The X-Factor


I am a member of an elite tactical community within the surface community of the US Navy; I am an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Warfare Tactics Instructor (IAMD WTI). For those of you who are not familiar with this, still developing, program compare it to Top Gun for Naval Fighter Pilots. Yes, I’m talking about Maverick and Goose. In order to earn this prestigious title, a Surface Warfare Officer must submit an application package, be selected by a board of qualified WTIs, and complete a highly stressful academia for 19 weeks. Throughout these 19 weeks, candidates are graded not only on tests and presentations, but also what the program calls the “X-Factor”. This encompasses the intangibles that are more commonly referred to as personality, charisma, appearance, etc. Just like any other group or branch of the Armed Forces the WTI program is mindful to ensure that decisions does not cross the lines of discrimination due to race, creed, color, gender, etc. In order to ensure that a candidates isn’t being discriminated against the instructor staff observes the candidates over the course of the 19 weeks looking at things such as, Costa and McCrae’s (1992) Five Factor Model of Personality, motivation, interaction with others, and desire to be an IAMD WTI.

So why is the “X-Factor” graded? Why is this such an important part of the curriculum? The X-Factor is important because WTIs are looked to be the leaders in tactics for Air Defense. The challenging part of a WTI’s job is once they are qualified and in the Fleet training and executing tactics they are doing so as Lieutenants (O-3) telling Commanding Officers (O-5s, O-6s, and Admirals) how the combat system works, about a threat, how to defend the force, or even how the commanders themselves are wrong in their way of thinking. In order for these Lieutenants to be able to do their jobs effectively, they have to 1) be officers of integrity, 2) self-confident, 3) ethical and 4) tactful. These Lieutenants needs to be able to lead not only their subordinates, by rank, but also their superiors. They need to have charisma. “The personality characteristics of a charismatic leader include being dominant, having a strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of one’s own moral values” (Northouse, 2016). These WTIs understand that they will be looked at as the subject matter experts and subsequently looked to for guidance that will save American lives and potentially kill our enemy. This is not a task that is taken lightly which is why the WTIs X-Factor is just as important to the qualification as technical or tactics knowledge.



Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO personality inventory: NEO PI and NEO five-factor inventory (NEO FFI professional manual). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (Seventh ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.

The Pennsylvania State University. (2016). Ethics and Leadership [online lecture]. Retrieved from

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