JOHN BALDONI on MOXIE, a pow­er­ful lead­er­ship tool.

“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 lea


Iam 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 getup-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 longterm 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. in­no­va­tion

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. en­gage­ment

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.

Lead­ers must en­able oth­ers to rec­og­nize pur­pose on two lev­els— or­ga­ni­za­tion­ally and per­son­ally.

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