Since Professor X first formed his team of teenage mutants, teaching them to harness their powers for good in an effort to solidify human-mutant relations, the X-Men have followed many different leaders. While each new commander has benefited the ever-evolving team, two have stood out as the X-Men's most accomplished leaders.
Scott Summers headed up the original team and has returned to the position countless times over the years. Ororo Munroe led the second incarnation of the team and has also had a recurring relationship with the responsibility. For years, fans have hotly debated who is best suited for the role. Here, we take a look at why these two beloved characters are such strong leaders.
10 Storm: Omega-Level Leader
When it comes to brute force, there are few mutants who can keep up with Storm's abilities. An Omega-level mutant able to control the atmosphere, she has repeatedly proven to be a worthy opponent, having tamed tsunamis, conjured thunderstorms, and even summoned solar winds in deep space.
It isn't just her mutant abilities that give her incredible strength. Her powers have long been linked to her African lineage and deep connection to nature; a link that was proven true during her time in Wakanda. The people of Wakanda's firm belief that she was a goddess transformed her into a literal deity, able to gather strength from their prayers.
9 Cyclops: Uniting Mutantkind
Cyclops works incredibly hard to keep mutantkind protected and has done his best to ensure that mutants have access to a safe space. Following the events of M-Day, he opened the doors of Xavier's Institute to any mutant in need of refuge. During Norman Osborne's Dark Reign, he moved every mutant ally to Asteroid M, renaming their new-found home Utopia. This move impressed Magneto, who congratulated Cyclops for succeeding in uniting mutants.
He even established a New Charles Xavier School for the Gifted in Canada, rescuing imprisoned mutants and offering them sanctuary, earning him the nickname "revolutionary." Under his watch, no mutant is left behind.
8 Storm: Team Building
One of Storm's greatest leadership qualities is her ability to support and encourage her teammates. Often leading younger mutants, she has excelled in helping them reach their potential and become valuable members of the team.
Her kind emotional support helped Rogue in Uncanny X-Men #185, as the weather witch lent the young mutant her powers to earn her trust and give the disillusioned runaway the chance to see the world through different eyes, rooted in nature. She always acts with her teammates' safety in mind. As a consequence, the X-Men have never hesitated to rally around their patient teacher; a loyalty Cyclops struggles to maintain.
7 Cyclops: The Big Picture
Cyclops has become confident in overseeing large groups, big plans, and running a school as needed. While other X-leaders have successfully taken the reins of various splinter groups, Cyclops is capable of taking a step back to focus on the bigger picture, planning three steps ahead to ensure the X-Men triumph and peace reigns. His impeccable leadership abilities haven't gone unnoticed in the wider world, once being awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
While his leadership skills are renowned, he can swallow his pride and accept responsibility when plans fail, too. After the reformation of X-Force led to numerous mutant deaths, he quickly disbanded the team.
6 Storm: Moral Compass
Storm has an incredibly strong moral compass. Her core values have remained consistent over the decades. A firm believer in Professor X's dream for peace between human and mutantkind, she has continued to work towards that goal with dignity and kindness leading the way. Her marriage to T'Challa was a significant step towards Xavier's dream, with the Professor going so far as to name her the world's most important mutant, the pair's union symbolizing a hopeful future for human-mutant relations.
Her nobility has also granted her Asgardian power as Goddess of Thunder. Although she has wielded this power twice, she has given up the strength after completing her missions, proving she doesn't need additional enhancements.
5 Cyclops: Expert Tactician
While Cyclops certainly has the brawn to help his team succeed, his most valuable asset is his sharp tactical mind. A master planner, capable of conjuring multiple master plans complete with fallback options, his expert strategies have repeatedly led the X-Men to victory.
Cyclops is so well known for his organized strategical expertise that the wider superhero community often turn to him for guidance in times of need. While he may not always be the most popular team member, his teammates usually follow his orders, knowing that his master plan will never steer them wrong. The X-Men have never served under a better tactician.
4 Storm: Keep It Professional
It's fair to say that Cyclops can get a bit emotional. His personal life often impacts his abilities and actions as a leader. Storm, however, is staunch in keeping her work and home life separate, willing to put her personal feelings aside for the greater good.
She ended a short relationship with Arkon after realizing the importance of her X-Men responsibilities. She stabbed her long-term lover Forge in an (erroneous) attempt to save the world from inter-dimensional demons. She even sided with the X-Men over the Avengers (and her husband) during the events of Avengers vs X-Men, ending her marriage.
3 Cyclops: Difficult Decisions
In the X-Men's quest for peace, Cyclops is always willing to sidestep gracious diplomacy to get to the root of the problem, even if it requires sheer force and a murderous attitude. While this can make him unpopular with teammates and readers alike, he doesn't seem to care about bearing the 'bad guy' mantle so long as he gets the job done.
Yes, he may have reformed X-Force as a team of child assassins and killed Professor X under the Phoenix Force's influence, but Cyclops is always prepared to take a risk and make those difficult decisions that many other leaders avoid.
2 Storm: Won the Role
Perhaps the best evidence for Storm's ability to lead the X-Men is her success in defeating Cyclops in a battle for the role — while she was powerless!
Storm originally gained the leadership role by stepping in to replace Cyclops when he left following Jean Grey's death. When Cyclops returned to the group demanding his old position back, Storm stood strong, more confident in her leadership abilities, and suggested they fight for the position. Despite being stripped of her powers at the time, she easily gained the upper hand and won, proving her determination, strength, and willingness to fight for the team's best interests.
1 Cyclops: Destined Leader
Storm may believe in Professor X's dream, but Cyclops has been specifically trained for the difficult role of leading the X-Men into battle. The first student at the School for Gifted Youngsters, Xavier dedicated time to help Cyclops control and develop his powers, gradually preparing him for leadership duties. It didn't take long for the original team members to look to Cyclops for guidance in the heat of battle.
While his serious nature and no-nonsense policy hasn't always sat well with the more unruly students, straining team relationships, he has always naturally slotted back into the leadership role when required, proving he's a destined leader.