Level 5 Leadership Characteristics–an understanding of what you can be
I can’t help myself to get excited and talk about this great book by Jim Collins Good to Great (Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t). This is a follow up from my previous post on Hedgehog Concept. First, let me define what does a Level 5 Leader is. It refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top. Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of genuine personal humility and professional will. (A simple formula is Humility + Will = Level 5). They operated first and foremost with genuine humility – defined by a burning passionate obsessive ambition for the cause, for the work, for the company, not themselves. They had this utterly stoic will to make good on that ambition. They channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. A good example of a Level 5 Leader is United States President Abraham Lincoln who never let his ego get in away of his primary ambition for the larger cause of an enduring country.
Here are some few characteristics of a level 5 leader.
Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results. They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or hard decisions.
Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility. The comparison CEOs often did just the opposite – they looked in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results.
Can you learn to become a level 5 leader in your own field of work? Jim Collins hypothesis is that there are two categories of people: those who do not have the seed of Level 5 and those who do. The first category consists of people who could never in a million years bring themselves to subjugate their egoistic needs to the greater ambition of building something larger and more lasting than themselves. For these people, work will always be first and foremost about what they get – fame, fortune, adulation, power, whatever – not what they build, create, and contribute.
The second category of people consists of those who have the potential to evolve to Level 5; the capability resides within them, perhaps buried or ignored, but nonetheless. And under right circumstance – self reflection, conscious personal development, a mentor, a great teacher, loving parents, a significant life experience, a Level 5 boss, or any number of other factors – they begin to develop. Some of the level 5 CEOs like Darwin Smith of Kimberly Clark fully blossomed after his battle with cancer. Gillette’s Colman M. Mockler converted to evangelical Christianity while getting his MBA at Harvard, and later, according to the book Cutting Edge became the prime mover in a group of Boston business executives who met frequently over breakfast to discuss the carryover of religious values at corporate life.
There is a potential of Level 5 leaders that exist all around us, if we know what to look for, and that many people have the potential to evolve into Level 5. So how can one grow in level 5 direction? There are no specific steps to become one but an understanding about what you can become with your decisions is a great start. Imagine yourself walking in a path and a decision is needed. In the right hand path if you make that decision is about yourself, your ego, what you will get and on the left path is different decision that reflects more ambition for the cause, or the work. In some point you are confronted with that actual concrete decision and you are pulled to the right but you step to the left. This might be the start of what you can be in this process.
I suggest that you read the book so that you will understand what I am trying to share. Honestly, I wrote the key concepts about level 5 here so that I can just go back here and understand the process and besides I have to return the book to the library (haha! )
Please check out Jim Collins audio about can you be a level 5 leader?