Module 4 ~ Lesson 6

Lesson 6: Level 5 Leadership

Jim Collins in the classic business book “Good to Great” describes a hierarchy of executive capabilities culminating in the Level 5 Leader.

“Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious–but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” – Jim Collins


Hierarchy of Executive Capabilities

Level 5 Leader blends extreme personal humility with intense personal will:

  • Ambition is for the Company first and foremost – not Self
  • Set up successors for success
  • Compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated vs. egocentric “I”
  • Fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results
  • Display a workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse
  • Look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves
  • When things go poorly they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility

The most effective leaders understand that clear communication helps a company’s bottom line and can increase productivity. They are diligent about building a sense of appreciation and connectedness with their teams by using these questions/statements:

  • “Here’s what I appreciate about you and your contribution.”
  • “Thank you.” (personal and public)
  • What do you think?”
  • “Here’s what’s happening and what you can expect.”
  • “I have some feedback for you.”
  • “Let me share a time I got it wrong.”

Characteristics of Effective Leaders

  1. Start with building relationships we must always begin by laying the groundwork with people. This does not happen overnight as it is an on-going process that evolves.  We will be measured on our follow-through, clarity in communication, and our results.  Keep in mind that the relationships you build on trust, respect, and achievement stay solid as a rock.
  2. Make things happen — they do not expect outside forces to ensure their success. They adapt and change to create the circumstances and results they desire.
  3. Set the tone for those who follow — leaders lead by example. They realize how much their attitude and actions affect their people, environment, and success.
  4. Are truly passionate — about what they are doing. They are authentic and transparent; all they have to do is be their self.  
  5. View challenges as an opportunity to grow and get better — They look forward to going above and beyond what is expected of them.  A challenge gets their juices flowing.  A failure/mistake is only a timing issue and helps them tweak their plan of attack for success.
  6. Affect people’s lives in a positive way — They do not make excuses; they take action. They look for ways to enhance and propel a team member’s success.
  7. Respect the need to be held accountable – Most importantly to themselves.   They never stop learning nor looking for new ways to achieve. “Great leaders look out the window not in the mirror when things go right and always look in the mirror when they go wrong.”
  8. Take nothing personal — They are not deterred by negative talk; in fact, it inspires them as they know all things are possible.  They understand that negative talk comes from the individual’s personal issues. They make a conscious choice not to own someone else’s issue. They believe in their path and focus their efforts on helping those who want to be helped.  They focus on solutions, not problems.
  9. Create clarity — They focus on the most important drivers of success. They understand their numbers and what has to be accomplished to achieve them. They effectively communicate to their team members the goals, activities, and their specific expectations.
  10. Think long-term – They chose to work for a company they trust. They believe that what is good for the organization is good for them. They work to be an invaluable part of the organization going forward.  They work and plan for their personal long-term success.

If you have not already done so, go to the Module 4 Overview page and download the Workbook, Slide Decks, and all related Documents for this module.

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