. The more I embrace my own legacy of good instincts the more I will incline towards excellence in performance at all levels. Value driven leadership confidence is directly in proportion to confidence in our own essential goodness and divine potential.
  2. As we mature in our respect for our own essential goodness, so also do we automatically orientate towards respect for the basic goodness in others around us. Nothing is more motivational of others around us than a passionate trust in their essential goodness and potential! We think of the words of Thomas A Monson in his ABC model for the abundant life: A is for (a positive) attitude, B is for belief in self and in others around us and C is for Courage. Courage is also an element of goodness!
  3. Nothing is quite as rewarding as a feeling of doing good! An attitude of doing good by respecting and sharing our talents with others is a key element of the best leaders.


Years ago I was reading an account of a person sitting on a train to London and finding out that the person sitting next to him was a counterfeit expert working for Scotland Yard, He asked the man: ‘You must be spending a lot of time studying all the different counterfeits?’. The expert replied; ‘No, I study the original’.

We should be wary of the many counterfeits of goodness and virtue and deceit that abound in our modern society. I believe that the best way to spot and avoid them is to study the original goodness in self and others. It is a social tendency to be experts at spotting the counterfeits, hypocrisy and corruption we see around us. As we study and focus on the counterfeits we may often lose our grip on our own essential goodness and fail to see the goodness in others. 

To claim our instinctive right to goodness in self and others is a remarkable leadership X factor.

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Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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