What is it about the popular reality show The “X” Factor that has so many of us glued enthusiastically to our television sets every week? For one thing, we like success stories. It feels good to see talented, engaging and passionate people reach their goals. As I was watching, it occurred to me that there are some strong parallels between the “X” Factor and management. And as every one of us knows, when you’re “on,” and that feeling in your gut says you’re doing something right, it’s about as close to experiencing the “X” factor as you can get.

When Passion and Capabilities Converge

The premise of the show is to seek out talent by discovering people who happen to have something special – the “X” factor – that makes them superstars. During the audition phase, people from all walks of life try out: children, parents, even grandparents. But in every case, when candidates are chosen, it is because they have a combination of passion, skills and talent. Having one or even two of the three is not sufficient.

The audition process ushers in thousands of people eager to make it big. If you’ve ever seen the show, you know it’s painfully obvious which folks are never going to make it through. Admittedly, these are the auditions many of us enjoy. However, there are many, many others who are not successful despite being surprisingly talented. The “aha” moment for me came when I realized that a beautiful voice lacking emotion, or a passionate vocal debut that is off-key, or even a highly talented voice with a poor song selection is not enough to differentiate oneself as having the “X” factor. It takes a combination of raw talent, skilled craft and passion working together to showcase the “X” factor.

Effective Managers Need A Balance Of Capability, Knowledge and Application

For managers, there it an exact parallel that needs to take place to reach “X” factor status. Managers need to have:

Like on the TV the show, each quality on its own, while important for success, is not enough to be effective. Managers need to have the capability to work at the level they’ve been assigned. They also need the skills and knowledge required to successfully complete the work. Finally, effective managers need to want to do the work. They need to value what they do with a passion that lets them apply themselves fully. When all of these qualities are working together, balanced and efficient, the magic that makes a truly effective manager can shine through.

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