Are you an I, T or X-shaped leader?

‘Skill shapes’ are often used by recruitment specialists to categorise a person’s skill levels and ability to work within a team. Different shapes are allocated depending on the subject’s experience and skills, the most common being I, T and X

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on About Leaders

An effective team will need to have a mix of skill shapes so you need to understand them to try to make sure your teams have a good mix. Here are some explanations of the most common skill shapes that you are likely to encounter.


For the T, the vertical stroke is their expertise in their field and the horizontal stroke is their cross-functional knowledge and ability to communicate with the other disciplines within your dedicated development team. 

They are experts in their own fields, whilst also having a good understanding of the other tasks within your team. These are highly versatile people with an understanding of many different roles.


An I-shaped person lacks the breadth of experience that a T shaped person has and does not have the ability to communicate well across the team – hence the lack of the horizontal bar that the T enjoys. Newly qualified staff might be categorised as an ‘I’ as might those who are specialists in a specific area.


This is the ‘executive’ skill shape and highlights the ability of an individual to set strategy, lead people and motivate the team. They are often the ones best able to work within teams.

How to develop your skill shape from ‘I’ to ‘T’

What is missing in an ‘I’ is the breadth of experience that someone with an X-shaped skillset has, so you should develop yourself by:

  • identifying gaps – look at where you have experience and start to clearly identify where you need to gain additional expertise;
  • working on soft skills;
  • collaborating with those in another discipline to get a better understanding of what their work involves;
  • going to conferences and attending training – develop your skills in as many different ways as you can think of to improve your abilities and knowledge;
  • working on projects that are different from what you normally do – gain as much experience as you can;
  • making an impact – use anything that you learn to make a difference in the teams you are working in so that your abilities get noticed.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter like us on Facebook or connect with us on LinkedIn!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply