The Level 5 Transformative Leadership Qualities
Level 5 Leadership is the highest level of hierarchy of executive capabilities necessary for good-to-great transformations of companies and portrays personality traits which include among others, blends of genuine personal humility with intense professional will, culture of discipline in thought, action and morals, compelling modesty to channel ambition into the company and not self grandiose, an unwavering resolve to make hard and game changing decisions and tendency to operate on window-mirror paradox.
Conventional wisdom and indeed modern management theories would have us believe that great companies are built on the strength of “larger-than life egocentric” (Collins, 2005) chief executives who are charismatic, vocal, visible, and visionary and who “make headlines and become celebrities” (Collins, 2005). However, Jim Collins had a different idea; he argued in his article "Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve” (2005), that “Good-to-great transformations don't happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don't" (Collins, 2005). According to a survey he conducted, all the "successful organizations had a Level 5 leader at the time of transition".
Collins made a case for leadership traits that “catapults companies from merely good to truly great”
(Collins, 2005) and placed their companies on a sustained growth path, even beyond the stay of the CEOs at the helm. Collins illustrated 11 organizations whose leadership bore similar personality traits as catalyst for the operational effectiveness witnessed within those organizations which is what he considered make some companies to the leap while others don't.
Key among his findings were:
1. Having a Level 5 chief executive, driving the organization’s agenda: a person who blends “genuine personal humility with intense professional will” (Collins, 2005).
The other common characteristics he identified as central to achieving “enduring and sustainable” organization growth, which he called the “good-to-great-disciplines” (Collins, 2005), include:
2. A “culture of discipline in thought, action and personal morals; compelling modesty to channel ambition into the company and not self glory;
3. An unwavering resolve to make hard and game changing decisions;
4. Tendency to give credit to others for the success of the company while assigning blame to themselves when things don’t work out” (Collins, 2005). This he called the “window-mirror” paradox.
5. These leaders have duality traits which include:
A. They develop “humility at a deep, emotional level and do not indulge in self grandiose; they never are boastful and acts with quiet, calm determination;
B. They are keen to finding the right people to help them reach their full potential;
C. They set the standard of building an enduring great company and are incredibly disciplined in their work;
D. They are passionate about what they do and channel their ambition into the company;
E. They provide a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great and ask for help when they need it” (Collins, 2005).
Can Level 5 leadership traits be cultivated? Collins asserted that leaders can discover the “level 5 seed perhaps buried or ignored or simply nascent” within them and begin to nature the seed to develop by practicing the “good-to-great-disciplines” which he emphasized would “turn the executives into full-fledged Level 5 leader” (Collins, 2005).
I find that the “level 5 leadership” is a satisfying, truthful idea, and powerful idea, and, to make the move from good to great, very likely an essential idea as it is a living reality. This is “the highest level of hierarchy of executive capabilities” necessary to lift a mediocre or even good company to a great one” (Collins, 2005).
I will reiterate with (Collins, 2005) that “like all basic truths about what is best in human beings, when we catch a glimpse of that truth, we know that our own lives and all that we touch will be the better for making the effort to get there”.
Collins, J. (2005). Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Harvard Business Review, 83(7/8), 136-146.