move into top gear

November 26, 2016

“It is a concept that the modern leader is wise to adopt—one part courage, one part can-do spirit, and one part recognition…” In his new book Moxie: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership, John Baldoni etches a well-tested road to bring out the Moxie leader in you.


I am a big fan of old movies, especially the dramas that focus on men and women who beat the odds. We say those characters have moxie.

Moxie sums up the guts and gumption a leader needs to succeed when times are tough and the circumstances are daunting. Individuals with moxie are those who seek to make a positive difference in their own lives as well as the lives of others around them. Leaders with moxie are doers, enablers, and achievers.

They are those with the courage to be counted, the get-up-and-go-to-take action, and the desire to get recognition for their teams as well as themselves. They typically have four key attributes:

fire: Leaders with moxie burn with a desire to make something happen. They have a passion for what they do and have a need to make a positive difference in the lives
of others.

drive: They have ambition. They want to get ahead and for that reason, they will make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. Their ambition is not all personal. They want others to share in their own good fortune.

resilience: Leaders with moxie know how to pick themselves up after a fall. They have known defeat. It does not scare them per se; it only provides motivation to get back up and try again. Not necessarily the same way.

street smarts: They know how the world works. They know how to read people—those who are with them as well as those who may be against them. They have a good sense of what makes people tick and for that reason, they are pretty savvy when it comes to making deals.
Leaders with moxie are those who have:

  • competence to do their jobs—they are often called ‘go-to’ people.
  • credibility to bring people together—people trust them to do the right job at the right time with the right resources.
  • confidence to believe in themselves as well as the strengths of others—people feel better being
    around them.

Put these characteristics together and you have the makings of someone who knows himself/herself and knows what it takes to succeed individually and collectively with the team.


MOXIE as an acronym

MOXIE also serves as an acronym for five qualities good leaders need to project. Let us look at them one at a time.



Savvy leaders develop self-knowledge through mindful practice. It can begin with patience. For many leaders whose internal motor powers them to act, the concept of patience can sometimes seem foreign. It can be perceived as being passive. In actuality, patience is an active process. While we cannot control the situation, we can control how we react to it.

Another form of mindfulness is situational awareness, knowing where you are and what you need to do next. Those who play sports well typically excel at situational awareness. They know where the opponent is and what they must do to make their play. They also know where their teammates are so they can work collectively and collaboratively to make plays.

Mindfulness is an approach to leadership in which the leader is focused not only on the moment, but also on the people in that moment who will affect the future of the organization. Mindful leaders are engaged and their engagement sets the example for others to follow.

While mindfulness originates from within, the practice of it puts the individual—in particular the leader—conscious of what is happening in the here and now as well as helping to focus on what may come in the future.



Opportunity, as the adage goes, comes to those who seek it. And that is critical for a leader. Few, if any, are content to sit back and wait for things to happen. They look for windows of opportunity where they can apply what they know and can do what needs to be done.

They are opportunistic in mindset, and are driven by their need to succeed to take advantage of what happens next.

Opportunity also requires perseverance, tenacity, and a mindset that is focused on achieving goals. Inherent in facing adversity is the willingness to look beyond the immediate problem to see possibilities over the horizon.

Successful leaders capitalize on opportunities, but they do something more. They create opportunities for others. The greatest untapped reservoir of organizational strength is purpose. Opportunities come to those who seek them and are willing to work hard to make them become real, even when the odds against success may be formidable.

Leaders are mindful of opportunities, but their approach is more than opportunistic. It is more holistic. That is they seek to create opportunities for themselves as well as others.



X-factors are integral to leadership because they provide the backbone a leader needs to stand up and be counted as well as the ability to do so with grace and dignity in ways that bring people together for a common cause.

Leaders are always on. The higher their profile, the bigger the stage, and their words and actions are magnified by the roles they hold. X-factors comprise many things that work—both individually and collectively—to help the leader.

These include ambition, creativity, humor, and compassion as well as three more words that begin with C—character, courage, and confidence. X-factors strengthen the leader’s commitment to doing what is best for the team and the organization. The sum of your X-factors gives you the foundation to do what you do better than anything else. It also lays a foundation of trust. Trust is the bedrock upon which you build followership.

Your X-factor attributes are what people will come to know you and rely upon you for. For example, if you are the kind of person who can get people focused and
on task, that will make your reputation. Likewise you may be a creative type, one who thinks of ideas to make things better.

The sum of a leader’s accomplishments is how he or she has positively affected the organization. This is a leader’s legacy and it rests on a foundation of character, ambition, resilience, and perseverance.



Good leaders are those who by nature, or by training,
learn to look over the horizon. Like scouts, they are attentive to any form of change. Some examples of these changes are a shift in consumer preferences, the rise of a new competitor, or the altered landscape of an economy. They are forever comparing what is happening now to what happened before and what could happen next. They are tuned in to the future. Their forward outlook is not merely one of observation, it is one of application.

That means as they assess what is happening, they are thinking what is next. That gives rise to innovation. Inherent to innovation is the recognition that failure is an option.

While line managers often do not have access to the spigot that controls the flow of capital, they can encourage their people to think for themselves and undertake new projects with the understanding that mistakes will occur, and if they do, they can be used as learning lessons.

Whether finding new applications for new technologies or using old ideas that offer new solutions, innovation is essential to the health of the enterprise. It falls to the leader to continue to push the organization to embrace creative ideas as a means of thinking and doing differently.



Leaders do not work in isolation. They work with others in order to bring their ideas, their dreams, and their aspirations to fruition. To do this, they must engage
with others.

The engagement can be as simple as one-to-one conversations that lead to relationships, or they can be with groups, teams, or entire organizations.

Engagement is an essential part of extending the leadership self in order to make a positive difference. It is also the ability to keep those who follow your lead focused on what it takes to turn goals into reality.

Fundamental to engagement is a sense of purpose. Leaders must enable others to recognize purpose on two levels—organizationally and personally.

Leaders must instill purpose by linking what a company does (its mission) to what it wants to become (its vision). They do this through their communications and their actions. They leverage purpose as the ‘why’ of work, that is, why do we do what we do.

A leader is more than a sum of what he or she has accomplished—they are judged by how well they enable others to achieve their aims in ways that benefit the entire organization. That is the essence of engagement—bringing people together for common purpose