Level 5 Leadership

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins presents his research into companies that outperformed the market over a significant amount of time. One of the common themes that emerged from most of these companies was the idea of level 5 leadership. These successful companies had leaders with the capabilities to develop greatness within a company through ‘a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.’ 

The five-level classification hierarchy of leaders:

  1. The highly capable individual
  2. The contributing team member
  3. The competent manager
  4. The effective leader
  5. The executive

Professional will is described as an ability to get things done, not taking personal credit to successes, generating excellence, and planning success beyond their duration at the company. Personal humility is described as avoiding praise, calm work, emphasising standards over inspiration, a focus on company success over individual success, and taking personal responsibility when things go wrong.

The five levels are a hierarchy, so to be a better leader, one approach would be to work through each level. Alternatively, developing the capabilities of professional will, and personal humility is an excellent place to start to become a high performing leader. A few areas to think about include;

  • Obsessively work on your productivity and create a system
  • Publicly give credit to those that deserve it when things go right
  • Clearly define excellence within your area
  • Start succession planning for your role and develop those under you to be able to progress when the time comes
  • Be hyper-organised and understand risk in your area so you can react to things calmly
  • Use company metrics as a measure of success and see personal heroics in a project as a failure of planning
  • Review your decisions and actions when things go wrong and do what is required to fix them

Get in touch on Twitter if you have ideas about how you can work up the hierarchy.

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