How Leaders Use “The X Factor” To Make Key Decisions

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One of the most common tools leaders use to make decisions is the tried and true method of listing the pros and cons.

It’s a great tool.

Except when it doesn’t work.

The potential flaw in this system is the “X Factor”. Not the Simon Cowell TV show: In leadership, an X Factor is a gut-level instinct that trumps a list of pros and cons, and which might even fly in the face of your rational leadership instincts.

Case in point.

As my wife Nora and I recently wrestled through the decision as to whether we should remain living in Kelowna, Canada, or relocate to Chicago, Illinois, we dutifully made lists entitled, “Should we stay in Kelowna?”

Our list was so heavily weighted on staying in Kelowna it very nearly swayed us to remain in our home of 25 years.

Except that we had failed to take in to account a critical “X Factor”.

In our case, the X Factor was an issue of trust in God’s provision.

Nora settling into life in Chicago

While never claiming to have heard an audible voice from God, nonetheless both Nora and I became increasingly aware that God was asking us to set aside our agenda (Kelowna versus Chicago) and instead to focus on the bigger question: “Do we really trust God in every part of our lives?”

Once we came to terms with the trust question, the other decisions all fell into place.

In the process we learned three key lessons that could help you when facing your own leadership decisions:

1.   Pros and cons lists are helpful, but they should not be viewed as definitive. 

2.   Every decision could be influenced by a hidden X Factor.

3.   Effective leaders take the time to discern what X Factors might be at play before making a key decision.

The next time you’re faced with a key decision, by all means make out your pros and cons list.

But don’t be surprised if a “still small voice” whispers that the key to making the right call might not be found in that list.

If so, you could be coming face to face with you own leadership X Factor.

In what ways has an “X Factor” helped you in making key decisions?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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