10x Your Business:
What Makes a GREAT Leader?

5 min readApr 22, 2021


a silhouette of man with his arms out over the beach at sunset

By Oliver Anderson
Chief Executive Officer

At 10x we are improving the people decisions of our clients through real-time, actionable insights that reveal a better way to meet the needs and requirements of their people.

In our last 10x Your Business article, we looked at the frequently asked question ‘what are the best leadership behaviors to measure?’. To answer further popular queries we receive in the leadership space we’re dedicating this article to establishing ‘what makes a great leader?’

As we discussed last time, the actual qualities that make up a great leader often depend on the context of the role, the team and the organization the leader is in; but to answer the question generically, there are a couple of ways of looking at the issue with our 10x databank.

What drives better leadership?

The first step in answering this question is to use our data to assess what behaviors drive better performance among leaders.

To do this we delved into our 10x databank and pulled out every leader across all industries. Using 10x Optimize our algorithm can automate this analysis and pull out the top five behavioral drivers of performance within this leader cohort (Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1 Top five drivers (Scale level) of performance among leaders.

What our analysis shows (Figure 1.1) is that at the scale level, behaviors of the 10x Competency model, organizing tasks, developing strategies, maintaining standards, understanding others and analysing information are the top five behavior categories that drive the performance of leaders.

At the lower ‘facets’ of behavior level we see a similar picture with structuring work, prioritizing tasks, thinking ahead, and managing the wellbeing of staff as significant drivers.

From this analysis we see some similarities to the research we mentioned in our last article, but I believe that following the evidence of our data creates an even clearer picture.

If you were to ask any leader in any business what their role is as a leader you might expect an answer along the lines of ‘I’m here to set the strategy/vision for my team, organize the work to deliver that vision, monitor the delivery of the work and to motivate/understand my people to ensure it is delivered’. In fact, this summary, this shares huge similarities with Drucker (1954) and McGregor’s (1972) management by objectives activities where a leader’s role is made up of, the clarification of organizational goals and objectives, the measurement of the delivery of the goals and objectives, the motivation to achieve them and recognition in all its forms of subordinates’ level of contribution and performance.

As a former HR practitioner this makes perfect sense — better leaders should be doing more of this. Delivering a clearer picture of the work that matters to the organization, delegating this, and monitoring and motivating your staff to deliver it, is great leadership for any business.

Therefore, developing more of these skills in your leadership population is a great starting place to get better leadership across the board in YOUR organization.

However, whilst better leaders are definitely showing more of these core behaviors, what exactly are the greatest of the great leaders doing more of?

Is it just more of the same strategies to a greater level, or are they differentiating themselves in other ways?

What makes the great leaders truly great?

In a nod to the great work of the Google Project Oxygen, one way of determining this is by looking at the two tails of the performance curve — the very best versus the very worst.

To start we sliced and diced the data in our 10x databank into four groups: 1. The Outstanding Leaders, 2. The Above Average Leaders, 3. The Below Average Leaders and 4. The Poor Performing Leaders. Next, we removed the middle two groups to be left with only the Outstanding and Poorly performing groups. The last step of the process was to look across all competency facets from our 10x Competency model and determine the greatest positive differences in favor of the outstanding leaders across above those seen for the poorly performing group (Figure 1.2).

Behaviour facet% difference to poor leaders groupExpressing and presenting their views+17%Inspiring others+15.5%Influencing others+15.2%Dealing with pressure+15%Socialising with others+14%

Figure 1.2 Largest differences observed between the two leadership performance tails.

Whilst we observed that for better leadership performance the behavioral elements around the cycle of setting, organizing, monitoring and motivating work to be delivered were absolutely paramount, this analysis details that to really differentiate the leadership ‘wheat from the chaff’ the great leaders are phenomenal at the people side of that cycle.

Specifically, communication and motivation elements are key — expressing views, inspiring others and influencing others were all over 15% greater amongst the outstanding leaders when compared to those in the poor group.

Another standout facet, behavior, has the fifth largest difference between the two groups and also falls within the people and communication sphere — the confidence and ease required when socializing with others provides an opportunity to communicate with subordinates within or even outside of work.

The last standout facet is dealing with pressure. This is hugely interesting, because, as we saw in the last 10x Your Business article and the analyses above, the vast majority of key skills are about what a leader can do for the organization not what they can do for themselves.

Remember that quick search of the term ‘key leadership competencies’ from the last article and how it revealed 110 million answers? Well, searching ‘leaders dealing with pressure’ revealed four times that with 440 million results.

So why is it routinely absent from key leader attributes? No one is immune to pressure, and as Myatt (2013) stated in his Forbes article on the topic ‘Too much pressure applied to an unwilling, unprepared, ill-equipped, or incapable leader results in flawed thinking, bad decisions, and wrong actions’ and that ‘how leaders deal with pressure is often the difference between catapulting an organization towards success, and contributing to its demise’.

Our 10x analysis says dealing with pressure is a huge factor in making great leaders truly great, and that its exclusion in the conventional models of leadership is a mistake.

Dedicate some time to it and make it a focus of your next leadership development course along with behaviors identified in Figure 1.2 to truly differentiate YOUR leaders.

Want to grow and hire more great leaders?

Book a demo now and find out what 10x can do for you.

Oliver Anderson is the Chief Executive Officer at 10x Psychology, and a leading Human Resources professional with a broad base of experience across analytics, people, and change management. Author of two books on his work across statistical analysis in the Premier League, Oliver combines his unique understanding of people analytics and predictive performance with his people management abilities to manage the expansion and quality of our Solutions. Find Oliver on Linkedin.




Founded by Professor Peter Saville, 10x Psychology significantly improves people performance in the workplace through insight, science and technology